Really, Just How Good Is ... UCLA?
Posted Oct 7, 2013

The unknown & unheralded unbeatens ... how good is UCLA?

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By Matt Zemek
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How good is UCLA?

Did the 20-point win at Nebraska reveal much about a team, given that the Husker defense appears to be headed for a rough Big Ten season? Probably not. However, not every team would come back from an 18-point deficit on the road in a 9 a.m. West Coast kickoff. Arizona State, for instance, would probably not have dug out of a 21-3 hole.

Yes, UCLA should certainly rate as the best team in the Pac-12 South, but that's more a reflection of how poor the rest of the division is. So, what are the Bruins really made of?

UCLA's win at Utah last Thursday was impressive solely for the fact that an historically bad cold-weather team managed to steady itself enough to win at night in Salt Lake City. Conditions were unusually bad for early October, so UCLA's narrow win should be viewed in a favorable light from that particular standpoint. However, when graded on the raw merits, the Bruins were quite sloppy and uneven.

Until there's more consistency, the Bruins aren't playing well enough to take down any of the Pac-12 North's best teams - and that list now includes Washington in addition to Stanford and Oregon. The Huskies are playing with more force and athleticism than the Bruins at this point, and Oregon and Stanford are more dynamic. However, the chances to prove otherwise are coming; UCLA will get the proving-ground moments it craves.

On the plus side, considering his talent, we're still waiting to see Brett Hundley's best football this season, despite an undeniably glossy set of numbers. Hundley enjoyed one and a half brilliant quarters against Nebraska - the latter half of the second plus the entirety of the third - and he made winning plays late in regulation against Utah. Now he needs to get more support from his offensive line, which is going to be tested as the season progresses.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins' defense secured six turnovers against Utah last Thursday. It's true that Utah's offense is wildly inconsistent, but defenses generally don't get six turnovers in a game without having above-average instincts and ball skills. Can the defense win without creating lots of turnovers? The ability to produce both three-and-outs and red-zone stands against the elites of the Pac-12 North will ultimately determine the trajectory of the Bruins' season.