UCLA peeps, tell me if I'm wrong. Does Rick Neuheisel's job status as head man at UCLA read similarly to former Arizona Wildcats' head coach Mike Stoops' job before Stoops got canned last week after throwing a poor product on the field against a bad Oregon State team?
Let's take a look back, starting from the top.
The pedigree for winning was there at the point of hiring the two football coaches.
Stoops won a national championship as a defensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners. Neuheisel, meanwhile, had Pac-10 Conference coaching experience on his resume, and it was a successful one at that -- ol' Rick never won less than seven games in a season at Washington and never finished in less than fourth place in the league (that whole scandal that led to his departure we'll even overlook).
But in year four at the helm of the UCLA Bruins, Neuheisel's critics are wearing thin. Even at a so-so 3-3 record halfway through the year, he might just begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This Bruins team, like Arizona, has holes all over. Thursday night, it's a Wildcat squad with nothing to lose against a UCLA team that quite possibly has A LOT to lose.
And it comes in about half the time of Stoops' 7.5 year tenure at Arizona, where success -- perhaps looking back everyone in Tucson was overly-excited about it -- was fools gold.People in Westwood, having felt more football success in the past than us in Arizona, probably have a shorter fuse for struggle. Of course, I can't speak for them, but from afar, it appears that Neuheisel's mistakes are eerily similar to those of Stoops.
Maybe his players do love him. They'll fight for him, I bet. But the Bruins had the No. 8 recruiting class in 2010, the No. 14 class in 2009 and the No. 13 class in 2008, according to Rivals.com. For 2011 and 2012, they're only listed as the No. 45-best classes. Put into perspective, Stoops' class that might be lost is No. 23 for 2012.
That's saying something; UCLA is struggling and recruits are no longer buying the sales pitch from a head coach at his alma mater.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit predicted that UCLA was the darkhorse candidate to win the Pac-12 South Division this year. I'll say it's a combination of blind optimism and also, well, I don't think Kirk is the brightest guy in the college football world. So that's not turned out well, has it?
Rick's record's read like this from 2008 to 2011: 4-8, 7-6, 4-8, 3-3. This season, UCLA dropped the opener to a pass-happy Houston team, beat San Jose State in an ugly 27-17 showdown (I guess?), got destroyed by a young yet talented Texas Longhorn squad, shot down Oregon State, got blasted by the Stanford Cardinal, and then snuck a 3-point victory against Washington State. Whew.
Like Arizona, the Bruins haven't been consistent. Special teams is a problem. The defense has been pretty bad, especially in the passing game. And like Stoops mishandled who was to kick field goals and extra points for Arizona (or not kick at all), Neuheisel just, uh, has played with quarterbacks Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince with indecision (aside from the times one of them gets the obligatory injury that has plagued UCLA for the last few years).
Point is, this one's a toss-up, but the Wildcats could play the role of Oregon State of two weeks ago, where desperation turned into a nothing-to-lose attitude. Should a lowly Arizona team beat UCLA, where do the Bruins stand: behind Neuheisel or behind him ready to shove him off his pedestal?
Kind of a cruel outlook I guess, but anything for a little excitement around here.