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Preseason BlogPoll Roundtable: Don't be Suckered by UCLA

When I put out my ballot for the preseason BlogPoll, I forgot to link to the poll itself.  Needless to say, USC checks in at #1, followed by LSU, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia.  Oregon checks in at #24, lower than my possibly biased ranking.  I'm also one of the few idiots who voted for Arizona State, and have Hawaii rated considerably higher than others.  That being said, my ballot is far from the most unusual.  That goes to our friends over at Ramblin' Racket, who picked their Yellow Jackets as the #6 team in the country.  Ouch.

One of the cool things about BlogPoll is that every week there is a roundtable, where the voters talk about issues with the polls.  This weeks roundtable has two questions.

Who is overrated:

When I look at that poll, I see a lot of good teams there.  From top to bottom, it looks strong.  But right around the middle of the poll, I see one team that just doesn't fit in with the rest, and those four capital letters stare at me like they're saying "please don't tell anybody that I've managed to sneak into the party".  I'm talking, of course, about U.C.L.A..

I'm going to make a few points here about UCLA, but first I want to make an apology to the folks over at Rose Bowl Before I Die, because they have already come up with a lot of these.  

Here are the two most common reasons people believe in UCLA, and the reasons why they are wrong:

They return 20 starters. From a crap team
They have a good defense.  That got lit up 37 at Wazzu, 38 at Cal, a whopping 44 against a pathetic Florida State offense.  Yes, they played the game of their lives against SC, they looked like shit against most everyone else

Then there is also the issue which I have already addressed, and that is the issue of Karl Dorrell.  I'll repeat that paragraph here for BlogPoll voters who may not be regular readers:

I'm not buying it, and the main reason is their head coach.  I don't want to say that Karl Dorrell is a terrible coach.  He's certainly no Dirk Koetter.  But there is a reason that UCLA hasn't been a top program like their talent suggests they should be.
Take last year's Oregon/UCLA game for example.  UCLA fell behind early 20-0.  However, Oregon's offense slowed down considerably, and UCLA had a chance to make something happen and get back into the ballgame.  But instead of trying to throw the ball downfield and give his team a realistic shot, Dorrell showed no sense of urgency and continued to methodically run the football.  He was able to get a few scores off of it, but he basically chewed up the clock and gave away any chance that the Bruins had of winning the football game.  They lost by ten.
This is why you see UCLA in a lot of close games.  They never blow anyone out, and aren't blown out themselves.  Dorrell refuses to take chances.  He doesn't play to win, he plays not to be embarassed.  That mentality will never get you to the top of your game, and its why I'm not buying UCLA as anything more than a 7-5 team this year.

With all respect to our friends over at Bruins Nation, who picked UCLA seventh in the preseason poll, there is no way in hell you can justify a number seven ranking for them.  In the BlogPoll as a whole, they check in at 16.  That's right around where I put Oregon and Arizona State, who weren't too good last season, either, in my poll.  However, I have reasons:

  • Oregon has a history (2003, 2005) of coming off struggling seasons with most of their players returning and far exceeding expectations.

  • Arizona State addressed their most pressing problem, which was that their coach was crap.  With Dennis Erickson at the helm, you know that they will get the most out of their talent.

Meanwhile, there is no reason to believe that UCLA won't be the same crappy team with the same crappy coach that they were last year.

Who is underrated:

While I could make a bold argument for unranked Arizona State, I know that my ranking them was a bold move in the first place.  However, I said in my initial draft that I though I may be underrating Wisconsin--and I put them at number five.

They return 18 starters from a 12-1 team.  They have the best running back in the Big 10.  They kill you on time of possession, but also have a very good defense that makes life difficult for you.  This is arguably the best team in the Big 10, and are a legitimate national championship contender.  The thought that Virginia Tech and Oklahoma are ranked ahead of them absolutely puzzles me.

That being said, they're still ranked pretty high, and this doesn't deserve nearly the criticism that UCLA's accolades do.
Of course, this is all speculation.  We'll know a lot more in October, which is probably when the first polls SHOULD start coming out.  But then we wouldn't be able to have all this fun debating.