UCLA’s All-Pac-12 selections led by … Ishmael Adams?

UCLA's Ishmael Adams, pictured breaking up a pass intended for USC's Nelson Agholor, was the lone Bruin on an All-Pac-12 first team. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA’s Ishmael Adams, pictured breaking up a pass intended for USC’s Nelson Agholor, was the lone Bruin on an All-Pac-12 first team. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Another round of All-Pac-12 awards, another chorus of approval from across the conference.

Just kidding. As always, postseason honors generate a good amount of chatter, as fans of every team ask why their favorite players were snubbed. But even considering that type of bias, UCLA’s placements on the all-conference teams on Tuesday night were … particularly eye-raising. (You can see the full results, as voted on by Pac-12 head coaches, at the bottom of this post.)

The biggest surprise was Ishmael Adams’ status as the Bruins’ lone first-team pick. Five defensive backs were featured instead of the usual four due to ties, but the scrappy 5-foot-8 cornerback might not even be the best on his own team. The problem is consistency. He made his share of big plays — he returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season — but also saw moments where he gave up key catch or committed a costly penalty.

His presence on the All-Pac-12 first team was even more striking considering the absence of linebacker Eric Kendricks, who recently broke the Bruins’ all-time tackles record. The senior settled for a second-team spot, behind Arizona’s Scooby Wright — the league’s defensive MVP — and Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. Continue reading

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UCLA is No. 15 in latest College Football Playoff rankings

Based on the latest College Football Playoff rankings, UCLA looks like it’s on track to play in the Alamo Bowl.

The Bruins dropped seven spots to No. 15 after losing to Stanford last week, but the more notable move happened above. Arizona jumped four spots to No. 7 after clinching the Pac-12 South, and is now positioned to stay in the top 10 even if it loses to Oregon in the conference title game on Friday.

If that happens, the Wildcats would earn a spot in the Fiesta or Cotton Bowl as an at-large selection. The Alamo Bowl would have the next pick out of the Pac-12, and seem likely to pick UCLA over Arizona State and USC given the Bruins’ head-to-head wins. Ninth-ranked Kansas State is the Big 12′s probable candidate for San Antonio, unless it upsets No. 6 Baylor this Saturday.

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Pac-12 to announce all-conference football teams at 8 p.m.

The Pac-12 will announce its all-conference football teams tonight at 8 p.m. PT, part of the league’s effort to build its television presence.

Instead of the customary press release, the teams will be revealed during the Pac-12 Football Weekly program on Pac-12 Networks. Players of the year and coach of the year will be announced beforehand.

UPDATE: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, while Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright picked up top defensive honors. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez won Coach of the Year.

Ducks tailback Royce Freeman and USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson were named the conference’s top freshmen on offense and defense, respectively.

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UCLA’s Jake Brendel earns third Pac-12 All-Academic selection

UCLA center Jake Brendel was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team this morning, marking his third straight appearance on the list.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive lineman has a 3.39 GPA in economics and has started 38 of 39 possible games in his career, sitting out the Bruins’ season opener at Virginia with a knee injury. Without him, UCLA’s offensive line allowed five sacks and committed five false starts in a performance lambasted by position coach Adrian Klemm.

The redshirt junior is one of seven players in the conference to earn a spot on the Pac-12 All-Academic first team for the third time. Continue reading

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Paul Perkins finishes regular season as Pac-12′s rushing leader

UCLA's Paul Perkins ran for 116 yards in a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, 2014.  (Will Lester/Staff)

UCLA’s Paul Perkins ran for 116 yards in a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, 2014. (Will Lester/Staff)

Paul Perkins wasn’t UCLA’s starting running back to start the year, but he has ended the regular season as the Pac-12′s leading rusher.

The redshirt sophomore has run for 1,381 yards in 12 games, putting him on top of the conference’s tightest rushing race in years. However, the Pac-12′s record book also factors in postseason games, including the Pac-12 Championship this Friday.

Where the league’s top backs currently stand: Continue reading

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UCLA finishes regular season at No. 16 in Associated Press poll

With the regular season now over, UCLA is ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll — the same spot it held after its Sun Bowl win over Virginia Tech last year.

A 31-10 loss to Stanford on Friday dropped the Bruins seven spots, ending a four-week streak of steady climbs up the national rankings. UCLA is now the third-highest ranked team in the Pac-12, behind No. 3 Oregon and No. 8 Arizona, who will face each other in the Pac-12 Championship this coming Friday.

Jim Mora’s third season will likely end in the Alamo, Holiday or Foster Farms Bowl.

See the full AP poll below: Continue reading

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After loss to Stanford, where does UCLA football go now?

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA's 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA’s 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

To get an accurate measure of how this season went for UCLA, there’s no better person to turn to than Jim Mora himself.

“We’re not trying to be average,” the head coach told his players back during training camp in San Bernardino. “We’re not after good. Nobody in here is going to be satisfied when, at the end of the year, people say, ‘Oh, they’re a good football team.’

“Great. Every single day, everything we do, that’s got to be our focus: great.”

By that standard, UCLA’s third year under Mora was a tremendous disappointment. There’s no masking that after a 31-10 loss to Stanford ended the Bruins’ chance at a Pac-12 Championship, though the team deserves some credit for not letting the season spiral out of control after losses to Utah and Oregon. At midseason, the Bruins were teetering. The way the team looked after ugly wins at Cal and Colorado, a nine-win season looked optimistic.

But in notching impressive wins over Arizona, Washington and USC, UCLA pushed the bar back up. Expectations rose again to a “New Year’s Six” bowl, or even the College Football Playoff.

The Cardinal ended those dreams, shaping into the Bruins’ schematic Kryptonite even in a down season. It was an outcome that should have seen Mora shouldering more blame, something I recall him emphatically doing only once this year. Continue reading

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UCLA suffers fourth straight loss to Stanford under Jim Mora

Brett Hundley and the rest of the UCLA football team walks off the Rose Bowl field after the Bruins’ 31-10 loss to Stanford on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.

» On the cusp of the Pac-12 title game, UCLA’s big dreams came crashing down again in another loss to Stanford.
» Eric Kendricks left the Rose Bowl for the last time as UCLA’s all-time leader in tackles, plus notes on the Stanford touchdown that put the game out of reach.
» The Cardinal had struggled on offense most of this season, but Kevin Hogan thoroughly outplayed Brett Hundley.

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Five things to watch: No. 8/9 UCLA vs. Stanford

With a spot in the Pac-12 Championship on the line, UCLA will try to get its first win against Stanford since 2008. A few things to watch, plus a score prediction …

How will Stanford’s offense fare without Ty Montgomery? First guess is not well. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is the quintessential game manager, one that was more than sufficient for the Cardinal when it had a powerful run game to lean on. Stanford is on track to finish with a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2007; losing its most explosive player to a shoulder injury is only going to limit the offense even further.

Montgomery was Hogan’s most reliable target, and the recipient of more than a quarter of the team’s total receptions. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he would have been a load to bring down once he got into the secondary.

Can UCLA’s defense maintain pressure? Hogan only threw at least 20 passes in seven games last season. This year, he’s already hit that mark in nine games, at topped 30 passes in three straight games in October. Not coincidentally, Stanford lost two of those games, beating only lowly Washington State. Continue reading

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