For what seems like forever the UCLA Bruins have lived in the shadows of that other team 14 miles away. The days of playing second fiddle to recruits and to the national spot light appears to be over. The Bruins have two Heisman contender and a roster full of elite playmakers poised to breakout and do great things in Westwood. Expectations are higher than ever before, its been decades since the Bruins have been mentioned among the nation’s elite, the turn around that Coach Jim Mora has done in two years is nothing short of remarkable. And with Brett Hundley at quarterback and Myles Jack terrorizing opponents on both sides of the ball, a national championship is not just a dream but a plausible reality.
Hundley has been terrorizing helpless defenses with his jaw dropping athleticism as well with his arm which is cannon-like in both precision and accuracy. Although the talent at wide receiver is a bit unproven there is no shortage of talent. Jordan Payton who has battled injuries appears poised to finally live up to his 5-star high school billing. The offensive line, which was once considered a glaring weakness is expected to be vastly improved this season. Last season the running back depth was decimated by injury but early signs point to Jordon James reasserting himself in his final season in Westwood. Depth may still be a concern so expect the reigning Pac 12 offensive and defensive player of the year Jack to get some snaps behind center.
Jack may have shown promise on the offensive side of the ball, his true calling is on defense. Last season Jack did great things relying on his god given talent but after a summer spent in the film room the All American will read and not simply react during his sophomore campaign. The defensive line is nothing short of impressive, freshman All American Eddie Vanderdoes is truly a man among boys. And now that Owa Odighizuwa is healthy after his recent hip injury he could be poised for all conference honors at season’s end.
In the Wild Wild West, a team is as only as good as their secondary. In a league chock full of premiere passers the Bruins can breath a much needed sigh of relief. Led by Fabian Moreau opposing quarterback will think twice. Last season the Bruins finished third in pass defense, and the secondary is bound to improve.
The hunter has become the hunted and with expectations at a all time high, one of two things will happen: The Bruins will live up to the hype and punch their ticket to the Inaugural College Football Playoffs or they fall flat on their faces. Are the Bruins the new kings of LA? Stay tuned…I know I will.
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Subscribe to podcast
Tonight a champion was crowned but after the confetti and parades are done the real work begins for the National Champion Florida State Seminoles to defend their crown. Winning back-to-back titles will be more difficult than ever due to the 4-team playoffs which is debuting next year.
Although the Seminoles return Heisman winner Jameis Winston, we learned tonight that titles are won and lost in the trenches and in the secondary. The Seminoles will certainly be everyone’s Pre-Season #1 but who will be their biggest challengers in 2014?
- Florida State Seminoles: Why? Jameis Winston Why not? No Jernigan, Joyner, Green, or Shaw. Biggest reason: 4-team playoff.
- Oregon Ducks: Why? Marcus Mariota. Why not? Stanford Cardinals
- Auburn Tigers: Why? Marshall will only get better. Why not? Defensive coordinators having an entire off season to prepare.
- Ohio State: Why? Braxton Miller. Why not? Braxton Miller
- Oklahoma Sooners: Why? Budding star Trevor Knight. Why not? Saunders and Shepard are out of elgibility.
- Alabama Crimson Tide: Why? Nick Saban and Derrick Henry. Why not? No AJ Mcarrons, a questionable secondary and no pass rush.
- Stanford Cardinals: Why? Coach Shaw and the Stanford O-line. Why not? Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Oregon, and no playmakers besides Montgomery.
- Baylor Bears: Why? Coach Briles and Bryce Petty. Why not? Defense still wins championships
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Why? Everett Gholston returns. Why not? Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Zack Martin drafted in first round
- UCLA Bruins: Why? Brett Hundley and Coach Mora. Why not? Barr first pick in 2014 NFL Draft
- Georgia Bulldogs: Why? Marshall, Gurley, and experienced o-line. Why not? Aaron Murray graduated and Todd Grantham is still the DC
- LSU Tigers: Why? OC Cam Cameron and DC John Chavis. Why not? Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson, Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham play for pay in 2014
- Michigan State Spartans: Why? Connor Cook and DC Pat Narduzzi. Why not? No fly zone loses Darqueze Denard whose drafted by the New York Jets.
- Florida Gators: Why? 4-8. Why not? 4-8.
- Arizona State Sun Devils: Why? Taylor Kelly and Coach Graham 10-4. Why not? Will Sutton and Coach Graham
- Kansas State Wildcats: Why? Coach Snyder, Jake Walters, and All American Tyler Lockett. Why not? Scheme do not replace size and speed
- USC Trojans: Why? Embarrassment of riches. Why not? Coach Sarkistan is no Pete Carroll
- South Carolina Gamecocks: Why? No Jadaveon Clowney. Why not? No Conor Shaw.
- Texas A&M Aggies: Why? Coach Sumlin. Why not? No Jake Matthews, Johnny Manziel or Mike Evans. Can’t win if you can score and stop the other team from scoring
- Wisconsin Badgers: Why? All-American RB Gordon returns. Why not? Lose top 4 wr to graduation.
- Clemson Tigers: Why? OC Chad Morris. Why not? DC Brett Venables
- Oklahoma State Cowboys: Why? I’m a man, I’m 40. Why not? Coach Gundy.
- Ole Miss Rebels: Why? Bo Wallace, and the band of freshman get bigger stronger, smarter, faster. Why not? LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M
- Washington Huskies: Why? Coach Peterson. Why not? Coach Peterson
- Missouri Tigers: Why? Matt Mauk, Doriall Green-Beckham, and edge rushers galore. Why not? May sack the quarterback but can not stop the run
Although the NCAA Tournament brings euphoria too fans and memorable moments to players and millions of dollars in revenue to colleges and universities the biggest beneficiaries of march madness are the head coaches. Unlike most job basketball coaches IQ is put on display in front of millions of onlookers which conclude that the coach is either a genius or a dummy.
For the coaches who are fortunate to make the field of 68 they often find themselves in prime position to either get a pink slip for under performing which means your fired, or golden ticket, which is an invitation to run a premiere program with all of the amenities. So far two prominent coaches have become casualties of the coaching firing squad: UCLA Bruins coach Ben Howland and Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Tubby Smith.
Year in and year the need to replenish coaching vacancies continue with prominent programs pillaging mid major programs of their promising young talented coaches. However, unlike in times past these coaches are using the interest from elite programs to secure extensions and pay raises.
Programs like Virginia Commonwealth and Iowa State find themselves in uncharted territory as their young promising head coaches Shaka Smart and Fred Hoiberg signed huge extensions and were not lured in by the big dollars, private jets, and television exposure.
Although programs like UCLA, USC, and Minnesota will eventually fill their coaching vacancies they will likely have to settle for option C or option F if they are lucky. Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner and Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon have reaffirmed their commitment to the their programs by signing extensions, and Butler coach Brad Stevens is expected to do that same.
Will Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield follow suit or will they along with Marquette coach Buzz Petterson be lured in by the bigger stage, flashing lights and private jets? Stay tuned… I know I will.
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 PM EST & Sat 1030 AM EST