Preview 2017: What’s Missing? What Isn’t UCLA Better?
UCLA has everything in place, so why isn’t UCLA better?
Why isn’t UCLA better at college football?
Wisconsin might be the top program over the last 25 years that hasn’t won anything gigantic, and a host of other big-time football schools might be in the midst of big-time struggles – Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas – but UCLA continues to be college football’s most perplexing program.
The whole basketball school bullspit doesn’t fly. Some blue-blood hoops places – Indiana, Kansas – see the football season as a way to pass the time before Midnight Madness, but that’s not UCLA’s issue.
There might not be the intense pressure from the fan base like there is for basketball, but there’s a great football legacy from not all that long ago. UCLA isn’t mediocre at football because it’s historically amazing at basketball, along with just about every other sport.
Talent hasn’t been a problem, either.
The 2015 recruiting class was ranked ninth by the fine folk over at Scout, and the 2016 version was eighth.
21 Bruins were drafted over the last four seasons, compared to 18 USC Trojans being taken during that span, 19 from Stanford, and 16 from Oregon.
The weather? Perfect. The college atmosphere and neighborhood? Compared to USC?
The UCLA football program that continues to be bound by absolutely nothing hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl since the 1998 season, hasn’t won one since the 1985 campaign, and hasn’t been within 50 miles of the national championship zip code since ’98 – before everyone in the last few recruiting classes were born.
So what is it? Is head coach Jim Mora Jr. not all that great? Or, as Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star put it, maybe there’s “perhaps there’s too much emphasis on recruiting vs. development.”
Or, maybe UCLA just hasn’t had the luck of that one amazing, weird, everything-comes-together /breaks-the-right-way season that wakes up the sleeping giant and turns it into a consistent powerhouse.
With all the talent, and all the positives, and all the professional coaching, at some point, UCLA has to fall into greatness. Come up with one Pac-12 championship season, and maybe – just maybe – this becomes the hot national program.
The Bruins get Texas A&M in Los Angeles to kick things off – in the Year Two of the showdown between the top programs that have accomplished the least with the most.
The rest of the slate isn’t easy with games at Stanford, Washington, Utah, and up the road at USC, but again, if everything is in place, there’s no reason the Bruins can’t be good enough this year to win most of those.
The franchise, superstar quarterback is in place. Josh Rosen – if he can stay healthy – has the talent to potentially be the No. 1 overall draft pick.
The skill players are good enough. They might be young, but there’s tremendous skill ready to break through if the offensive line stays in one piece and has a much stronger year.
The defense that wasn’t all that bad last year appears to have reloaded, and led by LB Kenny Young and a group of safeties that might be among the best in the Pac-12.
And Mora is a veteran coach who came up with 29 wins in his first three years and should have everything he needs to win and win big.
Now UCLA has to finally start doing it.