Weekly Q&A — 11/12/15 Answers

Q: Which game do you think we have the best chance of winning and why: Utah, USC or rematch with Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship?

A: USC. The Trojans don’t present the same matchup problems that Utah and Stanford do, or the experience of actually having beaten a Jim Mora-coached UCLA team. It’s hard to imagine the Bruins playing at or near their absolute best for their rivalry game — especially if they’re coming off a loss in Salt Lake City.

Q: If Stanford propels itself into the playoffs, does the Pac-12 runner up lock up the Rose Bowl regardless of committee rankings?

A: I believe so. Here’s the relevant info from the College Football Playoff committee:

“Both participants in the Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls are contracted outside the playoff arrange­ment (Big Ten and Pac-12 to Rose Bowl; SEC and Big 12 to Sugar Bowl; ACC to Orange Bowl against the highest ranked available team from the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame). If a conference champion qualifies for the playoff, then the bowl will choose a replacement from that conference. When those bowls host the semifinals and their contracted conference champions do not qualify, then the dis­placed champion(s) will play in the other New Year’s bowls.”

Q: Do you agree that the UCLA defense has been carrying more than its own weight over the last three games? They dominated Cal, were on the field most of the Colorado game, and recovered a fumble and three interceptions at Oregon State. Should we be concerned about the offense?

A: I’d say that the UCLA defense is playing better than expected given its myriad injuries. I wouldn’t say that it’s outperforming the offense at this point. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 11/5/15 Answers

Q: If UCLA wins out, and then beats Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, do you think UCLA can get an invite to the playoffs?

A: Doubtful, but I wouldn’t rule it out if chaos breaks out across the rest of the country. Even Stanford will likely need to run the table to make the four-team field, with a win over Notre Dame sure to vault the Cardinal up from its current No. 11 spot. The fact that Pat Haden removed himself from the playoff committee means one fewer West Coast presence to lobby for a two-loss Pac-12 champion. UCLA has displayed its flaws this season, and if it can win the league even with that banged-up defense, too many committee members could discount the strength of the conference entirely.

Q: Why is it that year after year, Jim Mora always seems to be in the rumor mill as a candidate to take an NFL job? Even when Mora always says he doesn’t plan on going anywhere, there goes his name being linked with every available job.

A: He was in the NFL for so long, and is still happy to expound on the goings-on in the league fairly regularly. Throw in the fact that he’s never lasted long as a head coach anywhere before, and no amount of public denials can fully tamp down speculation.

Q: Do you think UCLA as a program has hit a ceiling? As a lifelong Bruin fan I hope not but it just feels like we can’t seem to show the consistency the big time programs show year after year.

A: I don’t think UCLA has hit a ceiling as a program. This is still a school with a strong athletic tradition and the advantage of being in Los Angeles. There’s potential for a national championship, or at least for regular conference titles. Has it hit a ceiling under Jim Mora? I’m not sure. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 10/29/15 Answers

Q: Last week, you mentioned the “soft part of the schedule.” Does that mean we can acknowledge a hard part, or maybe strong opponents? Do you think people overreact to wins and losses without regard to the strength of the opponent?

A: I don’t think anyone was ignoring the fact that some opponents are more difficult than others. Players and coaches certainly like to talk that way, but even they certainly recognize the difference between a top-10 team and a conference cellar-dweller.

Sometimes the quality of certain wins or losses doesn’t become clear until later in the season, when said opponent either outperforms or falls below expectations. But Arizona State still doesn’t look like a top-tier team, and Stanford rolled over UCLA so completely that it’s hard to take much solace in the level of competition. All that said, I think the fact that there are so few games in a football season makes it easy to draw incorrect conclusions from a small sample size.

Q: Can you rank the remaining opponents in order of difficulty for the Bruins? Does UCLA win out?

A: In order from most to least difficult: Utah, USC, Washington State, Colorado, Oregon State. I would not pick UCLA to beat Utah, but the Bruins should probably be favored against everyone else. Wouldn’t be shocked if they dropped a second game too, however.

Q: Did Ishmael Adams move back into the starting CB position with the injury to Fabian Moreau?

A: He’s played there, but UCLA’s been moving its defensive backs around a bit lately. Continue reading

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