(23) Texas (2-0) at UCLA (1-1) (-4)
Two programs meet at the Rose Bowl on Saturday that are way, way below expectations even though they’re 3-1 combined. That’s actually the fun part, since it’s impossible to tell whether this will be an unexpectedly interesting battle or one of the worst games ever.
It doesn’t feel like Texas is 2-0 if you listen to, well, most people. Both of their wins were questionable at bast. The first, a 34-9 win over hapless Rice, was the equivalent of holding serve. No one seemed too impressed.
Then there was the 17-16 win over BYU in which Garrett Gilbert either ruined himself forever in the eyes of Texas fans and the coaching staff, or he set himself up perfectly for a season-saving comeback at some point later this year.
Now Case McCoy and David Ash are running the ship, since Mack Brown is willing to try literally everything that has sort of worked for other programs. Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson are expected to be hired as co-quarterback-quality-control coaches any minute now to help out Bryan Harsin. No word on whether Harsin has found anyone as good as Kellen Moore to run the same system that worked for him while he was with the Broncos.
Brown also hired Manny Diaz from Mississippi State mostly because the Bulldogs had a good defense for a single year, a result so surprising that Brown must have figured that the man has a secret voodoo ninja magic system to make it work. I seem to remember Texas being good at defense anyway even before last year’s debacle.
Has it worked? Sort of. At least Texas is 2-0, right? They started 3-0 last year, with wins over Rice, Wyoming, and Texas Tech before going 2-7 the rest of the way in 2010.
The Bruins actually beat Texas in 2010, and they were the first of those seven losses that caused total chaos in Austin. And if you don’t know anything about UCLA’s 2010 season, at least the knowledge that head coach Rick Neuheisel is still on the hot seat should tell you what you need to know.
UCLA is also apparently trying to figure out who its quarterback is. Richard Brehaut subbed nicely for Kevin Prince in their win over San Jose State. Obviously, that’s the equivalent of Texas’s win over Rice, but I guess that’s the point.
Neuheisel has tried his best to do his own Mack Brown impersonation by putting in the pistol offense after getting rid of Norm Chow. Had nothing to do with the fact that the Bruins were completely talentless when Neuheisel got there, but I’m sure the pistol is the reason UCLA can move the ball again.
This game is all about expectations. Disastrous seasons throw the fan base into full crisis mode, especially when the long-time head coach is making changes left and right after the season. Last year’s UCLA loss felt like a fluke at the time, and only later could everyone see that it was just a harbinger. Texas fans are probably looking for revenge, but worrying about losing this game and hitting the skids again at the same time. It’s a terrible feeling, not that I would know since Indiana has never been not on the skids.
UCLA fan is probably wondering if they can do it again. There’s a weird hopefulness around the Bruins even though they lost to Houston again. Not looking half bad against San Jose State will do that to them, I guess.
My guess is that this won’t be a repeat of last year’s game, in which the Bruins basically made the Longhorns their girlfriends for four quarters. But that doesn’t mean I trust Texas’s resurgence. Just like the end of The Sopranos, you never know when some guy in a Member’s Only jacket is going to come out of the bathroom and pop you in the head. I’m thinking the same thing for Texas again, only close this time.
Pick: UCLA 24 Texas 20