Last year at this time, UCLA's football team had a record of three wins and three losses.
Hopes of a seven or eight win season were high, but the Bruins proceeded to tank, winning just one game after that and finishing at 4-8 with their coach, Rick Neuheisel, being placed firmly on the hot seat.
This year's Bruins have the exact same record at the season's midpoint as last year's, which is a bit unexpected considering the way they have performed, particularly on defense. Quarterbacks like Houston's Case Keenum and Stanford's Andrew Luck have carved UCLA up due to a lack of pressure from the defensive line.
Bruin Nation knew that things would be tough after their team needed a fourth quarter rally to break a late game tie and beat cupcake San Jose State.
The Bruins did show some heart and determination in their last game, a 28-25 win over Washington State where they exhibited an "I'll show them" and "never-say-die" attitude.
If they intend to finish with at least seven wins and potentially a bowl bid, the Bruins are definitely going to need that kind of attitude in the second half of the 2011 campaign.
Thanks to the pistol offense, UCLA's running game has been perfectly fine, led by Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, the Bruins' lightning and thunder.
Franklin is third among Pac-12 running backs with a total of 619 yards, averaging 7.0 yards a carry, while Coleman is my choice for team MVP at this point, as he has been a beast. Coleman has scored eight rushing touchdowns, also among the Pac-12 leaders.
As for the quarterbacks, Richard Brehaut filled in pretty well for Kevin Prince, who was replaced after throwing three interceptions against Texas in the first quarter, arguably the worst performance in UCLA football history on the way to a humiliating 49-20 loss.
Brehaut solidified his hold as the starter by throwing for six touchdowns without an interception before breaking his leg against Washington State. Prince responded and had the best game he's had in years, throwing for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the Bruins' win, but it's touch and go as to how things will turn out. Prince needs to prove that his success wasn't just luck and, more importantly, stay healthy.
The big question now is whether UCLA will continue their progress or lose five of their next six like in 2010.
The toughest games remaining on their schedule are against Arizona State at home on November 5th, followed by USC in their annual Crosstown War on November 26th. Even against that competition I don't find myself thinking those are not winnable games.
The Bruins have enough talent to battle toe-to-toe with those two teams if not outright beat them, and the rest of the schedule is likewise filled winnable match ups.
Arizona has the top-rated quarterback in the conference in Nick Foles, but have also just fired their coach, Mike Stoops. California comes to the Rose Bowl, as does last place Colorado, while UCLA will travel to Utah, who has problems of their own.
The bottom line here is, these upcoming games are winnable. The Bruins could easily end up 7-5 or 8-4.
They could also end up, like last season, 4-8.
It will all depend on their level of motivation, determination, and most importantly execution, because as I've said before, the talent is there.
Can UCLA get it together in the second half?
As those old TV cliffhanger shows used to say, "Stay tuned to find out."
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