Carlos Sandoval is attending the University of California–Los Angeles and, sometimes, blogs about his thoughts on UCLA football and basketball. Please follow him on Twitter.
The game UCLA Bruins’ fanatics were dreading and anticipating is now not as important as everyone thought.
With losses by Pac-12 South foes Arizona State and Utah to California and Colorado, respectively, and with USC’s ineligibility to play in any form of a postseason, the Bruins are Pac-12 South champs.
Of course, we all know that the real Pac-12 South champ winner will be the team that emerges victorious in tomorrow night’s game between the Trojans and Bruins, a heated cross-town rivalry which pits friends against friends, family members against family members, and the smart from the not-so-smart.
Because despite USC’s ineligibility, it isn’t as if people will walk away from this thinking UCLA earned the right to play against either Oregon or Stanford. In all honesty, the Bruins’ horrifying play on the road has convinced many that this team isn’t as good as their 6-5 record (5-3 in conference play) indicates. Sure, a 5-1 home record is pretty awesome, but when you compare that, side-by-side, with a 1-4 road record, a win against USC at the Coliseum would, at best, validate their somewhat-successful season or, at worst, make the entire season a failure and doom their chances against whichever team they might play.
Beyond that, there are bigger implications. If UCLA happens to lose to USC (like they’re “supposed” to), they’ll finish regular season play at 6-6 and are at a huge risk of losing their bowl eligibility if they lose to either Oregon or Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.
Of course, the other side of the coin (and the more optimistic side, albeit unlikely one) will see UCLA win the Pac-12 title game and play in the Rose Bowl game this New Year’s day. Not only would that cap off the best season under Rick Neuheisel’s tenure, but it may also save his job (to the dismay of many UCLA nuts; let’s remember that Philadelphia sports fans are the Los Angeles sports fans of the East Coast).
A ton is at stake tomorrow night when UCLA steps onto the field at the Coliseum to play U$C. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.