Weekly Q&A — 11/11/14 Answers

Q: UW is not a great team; rocked by injuries, dismissals and the travails of a first year coach … but yet the Bruin’s victory over UW is being billed as the Bruins first “complete game”. Do you think that will lead to overconfidence going into the SC game in a couple of weeks?

A: I don’t think it’ll necessarily lead to overconfidence given the stakes of the rivalry, but I do think that UCLA’s win over Washington has been a little overrated — particularly with the Bruins jumping seven spots to No. 11 in the playoff rankings. It was a solid victory, but UW wasn’t an overpowering team to begin with, had just dismissed its best cornerback, and was playing its best linebacker mostly at running back. That said, I do think UCLA is very much a top-15 team, just one that’s also benefited from a slight break in the schedule.

Q: After the last two games, I’m conflicted on Jeff Ulbrich. I had thought he needed more training in another job elsewhere before taking on the DC spot … but since Arizona, the defense has been playing better, meaning Ulbrich is adapting, learning … what’s your take? Should he be encouraged to go elsewhere or will his on-the-job training be a good investment?

A: Even when the defense looked worse at midseason, I didn’t think Ulbrich was/should’ve been at significant risk of being pushed out. Continue reading

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UCLA jumps to No. 11 in College Football Playoff rankings

Could UCLA sneak back into the College Football Playoff after all?

The Bruins’ chances are still slim, but after beating Washington on the road last Saturday, they vaulted seven spots to No. 11 in the latest selection committee rankings. That puts a team that many had left for dead back in mid-October at least potentially in line for a “New Year’s Six” bowl.

Obviously, UCLA still needs to win out to clinch a spot in the final four — as well as hope for a few other dominoes to fall just right. It will need Arizona State to lose at least one game (possibly at Arizona on Nov. 28), and then pull an unlikely upset against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.

But if the Sun Devils win out and shut the Bruins out of the conference title game entirely, the latter could be well positioned to climb into a premier postseason game. UCLA has to be considered a favorite over both USC and Stanford given its recent improvement, and could stand at 10-2 at the end of the month.

If the Ducks then blow out ASU at Levi’s Stadium, a selection committee that clearly thinks highly of the Pac-12 could decide that the Bruins are more worthy of an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Paul Perkins comfortable with increased workload in UCLA’s backfield

Paul Perkins has lived up to any and all expectations in his first full season as UCLA’s starting running back, becoming the program’s 13th 1,000-yard rusher and ranking third in the Pac-12 with 117.2 yards per game.

Along the way, the redshirt sophomore has had to adjust to a much heavier workload. Last season, he only took double-digit carries five times, and finished the year with 130. This season, he has taken at least 14 carries in every game, and has a total of 190.

“It’s good to have a bye,” Perkins said. “That’s pretty much all I can say.”

Head coach Jim Mora hasn’t noticed a difference in the 5-foot-11 tailback’s performance.

“He hasn’t really shown any indication of being worn out or worn down at all,” he said. “Even on a Tuesday, he bounces back. I guess that’s the good thing about being 19 or 20 years old.” Continue reading

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Ka’imi Fairbairn named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week

UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after making three field goals in the Bruins’ 44-30 win at Washington.

The total tied a career high for the junior, who has been nearly automatic inside of 35 yards but spotty from outside 40. Against the Huskies, however, he nailed a 46-yarder with 8:30 left in the game to give UCLA a three-score lead. His teammates gave him a resounding vote of confidence during the timeout before the attempt.

Fairbairn is the Bruin to earn a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor since Sept. 29, when quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back/kick returner Ishmael Adams were picked on offense and special teams.

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UCLA’s win at UW powered by Brett Hundley’s four touchdowns

Brett Hundley carries the ball in the second half of UCLA's 44-30 win at Washington on Nov. 8, 2014. (Stephen Brashear/AP)

Brett Hundley carries the ball in the second half of UCLA’s 44-30 win at Washington on Nov. 8, 2014. (Stephen Brashear/AP)

If you missed any of the coverage from UCLA’s 44-30 win at Washington last night, here’s a roundup of everything that appeared in today’s edition of Los Angeles News Group papers.

» UCLA’s 44-30 win at Washington looked strong in most facets, but nowhere more so than Brett Hundley’s four-touchdown performance.
» Hundley now stands alone with as UCLA’s all-time career leader in touchdown passes, plus notes on penalties and injuries.
» Vinny Bonsignore’s column on Bruin head coach Jim Mora’s return to his alma mater.

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UCLA moves back into AP top-15 after win at Washington

A month after falling out of the Associated Press poll, UCLA is back in the top-15.

The Bruins’ 44-30 win at Washington was arguably their most complete performance of the season, earning them a four-spot bump to No. 14 in the country. UCLA had jumped seven spots in the previous poll following their win against No. 17 Arizona.

With two games left at the Rose Bowl after the upcoming bye week, the Bruins have a decent chance at winning out against USC and Stanford. But even a 10-win regular-season might not be enough for the Pac-12 South title. UCLA needs Arizona State, ranked No. 7 after beating Notre Dame, to lose one of its last three conference games to inch ahead in the division.

Oregon is still the Pac-12′s highest-ranked team, moving up two spots to No. 3 after a 51-27 win at Utah. The Utes fell to No. 25.

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