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. The Bruins have trouble maintaining their rhythm at times, but they’ve still averaged 38.7 points in their last three games. The defense is still more significant concern in the big picture.
Q: Do you see any of the guys Jim Mora declared out for WSU making it back for the final two games?
A: Hard to say, but I’d lean toward yes. Linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea and receiver Devin Fuller would provide the biggest boosts, but both are nursing ankle injuries. While it’s not a great idea to rush back from those, both were present for at least parts of practice this past week.
Q: If Cordell Broadus ever changed his mind, would joining the team in the future be a possibility?
A: I think that door’s probably closed, unless UCLA starts to really hurt for receivers. He’s not going to be in great football shape even if he has a change of heart, and unless he joins the team as a walk-on, his joining the team would mean one fewer open scholarship. Do coaches want to give that up for a guy that couldn’t even make it to training camp?
Q: What do you think Jim Mora’s reaction would be if you asked him why he decided against redshirting Josh Rosen?
Q: Do the Bruins plan to get more offensive linemen for the 2016 class and what about defensive tackle types?
A: I’d agree that they need to bring in more players on both lines. We’ll see if they can do that in the next two-plus months.
Q: How in the world did we lose to Monmouth?
A: Bad coaching, poor play, and an opponent that’s more competent than its funny name might suggest. Monmouth returned its top players from a season that saw it hang close against Maryland and SMU, and added a former four-star recruit in Oklahoma transfer Je’lon Hornbeak. UCLA still has no business losing — absolutely none, especially at home — but the Hawks could conceivably win the MAAC and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Q: Is the success of the incoming 2016 basketball class an indication that Alford is gaining traction on the recruiting trail? Do you think he can keep it up in future years?
A: Almost all their top recruits in the upcoming classes come from the Compton Magic AAU program, so it’ll likely be a matter of maintaining that pipeline. The notable exception is five-star point guard Lonzo Ball, but also taking on commitments from his younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo might not prove to be as rewarding.
Q: Does signing T.J. Leaf mean Bryce Alford’s scholarship will be pulled? I read somewhere that someone need to give up a spot to make room for Leaf.
A: Yes, unless UCLA finds an open scholarship some other way (transfer, dismissal, etc.).