Bruins Getting Texas At Right Time
This is not meant to get UCLA football fans overly excited, or anything.
But the Bruins are about to get powerhouse Texas at just the right time.
Yes, the Longhorns are still somewhere way up in the stratosphere of the national polls. They still have more four and five-star recruits than some conferences, let alone teams. They’re still listed as strong 15-point favorites for Saturday’s game in Austin.
Yet there is this growing feeling that Rick Neuheisel’s little 1-2 team has a real chance to be competitive in this match, a sense this could be something of a mini-trap game for the fellas from the Lone Star state.
Why? Well, first, there is the fact the Bruins are being sandwiched in between Texas Tech, an always tough conference opponent the ‘Horns managed to survive, 24-14, last week, and Oklahoma, the bitter, annual rival Mack Brown’s team is scheduled to play in a BCS blockbuster on Oct. 2.
And second, this Texas bunch is in the early, awkward stages of a major offensive transition. The ‘Horns have gone from a Colt McCoy spread, pass-happy, point-a-minute attack to a more conventional, hoped for version of a balanced offense.
Except so far, it hasn’t been working too well. The running game that was supposed to be pumped up has instead limped out. It is averaging a puny 2.2 yards per carry. The problem, they say, is a less-than physical offensive line and a cadre of backs without a bigtime playmaker.
Then there is quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who has the difficult job of trying to replace McCoy, who was the face of the program and a perennial Heisman Trophy contender in Austin. Gilbert arrived with some major high school credentials of his own, but with all the pressure and a lack of an effective running game, he’s been struggling.
Against Texas Tech last week, Gilbert threw three interceptions to go with his two touchdown passes.
All these problems have been evident in the Texas results so far. Lowly Rice actually took an early lead in the opener before succumbing, 34-14. Then Brown’s kids thumped Wyoming, 34-7, which sounded impressive until Boise State came along and pounded the same Cowboys, 50-6. Finally, there was that 10-point victory over Texas Tech in a game that was in doubt longer than the ‘Horns wanted it to be.
Before UCLA fans get too enthused, it should be reported that Texas’s always intimidating defense is as good, if not better, than ever. Some have gone so far as to say it could be the best of the Brown era, and that’s a little scary.
But — and yes, this is a big qualifier — if the Bruins come in with the same chip on their shoulder pads they had against Houston, play some tough, opportune defense of their own and somehow manage not to turn the ball over on offense, this could be a lot better game than most experts around the country are anticipating. A type of low-scoring game that could still be close, say, as late as the third quarter.
Would I be audacious enough to pick UCLA on the road? No. But I’m not so sure I’d take Texas and give the points, either.
Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. But this just feels like one of those games where the big, bad favorites in burnt orange had better be very careful not to come out of this burned themselves.
— STEVE BISHEFF