Weekly Musings – UCLA Edition

What an extraordinary week in the world of college football. My own beloved Trojans may have been outmatched and outplayed by the Bruins, leading to UCLA’s 3-12 record against us over the last 15 years, but there was some stuff for the ages going on around the country. We’ll start in Los Angeles and work around the nation from there.

– USC was just outmuscled, outplayed, and outsmarted all night by the Bruins. USC may not be as good as I want them to be or as many in the “fan base” believe them to be (term requires quotes for the fans under the age of 40), but this was UCLA’s first good game against a real team since Mora has been there. What Mora has done is eliminate them losing all the games they shouldn’t be losing (last year’s Cal and Oregon State game notwithstanding), and he is now 2-0 against USC. They haven’t beaten the Stanfords and Oregons and Baylors and so forth because they aren’t good enough yet. If Hundley comes back, they may very well get there. For now, though, they won the battle for LA for one more year

– The big surprise to me last night was the ineffectiveness of the USC defensive line against the very young and inconsistent UCLA offensive line. Hundley played a very smart game and just punished USC with swing passes to the tailbacks. USC’s open field tackling was abysmally bad. Hundley really executed the Mazzone game plan well

– The field position UCLA got to play with as a result of our punting and our kickoff coverage may have been the story of the game. 40-60 yards of offense is easier to come by than 80-100 yards. I cannot explain what happened to USC’s special teams last night, but I’d rather not think about it

– Clay Helton has had moments of really solid play-calling this season, but last night he seemed to be unable to get the offense what it needed. Cody played a terrible game, and even when the run game was working (both Silas and Buck seemed able to move the ball most of the time) he did not allow it to develop. The run-to-set-up-the-pass never happened, and of course our decimated offensive line didn’t help. The lack of pass protection (all season) was a big factor. Something has to get better here. And it will.

– Cody had good moments this year, especially against Stanford, but sometimes when that pocket collapses around him it is painful to watch. I can understand people’s desire that there be some kind of Cam Newton legs option at QB, but I guess the short-termism of our culture is forgetting that USC had a pretty decent record with Palmer, Leinart, Booty, and Sanchez at Quarterback. What we NEED is an offensive line, and a running game that puts the fear of God in defenses. A smart QB with an arm from God (like the four aforementioned studs) will then murder teams. If the QB has some legs, great, but the idea that what we “need” is so different than what brought us the greatest dynasty in the history of college football is ridiculous.

– It is weird. All the analysis in the world and yet the entire thing comes down to this: USC couldn’t tackle on defense tonight, and they couldn’t block on offense. Tackling and blocking. Period.

– Buck Allen’s TD may or may not have been reversed under instant review but it should have been reviewed. He cannot be doing that kind of nonsense. Almost gave me a heart attack. We got lucky.

– Devon Kennard seemed very distracted to me (mentally) last night. He has played his way into a draft position this season but he was off assignment much of last night and just physically not engaged

– I am going to be really curious through the combines and draft to find out if Marqise Lee’s struggles this season were related to his nagging injuries or his head just being completely out of it. He had some tough catches tonight (as in, a couple), and his now-normal amount of drops. But is he the NFL stud many of us want him to be – believe he could be – hope he is – or has he already peaked (mentally) as a , gasp, sophomore in college?

– I really believe UCLA was terrific last night and I really believe USC was awful. But no, I am not going to concede the city of Los Angeles to a school that publicly states they care nothing about football and anything in the world other than beating USC. They could not sell out their stadium for what amount to a conference championship game against Arizona State. They just do not care, unless of course it is about USC, in which case the world’s largest inferiority complex becomes a pretty big deal. I like them being competitive and like UCLA being better than what the last 15 years has mostly entailed. I hate losing to them, and don’t expect to see much of it in the future, just as I haven’t seen much of it in the past.

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Coaching Search
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– I had to laugh when I saw Kevin Sumlin’s 6-year contract extension at Texas A&M. There is no greater example in the land of the utter immaturity and impulsiveness of today’s young and naïve fans than the man-crush many SC folks had on him as our candidate. Last I checked they basically have the SAME RECORD as USC this season, only with the greatest quarterback in America and no sanctions/coach firing/disarray whatsoever. Their defense gives up 1,000 points per game. And he has won NOTHING. Sumlin’s agents did a good job getting his name thrown around. And now he is getting paid. Kudos to him. Thank God he is not coming to USC though

– Orgeron would be a huge longshot at this point, though I would love to see the new coach and AD Haden find a place for him with the Defensive Line and the recruiting coordination. He may or may not have been the right call for next year had we won this game (of course it would have been a risk, like any hire), but optically it is nearly impossible to think Haden would go there now. He has his “out”, if you will. I admire CEO, and want him to be a part of USC. Whoever we hire is going to be a risk. But the fairytale narrative doesn’t work with a loss to both rivals, and that’s what happened. Should it have come down to one game? No. Does that make sense? Not really. But that is the reality. I actually believe CEO would rather be assistant at USC than a head coach at New Mexico State. In fact, I’d rather be a lunch table setter at USC than a head coach at New Mexico State.

– The Chris Petersen talk is not going to go anywhere. He will go 8-4 against Pac-12 competition year in and year out, which would still be better than most Boise coaches do when they leave Boise. This is another case of young fans grabbing on to a name and not thinking through it.

– I didn’t think it made sense a month or two ago and I’m not crazy about it now, but I have a strong feeling Jack del Rio is now the leading candidate. My advice for everyone who “hears things” is to not listen. Those who know won’t say, and those who say don’t know.

– The offensive coordinator brought in by the head coach will prove to be just as important as the HC hire, in my opinion. The HC will mostly be the guy who gets to pay Jerry Brown 13.3% of his salary. The OC will have to be innovative and tactical and bring back a physicality and creativity to this offense. We have work to do, friends

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Around the country
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– The ending to that Auburn-Alabama game was the most surreal thing I have seen in college sports in a long, long time. Saban should be ashamed of himself both for that insane attempt at the end of the game, but also for not putting the game out of reach from the 15-yard line with four minutes to go (going for it on 4th and 2 when a chip shot field goal would have made it a 10-point game). That Auburn team is GUTSY and persistent. They deserved the win.

– If I had told you that the 2012 0-8 Auburn Tigers would be playing MISSOURI in the SEC championship, what kind of odds would you have given me?

– That is the biggest win in Auburn history, in my opinion

– Ohio State went down to a tie game with the barely .500 Michigan Wolverines, and Hoke’s gutsy call to win it in regulation with a 2-point conversion just didn’t work out. Ohio State is, I am sure, celebrating the Alabama loss (Alabama beats them by 50; Florida State may only beat them by 40), but I also don’t know if Ohio State gets in the BcS game. There are two scenarios where I see Ohio State not making it. (A) Auburn jumps them; (B) Ohio State loses to Michigan State. Urban Meyer faked retirement and fabricated medical trauma to get away from Nick Saban. It looks like it may have worked.

– Duke is perhaps the most amazing story of the 2013 college football season

– You have to feel bad for Oregon State, who had the Ducks beat and just couldn’t hold on to win. Geez was I wrong about this year’s Oregon Duck team. Whoever they play in the Holiday Bowl has a very good chance of beating them. Could Baylor get invited to San Diego or is Baylor getting a BcS at large? I actually do not know …

– Big win over Clemson for USC-east last night. Auburn is glad that Missouri beat A&M because a South Carolina game in the SEC championship would not have been something to look forward to

I love this sport, and it has been a really special year. I am proud of my Trojans considering all they had to deal with this year, but 9-4 is not what we are used to or deserve as Trojans. It will get better. Believe me. It will. And those of us who embody fight on will deserve every breath of redemption we take in the years to come. Fight on.