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The Figgis Forum: UCLA

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USC v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Welcome to the ninth edition of The Figgis Forum, a fan-driven season preview for each Pac-12 team. Making our way out of Seattle, we’re going to head south on I-5 for 1,137 miles all the way to the City of Angels. We’re headed to Westwood and the campus of the UCLA Bruins for this rendition of The Figgis Forum. On second thought, let’s just skip Westwood and go straight to Brookside Country Club and tailgate on the golf course, since the Rose Bowl is a meager 26 miles away from campus.

UCLA

Fast Facts:

All-Time Record: 589-412-37 (.585%)

National Championships: 1

Conference Championships: 18

Bowl Games: 35

Bowl Record: 16-17-1 (.485%)

Consensus All-Americans: 40

Heismans: 1

NFL Draft Picks: 316

1st Round Draft Picks: 34

Weeks in AP Poll: 532

Weeks at #1: 7

Vs Oregon:

All-Time Record: 38-28

Longest Win Streak: 7 Games (1949-1956)

Longest Losing Streak: 6 Games (2008-Current)

Largest Margin of Victory: 46-0 (1976)

Largest Margin of Defeat: 13-60 (2010)

Last Meeting: 2014 (L 30-42)

Overview

UCLA has it pretty tough. Think about it. You have a program that has historically been in the upper half of the conference. You are located in one of the most talent-rich areas in the country which also happens to have some of the nicest weather and you have respected academics. So what makes it tough? Well, try having your cross town rival be one of the most successful programs in all of college football. UCLA has a winning record against every conference opponent, except USC.

Many Pac-12 teams fielded their first football team in the 1890’s, but UCLA was slightly behind as their first was in 1919. They have had many periods of success starting in the late-1940’s to early 1950’s. The program’s first ten-win season came in 1946 under head coach Bert LaBrucherie. In his four years coaching UCLA, it was the only time they won more than five games.

In 1949, Harry R. Sanders took over and led the Bruins to an elite level in the ranks of college football. His first three teams finished 6-3, 6-3 and 5-3-1 before a dominant four year stretch began that saw the Bruins finish in the top-6 of the AP and coaches poll after each season. From 1952 to 1955, UCLA won three conference titles, had two Rose Bowl appearances and was crowned the National Champion by the Coaches Poll after the 1954 season. UCLA was not allowed to play Ohio State (crowned the national champs by the AP) in the Rose Bowl due to the Pacific Coast Conference’s “No Repeat Rule” that existed at the time. Sanders’ last two seasons slightly regressed to 7-3 and 8-2 in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

Starting in 1958, UCLA’s seasons began to get rather inconsistent. Under new head coach William F. Barnes, the Bruins endured a losing season in 1958, followed by three winning seasons that included two conference titles and another Rose Bowl appearance, which was then followed by three additional losing seasons. In 1965, UCLA hired Tommy Prothro as the new head coach and he was instantly able to re-elevate the program. In his first season, the Bruins won the conference and made their sixth Rose Bowl appearance, this time marking their first post-season victory. In his six years as head coach, Prothro finished with just one losing season and amassed an overall record of 41-18-3.

The next head coach, Pepper Rodgers, only last three seasons and had a record of 19-12-1. More interesting, was that his QB of the 1972 and 1973 teams was Mark Harmon. Next up to coach the Bruins was Dick Vermiel, who did so for just two seasons before leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles job. If you don’t know who Dick Vermeil is, go watch the Mark Wahlberg movie Invincible.

In 1976, Terry Donahue became the next head coach for the Bruins, where he would remain for 20 seasons. He remains UCLA’s longest tenured and winningest coach in program history. Through his first six seasons, Donahue had a record of 45-21-3 with three bowl appearances. The seven wins from the 1977 season were later vacated by the school due to an ineligible player, but the NCAA still credits Donahue with the wins. Over the next seven seasons, UCLA was much more dominant with a record of 63-17-4, four conference titles and a bowl victory every single year, including three Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl. After that, the program gradually declined. Donahue led UCLA to consecutive losing seasons in 1989 and 1990. In his final seven seasons from 1989 to 1995, his record was 43-36-1, with the highlight being a conference title and Rose Bowl loss in 1993. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

What’s amazing is that after Donahue’s departure, UCLA’s next three coaches combined to win just 54% of their games from 1996 to 2011, despite having three ten-win seasons in that span. Bob Toledo was first, going 49-32 from 1996 to 2002 with 10-2 seasons and conference championships in both 1997 and 1998. After Toledo came Karl Dorrell, who amassed a record of 35-27 in his five years from 2003 through 2007, which includes a 10-2 record in the 2005 season. After his lackluster performance, UCLA was ready for someone to lead them back to their winning ways. Their only problem was that they thought Rick Neuheisel would lead them there. In his four years, Neuheisel only had one season above .500 and finished with a record of 21-29.

For the 2012 season, UCLA hired Jim Mora to be the 16th head coach of the Bruins (for comparison, Willie Taggart is Oregon’s 32nd head coach. Also found this little snafu if anyone feels inclined to fix it.). Mora’s Bruins played in the conference title game in his first season and finished 9-5. His teams in 2013 and 2014 both finished 10-3 with victories in the Sun and Alamo Bowls. The past two seasons haven’t been as kind to Mora as he suddenly finds himself on the hot seat after finishing 8-5 in 2015 and 4-8 last season, though the Bruins did suffer many key injuries. If Mora can’t right the ship with a healthy team this year, he may find himself unemployed by bowl season.

Fan Q & A

For the following section, I would like to give a special thank you to a family friend and just great person in general. Since Bruins Nation was the only Pac-12 group to be…unresponsive…I had a brief chat with a man who is not only a UCLA fan, but a former All-Pac-10 Tight End who also played for the Kansas City Chiefs for two years before shoulder injury ended his career. Thank you Paul Bergmann for the short, sweet and entertaining responses.

What win total would constitute a successful season? What bowl game?

7 wins would be sensational but I'm not even holding my breath. Any with a win.

What win total would constitute a failed season? What bowl game?

6 or less.

What are you most optimistic about this coming season?

Little. Defense isn't bad but it'll be a long season for them if we are three and out as a routine.

What are you most apprehensive about this season?

Offensive line, no big talent in the backfield, a whole bunch of changes with coaching staff, a fragile Rosen coming off shoulder surgery, the lack of any real bad ass attitude that's real etc.

What do you expect to be the toughest game?

Every single one.

What could be a potential trap game?

Anybody with a losing record that they think they can beat.

Are there any injury or depth concerns heading into the season?

Again QB and for that matter a decent backup.

Who do you think will win each division?

Washington North, USC South.

Who will come in last in each division?

I don't want to say it.

How do you think your in-state rival will finish?

Oh God I'm gonna have a drink.

Previous Figgis Forums:

Arizona

Arizona State

California

Stanford

Utah

Colorado

Washington State

Washington