Welcome back to semi-relevancy, UCLA! I know that loss to Stanford stings, but you haven't dropped off the radar just yet (though that doesn't take much longer, just ask Washington fans.) Instead, your matchup with Oregon is still attracting ESPN's College GameDay, the first Oregon-UCLA game with both teams ranked 12th or higher since 1998. When College GameDay broadcast that game back in ‘98, the world was a different place; it was the first time the show had ever broadcast west of the Rockies. The conference was a little different then, too. Oregon was the conference's ascending program, while UCLA was the nation's second-ranked team who rolled through the Pac-10.
Fast forward 15 years later, and the two programs have traded places. Oregon now finds itself entrenched as the league's premier team, while UCLA is the one trying to establish relevancy. Sure, a win in Eugene would be a tremendous boost for the Bruins, but first let's cover why UCLA is playing from the position of challenger instead of favorite.
Start with coaching, and the schools' polar opposite levels of stability. When you were good in 1998, you had two former Ducks, Bob Toledo and Nick Aliotti, leading the way. Then you fired Toledo, replaced him with Karl Dorrell (whom you passed on Mike Riley for), followed by Rick Neuheisel, who combined got you non-winning seasons six of the next nine years.
Meanwhile, Oregon hasn't had to hire a head coach from outside the program since it brought in Rich Brooks in 1977 from, you guessed it, UCLA.
Then there are the facilities. Sure, Oregon's are nice, but no matter how nice the building around the turf is, teams still have to practice on a field 100 yards long. What's that? UCLA's practice field is only 80 yards long? That's a tough break, but it is completely understandable, given how hard to it can be to find money in the budget for facility upgrades, no shame in that. Wait, you paid for upgrades to your practice facility and still kept the practice field 80 yards? Maybe that explains why you always have trouble getting past the 10-yard line.
But if you don't need amenities like "regulation practice fields" to succeed, things are looking up. You like your new coach, you've got Brett Hundley, and that guy is really good. Oregon wanted him and recruited him, but you got him, congratulations. It forced the Ducks to go another direction for a quarterback in that recruiting class, this guy named Marcus Mariota. It all worked out, because he's the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, largely by driving an Oregon offense that's putting up 643 yards and 58 points per game. But you guys should be able to keep up; it's not like you have a recent history of starting games slow.
So good luck this Saturday, and try not to think about how the Bruins have won in Eugene just once in the past 15 years, or how you've won just twice against the Ducks this century. But since you're coming here, I don't want the trip to be total waste. -- Nathan Roholt is the managing editor for FishDuck.com.
-- Nathan Roholt is the managing editor for FishDuck.com.