UCLA is No. 22 in the first-ever College Football Playoff rankings, which were announced Tuesday evening on ESPN.
The Bruins were popularly touted as a playoff contender before the season started, but have since lost games to Utah and Oregon — as well as struggling to piece together complete games in most of their wins. The best that UCLA can now hope for is likely a Pac-12 South championship, which should give them another shot at the Ducks in the conference title game.
These are the first of six weekly top-25 rankings that will be announced leading up to the inaugural four-team playoff, which replaced the former BCS Championship system. The Pac-12′s other representatives are No. 12 Arizona — the Bruins’ next opponent — No. 14 Arizona State, and No. 17 Utah.
UCLA No. 25 in the Associated Press poll, but committee members are told to disregard polls that set preseason rankings when making their own decisions.
UCLA hasn’t put together a complete game since a blowout win at Arizona State last month. Today’s 11 a.m. PT kickoff at Colorado — arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 — gives the Bruins their best chance to do so again before a their schedule heats up.
A few things to watch for in today’s matchup:
UCLA offense vs. Colorado defense: Brett Hundley is going to leave UCLA as one of its best quarterbacks ever. This has been clear for so long now that little he’s done this season has raised any eyebrows.
He only needs two more touchdown passes to tie the school’s all-time record of 68, set by Cade McNown from 1995-98. He is 2,371 yards behind McNown’s all-time record for passing yards (10,708), though he’s on pace to finish about 200 yards short. He has eclipsed 300 passing yards eight times in his career, doing it three times this season; three more will tie McNown’s mark too.
“Our expectations of him are maybe a little unrealistic,” head coach Jim Mora said this week. “Those are numbers we should be celebrating.”
Oregon and UCLA are both overwhelming favorites in their respective divisions, but for the fourth time in five years, the Ducks are the preseason pick to win the Pac-12.
Media members gave Oregon 24 votes to win conference title game at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5, nearly double the 13 votes UCLA received. Stanford and USC also received one vote each to win the league, though they only combined for three votes to take their respective divisions.
The preseason poll has correctly picked 28 of 53 conference champions, and 11 of the last 14. Continue reading →
Point guard Kyle Anderson keyed UCLA’s Pac-12 quarterfinal win with what may have been his most athletic play ever: a thunderous dunk over Oregon’s Richard Amardi.
The sophomore said before that point, he felt has if he “didn’t have an effect on the game at all.” The slam gave the Bruins a 37-35 lead going into halftime of the 82-63 win. UCLA then opened the second half with an 18-4 run.
Hardly known for his athleticism, the player known as “Slo Mo” was asked if he’d ever dunked like that in his life: “Nah, not like that. That was pretty nasty.”
Here are the full results of the Pac-12 preseason media poll, with first-place votes in parentheses. Few surprises down the line, as Oregon was named both the North Division and conference favorite. UCLA was named the South Division favorite, and also receive three votes as the Pac-12 champion.
Picking up from Parts I, II and III, here are the next five in our Pac-12 top 25 countdown.
10. Morgan Breslin, USC
Originally thought of as a probable reserve, Breslin emerged when defensive end Devon Kennard lost his season to a pec injury. As a first-year starter after transferring from Diablo Valley College, Breslin notched the most tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13) for any Trojan since 2003. He should be just as effective a pass rusher as he moves to outside linebacker for 2013. Continue reading →
1. Oregon (23-6, 12-4) — The Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12 as long as Dominic Artis is healthy, but he only saw 12 minutes in a win at Oregon State. Oregon should get its first conference title since 2002 if its point guard’s foot injury is no longer a problem. Damyean Dotson also has a hip injury, but is expected to play.
2. Cal (20-10, 12-6) — Cal’s defense had held locked down opponents to 33.7 percent shooting through a seven-win streak, but couldn’t stop Stanford in their season finale. Allen Crabbe and the Cardinal’s Dwight Powell also started a scuffle that ended with the ejection of two players and three assistant coaches — including Mark Madsen.
3. UCLA (22-8, 12-5) — The Bruins lost to Washington State for the first time in 20 years. Washington State was missing its second- and third-leading scorers. Oh, and UCLA forward Travis Wear re-aggravated his sprained right ankle. A share of the Pac-12 title is within reach if Oregon loses, but what an awful night for this team. Continue reading →
1. Arizona (23-4, 11-4) — Visits from the Washington schools didn’t provide the stiffest challenges, but Arizona took care of both the Huskies and the Cougars with ease last week. Defense is an issue at times, with coach Sean Miller describing it as “terrible” after beating WSU 73-56. The Wildcats allowed Washington State to shoot 52.2 percent in the second half, and would have been in more trouble had the Cougs shot better than 14 of 28 at the line.
2. Cal (18-9, 10-5) — Conference-leading scorer Allen Crabbe has gone a bit cold lately, but Justin Cobbs ensured that a Bear would be named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the third straight time. In his past six games, Cobbs is averaging 16.6 points on 53.4-percent shooting, his best stretch since November. Cal plays its last three games at home and is at least slightly favored in each.
3. UCLA (20-7, 10-4) — The Bruins’ offense is syncing again three bumpy weeks, helped in part by better ball movement and shot selection. They’ve made 6 of 12 from beyond the arc in each of their past two games. UCLA is likely without forward Travis Wear (sprained foot) for at least another game, which is a troubling prospect as it prepares to host ASU and Arizona. Continue reading →