2014 UCLA Football Preview: A Holistic Look at the Bruins’ Defense

UCLA’s most anticipated season in well over a decade is 21 days away.

In 21 days, the offseason hype will be merely a reference point to which everything the Bruins do will be compared. When UCLA takes the field against the Virginia Cavaliers on August 30, the scrutiny begins.

Because this UCLA team has been placed with some really lofty expectations. After a 10-win campaign in 2013 and an offseason which saw quarterback Brett Hundley make his call to come back for his junior year, the national media and the local media have put the Bruins on a pedestal.

(As a side note, for this writer, that pedestal is daunting. After 14 years of inconsistent management, curious personnel decisions, and shoddy football, the Bruins have gone from Pac-12 bottom-dwellers to national title contenders after just two years in head coach Jim Mora’s reign. The team’s certainly talented and the coaching staff’s implicit system for improvement puts them on a serious track for national contention long-term, but this rise is rather meteoric.)

Of course, receiving considerable hype has been the Bruin defense. This, of course, is also pretty terrifying, mainly because the UCLA defense had previously been considered to be the lesser of the two units.

In any case, hype or not, a season must be played. What does this UCLA defense look like, and what can we actually expect from them? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

UCLA Baseball Misses NCAAs After Injury-Riddled Season

Pac12LogoThe NCAA baseball tournament field was announced on Memorial Day, and UCLA—a recent fixture in college baseball’s postseason slate—was officially left off the bracket.

Of course, this is no surprise. UCLA finished with a 25-30-1 record, and thus weren’t considered a bubble team by any college baseball fans or observers.

In any case, this will be the first time the Bruins failed to make the postseason tournament since 2009, and only the second time since 2005. Since the arrival of head baseball coach John Savage, this is only the third time the Bruins have failed to make the NCAA regionals in his decade-long tenure. UCLA’s 25 wins is also the lowest win total of a John Savage-coached UCLA team since his inaugural season in 2005.  Continue reading

UCLA Basketball: Zach LaVine’s Ascent in NBA Mock Drafts Similar to Recruiting Trajectory

Zach_LaVineAt the end of UCLA’s basketball season in March, college hoops pundits and fans alike lambasted freshman guard Zach LaVine’s decision to turn pro.

The skepticism was reasonable, and perhaps even accurate. LaVine started off his short tenure with UCLA with a bang, averaging 13 points a game for the squad’s first 11 tilts. In that same time period, LaVine shot at a 55 percent clip (and at a 43 percent rate from downtown). But after that, LaVine’s performance suffered dramatically. After the Duke game (shortly before the start of the conference play), in which LaVine scored just 7 points off of 3-for-12 shooting, the freshman sensation would average just 7.8 points a contest, shooting at an embarrassing 38 percent clip from the floor, and a pedestrian 34 percent clip from downtown. Given his primary talents and skills were tailored around scoring, these are concerning numbers.

Yet, LaVine’s showing at the NBA combine has negated nearly all of that. With teams, scouts, and media members lauding his raw athleticism and disconnected set of skills, LaVine has somehow found himself squarely in position to be taken by a lottery team in the upcoming draft. After a disappointing season left NBA draftniks wondering whether LaVine would even be a first-rounder, it’s apparent that he’s probably not falling out of the lottery, and he’s most certainly not dropping into the late-20s.

This story should sound somewhat familiar to UCLA fans, though. During the 2012-13 season, and for some time afterwards, LaVine was shooting up the recruiting rankings, too.  Continue reading

UCLA Football’s Defense Bolsters Bruin’s Hype Legitimacy

For the first time in awhile, casual and serious observers of the college football world will keep a mindful eye on the UCLA football program. Jim Mora’s successful first season ended with a whimper, but in his second season as head coach, the Bruins managed to improve their overall record (from 9-5 to 10-3) despite a much more difficult schedule.

Even with that improvement, UCLA rarely looked like a national title contender for an entire game. Though the box scores tell a different story, the Bruins’ offense was normally the source of frustration. Noel Mazzone’s play-calling and decision-making came into question regularly, and his uncharacteristically conservative approach left the task of slaying solid teams almost entirely to his defense. Against Oregon, for example, the Bruins held Oregon to 14 points in the first half and 21 points through three quarters, but had only scored 14 points the entire game themselves. (Although it’s important to note that Brett Hundley looked indecisive at times, as is his custom, and the UCLA offensive line was a bit of a patch job for much of the season.) In many instances, UCLA’s defense anchored the Bruins, while the offense sometimes felt useless and even counterproductive.

Did an offensive romping of USC and Virginia Tech change all of that, though? Were the final two games of the season enough to convince observers that the Bruins were, indeed, for real, and had finally grown up, and that the offense was to take the credit?

Not entirely. The hype began when Brett Hundley announced he’d be returning for his junior season, in an announcement that got UCLA fans ready to run through a few walls.

Of course, the idea that Brett Hundley is the sole reason this team went from preseason top-25 team to national contender is one that’s pretty off-base. While quarterbacks are really damn important, it’s unreasonable to say that Hundley’s the sole reason.

Continue reading

UCLA is back, and so am I

A lot has changed since February 2012. Back then, UCLA football was an also-ran, a near-dumpster-fire program that saw Rick Neuheisel ousted as the (rightful) goat of the program’s descent. Today, though, UCLA football is a program on the rise, and a serious dark-horse for a shot at a national title.

Back then, “a shot at a national title” meant being ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in a kinda-sorta arbitrary system of ranking college football programs, what used to be the BCS. Today, having a shot at a natty means being ranked in the top-four by a select group of committee members, and duking it out in a playoff format.

Back then, I was a fresh-faced, first-year UCLA transfer student, wide-eyed and blinded by the big lights. Today, I’m a grizzled vet with a degree, workin’ at a non-profit full-time.

And back then, I gave up this blog — Sons of Westwood — for a new gig at Go Joe Bruin at FanSided.com. Today, I’m just a tweeter. But I’m also back from my writing hiatus. I love writing too much to stay away, and I love UCLA far too much to shut up about them and keep my thoughts contained within 140 characters.

My approach will be different, though. I won’t be blogging here for the purpose of building a portfolio or working my way through the ranks of the blogosphere. I won’t be presenting myself as an alternative to my old site, or that one site from across town.

I’ll just be here to write about UCLA and gain a dedicated audience; an audience that’ll listen to my opinions and, just maybe, disagrees with me on them.

Stay tuned, yo.

Why are goodbyes so damned hard?

Hey guys! It’s me — the big dude who’s been roamin’ around here, bloggin’ it up.

Well, in case you haven’t figured out, I was offered a gig by the dudes at FanSided to edit their UCLA blog Go Joe Bruin.

The goals of this website will carry on to the new place, too, so don’t you fret. The difference is, the platform will be larger and the audience should be awesome’r. I love you guys, so it’d be awesome if you fired up a new tab and headed on over there.

Peace!

VISIT THE NEW BLOG AT FANSIDED: GO JOE BRUIN. GO BRUINS!!!

Your Gut Instinct Might Be Wrong – Football Math

(Ed. Note: The following post was done by a new member of the family, ixrs. Please, welcome him to the show.)

You’re down by 14 in a football game with 3 minutes left in a football game. You just scored a touchdown. Your team sucks and only converts 2pt. conversions 40% of the time (most teams average around 45-55%) You should kick an extra point, right? Nope.

It’s mathematically more sound to go for 2.

Why is this relevant? Because fans often call for things that are detrimental to the team that they love as their first instinct. And likewise, everybody has been calling for Ben Howland’s head, and those that defend him are derisively called “Howlers” (at that other “Bruin” blog).

I’ve posted on reddit.com/r/ucla (this post, specifically) detailing why firing Howland is a bad idea. tl;dr -> Not firing him now will save 7 million dollars (not chump change, considering even Kentucky’s highest paid coach in the nation makes $4 million. The legendary Coach K of Duke makes 2.2) and this will help us HIRE A MUCH BETTER coach, or if the best case scenario occurs, Howland redeems himself.

You’d be naive to think otherwise. Money talks. Everything else walks.

Finally, football math is just interesting.

Math below:

Most teams have around a 40-55% chance at succeeding. No matter what happens, you’re hoping for another defensive stop and then another touchdown.

Let’s assume the worst case scenario — your team only gets a 40% conversion rate! Two 1 pt. conversions = a tie, so we’ll use that as a baseline. Now if you fail the first 2pt. conversion and succeed at the second, you’ll end up with 14pts., which is exactly the same result. Since that would be the exact same result, we can ignore it, because it’s the same as kicking two PATs.

Now lets compare the chances of losing versus the chances of winning, if one outweighs the other then we can figure out if the 2 pt. conversion is a better choice.

Now what are the odds of losing? 60% (failing the first 2pt. conv.) x 60% (failing the second 2pt. conv.) = 36% of losing.

Now if you make the first conversion, you win the game, because your second attempt is just a 1pt. attempt (so you’ll get 15pt. total, winning the game versus the 14 pt. deficit). What are the odds of making the 2pt. conversion? It’s a given- 40%.

Now 40% is a greater percentage than 36%, so your odds of winning outright outweigh your odds of losing outright.

Basically, you should go for the 2pt. attempt EVEN if your team is below 50% at 2pt. attempts! (As long as your team is above around 39% or so at 2pt. conversions.)