Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 10:01 AM
Back when the UCLA Bruins were blown out at home 49-20 by the Texas Longhorns, it looked like head coach Rick Neuheisel's days were surely numbered. Another losing season seemed to be imminent. The team was 0-3 at that point against Vegas expectations...missing the line by 2, 10, and 25 points (trending in the wrong direction, and clearly playing well below their projected level).
Yet...thanks to nothing he's doing on his own...Neuheisel may actually be in position to save his job because most of the rest of the Pac 12 is playing so much worse than expected!
Game Four for UCLA was on the road against an Oregon State team that just fell off the map this year. The Bruins won and covered...moving back to 2-2 for the season and starting off the conference race with a win.
Game Five for UCLA was a loss and non-cover at Stanford. But, Stanford is a national powerhouse so that wasn't a result anyone was going to hold against Neuheisel or the Bruins.
Game Six for UCLA was a home win over Washington State. The Cougars are getting better. But, they were one of the laughingstocks of the sport there for a few years...so this was a game UCLA should have been able to manage.
That puts UCLA at 3-3 straight up and 2-1 in Pac 12 play heading into Thursday Night's game at Arizona that will be nationally televised by ESPN. Arizona's having an awful year...and has ALREADY fired their head coach after an embarrassing loss to that woeful Oregon State team that UCLA survived. A few plays here or there vs. that very same opponent...and maybe it's Neuheisel getting the early hook and Mike Stoops standing on the sidelines tonight.
The Bruins are a four-point road underdog Thursday Night. That certainly makes this a winnable game. The collapse of much of the Pac 12 this year has created a lot of those on the remaining slate.
Game Eight for UCLA will be at home next week against California. That's the same Cal team you saw flounder badly against USC a week ago on ESPN's stage. You definitely can't pencil in an automatic win for UCLA...but it's obviously a winnable home game.
Game Nine for UCLA will be at home against Arizona State. That's a toughie. Right now, Arizona State is playing the best ball in the Pac 12 South. The Sun Devils are tied with USC at 3-1 in league play, but they hold the tie-breaker with a straight up win over the Trojans. Let's assume a loss for UCLA, though playing at home may give them some upset potential. They were awful at home against Texas, who hasn't seemed all that tough since then.
Game Ten for UCLA will on the road at Utah. Normally, that's an assumed loss. This year's Utah team is struggling badly though...particularly since they lost their starting quarterback to injury. "That's a loss," has once again turned into "that's a winnable game," for Neuheisel and company.
Game Eleven for UCLA is at home against Colorado. The Buffaloes have been badly overmatched so far in Pac 12 play...and look to have lost their spirit. Maybe they'll have found something that works by mid-November. Or, maybe this is a laydown that UCLA can take care of without breaking much of a sweat. For now, given wins over Oregon State and Washington State, you have to assume it's a win for the Bruins. There sure are a lot of crappy teams in the Pac 12 this year!
Game Twelve for UCLA is on the road at USC. For now, let's assume a loss.
We start at 3-3 heading into the Arizona game Thursday...then have:
1 assumed win over Colorado
2 assumed losses to Arizona State and USC
3 "winnable" games against Arizona, California, and Utah
The day UCLA fell to Texas, it looked like something as bad as 3-9 was possible, and a coaching change would be automatic. Many believe Neuheisel should have been axed way before now anyway. He probably wouldn't have survived October had he lost to both Oregon State and Washington State.
Suddenly, 7-5 and a winning record in the Pac 12 is a conceivable best case scenario. That means winning tonight as a small dog of course. And, since tonight's game is a proxy for expectations against California and Utah...the state of Neuheisel's future is very much in play in tonight's game. We may be looking at 7-5...or we may be looking at 4-8. Only Colorado is an assumed win the rest of the way.
Right now, we'd have to say that Neuheisel saving his job is a longshot. Tough to make the coin flips fall your way. And, this is the kind of team that could easily take a week off mentally against somebody like Colorado even if things were going well. What's important in terms of handicapping though is what the PLAYERS think!
Did the win over Washington State provide a confidence boost that will help them against a softer second half schedule?
Do the players like Neuheisel and want him to stay around? Inspired players will do great things for a coach they like. Disinterested players will go in the tank for a month or more if they're ready for a change themselves.
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has been working very closely with its on site sources to get a read on this game. Clearly, the attitude of players on BOTH sides of the field is going to determine who wins and covers. Arizona is playing for a new coach...meaning you can throw a lot of the old results out the window. UCLA may or may not be playing to save their coach's job...meaning the volatility here is very high in terms of potential results. Fired up UCLA can win outright. Divided UCLA can lose by two touchdowns or more.
This is why JIM HURLEY created his exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach to football handicapping. We know the stats like everyone else. We know the trends and angles like everyone else. But, only NETWORK has on-site sources that give us insights into the mindset of every team on the board. And, only NETWORK has state-of-the-art computer software that allows us to combine the stats with the motivational factors to create an informed 'best expectation' for how a game is going to play out. Stat models that don't include motivation are a waste of time.
You'll be able to purchase our Thursday Night play in UCLA/Arizona (and possibly a bonus play in Central Florida/UAB) right here at the website this afternoon with your credit card. You can try out a few days individually with us to test the waters. You can sign up for the full weekend at a great rate. Or, you can take advantage of the fantastic prices on seasonal packages and make this week the first week of a run to riches from now through the college bowls and NFL playoffs.
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We have a BLOCKBUSTER play on tap for Saturday in the colleges, along with our popular TV Triple Crown that might include Wisconsin-Michigan State, USC-Notre Dame, or Auburn-LSU. Sunday's going to be great in the NFL. This is the perfect weekend to make your move!
Back with you Friday here in the NOTEBOOK to look at the Big East games set for national telecast on ESPN and the Deuce...West Virginia at Syracuse and Rutgers at Louisville. We'll run the full Big East standings and outline the rest of the season in that crumbling conference for you in that report as well. Saturday morning we'll be up bright and early to preview the Wisconsin-Michigan State game. Wisconsin is badly in need of some style points if they want to crack the top two in the BCS this year. We'll look at that possibility and the rest of the big picture to help provide context for your handicapping.
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