UCLA pisses me off. And not for the reasons you think.
It's not because they're 3-0 against Texas in our last three contests. They were the better team in 1997 (Route 66 trauma flashback) and 1998 (5 foot 8 inch walk-on Jeremy Jones manned up on 6 foot 5 inch Brian Poli-Dixon and volleyball pro Danny Farmer, this will end well) and 2010 was a debacle in all respects. If anything we owe them our thanks for ending the Mackovic Era and serving as first warning for Mack Brown to clean house. Besides, refreshingly, most UCLA fans aren't even aware they beat us. They were playing Ultimate Frisbee or roller blading. We're used to fans dog piling on the 50 yard line and tearing down goal posts. Aggies put a Texas win on their work e-mail auto-signatures for a year and Sooners will taunt you as they hand you a Beef Mexi-melt in the Taco Bell drive thru.
So, all things being equal, it's pretty cool losing to UCLA.
Texas fan: "Hey, my Longhorns are hoping to get some revenge on you this year."
UCLA fan: "Like, in sports or whatever?"
Texas fan: "Yes, you beat us last year in football."
UCLA fan: "Tommy Maddox still our QB?"
It's not because I dislike UCLA. When I play the imagination game of where I'd go to school had I grown up elsewhere, in California, I always end up a Bruin. There are certain schools where, when I meet their alums, I have a general sense of "Oh, they're like us." UCLA, Michigan, Florida. It's pretty predictable. I like UCLA. Good people.
UCLA often catches us in a transitional period
It's not because they catch us at our worst. UCLA is the neighbor watering their front yard at 3:00am when you skid into your garbage cans and step out of your car cursing as a Jim Beam bottle rolls onto the driveway. They're the hotel maid who repeatedly screams, "EEZZZZ HOUUUUZZZZZZ KEEEEEPINGGG!" at 7:00 am on New Years Day. They're the UPS guy ringing your doorbell on Friday at 5:30 pm just as you're settling on to the upstairs toilet with Game of Thrones.
They have a knack for this. Predictably, this Saturday, we're starting brand new QBs and half of our two deep has trouble getting into rated R movies. Still, it's our own fault.
It's not because I dislike Southern California. Living for six years in San Francisco is supposed to have taught me that LA's obsession with appearance, status, and credit card debt represents all that's wrong in the world, but Northern Californians do the same things and disguise them with yoga babble and yurts. I admire SoCal for the loathsome honesty of its decaying dream.
No, UCLA offends me as a football purist.
I watched both UCLA games this year. The bottom line is this: UCLA has a bunch of talented dudes who don't care all that much. And with respect to talent, I'm not talking about recruiting classes, or rankings, or other supportive bullshit that people use when they can't trust their own eyes (though UCLA has all those things too). I'm talking about pure on-field talent. UCLA is good. They have two NFL RBs - one a slick slasher, the other an angry bowling ball, a 6 foot 8 mutant TE who can run and has hands, appears to be open on every play, and had 100 yards receiving in one half against Houston. Naturally, they threw to him only once against San Jose St (a TD, of course) and he's 2nd string. They have a 6-5 220 pound WR named Nelson Rosario who alternates between playing like Lord Nelson and Rosario Dawson and the OL is massive. They also have an array of highly recruited QBs who all excel at being injured except when playing Texas.
Overall, they returned something like 57 of their 22 starters (this number is imprecise) so inexperience is no issue.
Defensively, they're like watching a clown riding a Vespa through a car wash, but it's not because they lack talent. It's just a bunch of fairly talented guys running around randomly, somewhat bored. Their schemes appear to have been drawn up with bottle caps and twigs during warm ups. "Who wants to play DT? You Marsh? OK, you be DT this game." During one part of a game, I observed their NFL talent DE Datone Jones during a run play that went to the other side of the field. He stopped, placed a hand on his hip, and watched the play unfold with detached bemusement. It was awesome.
Against Houston, UCLA went down 31-14 at halftime, looked at each other while eating orange slices and said, "Hey, what if we just tried - just to see how it feels?" UCLA stormed back and the Cougars eked out a 38-34 victory. UCLA racked up 550+ yards of offense. And lost. Kevin Prince was promptly injured because he wasn't playing Texas. Their backup appeared to be better anyway.
Against San Jose St, a team firmly in the bottom 10% of college football starting their backup QB, UCLA was tied 17 all in the late 3rd quarter. They went on to win 27-17 after a UCLA player said to 240 pound RB Derrick Coleman - "Yo, DC, I bet you can't run over like eleven dudes this quarter." Coleman said, "Bet!" and then ran over twelve while averaging 10 yards a carry.
The most irritating part of this is not that they don't try, but it's that they won't have the decency not to try against us. The prospect of national television, more than 50,000 people in the Rose Bowl, and a name program will challenge their athletic pride. The same athletes who slumbered through two and half quarters of the Houston game and the entire San Jose St. game will decide they want to light up the Longhorns. The kicker is that if they do, they'll likely luxuriate in the win, beat Oregon State on the road, and, interest diminished, lose to Stanford by 37 points in Palo Alto. "Man, Stanford playing all hard and shit. F this." Mean regressed once the Longhorns leave town.
If UCLA had any decency at all, they would
lay lie down for us like they will against Utah or Arizona State. But no, these assholes are probably going to try. And we'll have a close game and possibly even lose in some heartbreaking fashion. And they'll do it in uniforms designed by florists.