Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 17 UCLA.
As I wrote in our Pac-12 preview, UCLA is out here, and it’s coming for Oregon’s spot. All the Bruins need is a quarterback.
Last year, UCLA opened 4-0 before going out and losing to Utah and Oregon in back-to-back weeks. But the Bruins responded by reeling off five straight wins, including a pair against ranked opponents Arizona and USC, and climbed their way back into the Pac-12 South race. Their midseason run at the conference title would end at the hands of Stanford, as the Cardinal upended Jim Mora’s squad 31-10.
If you’re keeping count, the Bruins were a 10-3 team with two losses against unranked teams they absolutely should have not lost to. This year could be the year in which those unnecessary losses come to an end.
The Bruins return their entire offensive line, five of their top-six receivers from a year ago, and stud running back Paul Perkins, who rushed for a Pac-12-leading 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns last year. He will likely be the cornerstone of the offense while the new signal caller gets acclimated.
The quarterback competition to replace Brett Hundley is still underway, though freshman Josh Rosen seems to have risen through the ranks and surpassed Jerry Neuheisel as the front-runner. Rosen is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound offensive coordinator’s dream, and it looks as though he will take the reigns of an offense that scored 33.5 points per game last year. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone knows how to crank out big-time quarterbacks, and Rosen very well could be next in line.
The defense also brings back the majority of its starters, but will have to deal with the loss of three veteran players—defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, linebacker Eric Kendricks, and cornerback Anthony Jefferson. The departure of those three leaves the defense with some holes to patch, though that won’t be an incredibly difficult task with Myles Jack around.
Aside from Shawn Oakman, the Hulkbuster who plays defensive end for the Baylor Bears, Jack is college football’s most impressive athlete. Not only does he play both sides of the ball, he does so very well.
At the highest level of college football, there are maybe a handful of inside linebackers that could take handoffs and score 10 touchdowns while also piling up 163 tackles and 15.0 tackles for loss in their first two years. But that’s exactly what Jack has done at UCLA. This year he will be a junior and the most talented player on the defensive side of the ball for the Bruins. If he can continue to improve as he did last season, this year will likely be his last in Los Angeles.
Absolutely. UCLA has an experienced starting squad and all the necessary talent to go through a season with one or zero losses. The Bruins’ biggest challenge will be making sure they don’t shoot their own dicks off again. UCLA could have easily been a top-15 team all of last year, but losses to Utah and Stanford kept setting them back. 2015 has to be the season where those defeats come to an end if UCLA wants to nab one of the coveted four slots.
This year is the best shot the Bruins have at avoiding those bad losses, and having 18 guys back from a 10-3 squad usually spells success. Rosen’s play, assuming he is named starter, will have to be monitored, but with Perkins in the backfield and Jack and Co. running up against Pac-12 offenses, the Bruins’ chances to make the playoff are as good as any other Pac-12 team’s.
Jim Mora is a fine coach. Not exactly built for the NFL, but still, a fine coach. But Mora is also a dick. He’ll kick the media out of practice and berate poor sports information assistants, and DONT YOU DARE INTERRUPT HIM:
Yes. As long as Rosen can step in and be adequate, or even aight, this team can make it through the Pac-12 ringer and Do It.
Sept. 5: Virginia
Sept. 12: @ UNLV
Sept. 19: BYU
Sept. 26: @ Arizona
Oct. 3: Arizona State
Oct. 15: @ Stanford
Oct. 22: California
Oct. 31: Colorado
Nov. 7: @ Oregon State
Nov. 14: Washington State
Nov. 21: @ Utah
Nov. 28: @ USC