Submitted by Wayne Root on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM
I can’t say I was surprised that UCLA fired head football coach Jim Mora Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the Bruins lost again to archrival USC. That was a pointspread winner on my ROOT TRUST because I expected UCLA to play hard in a game that barely mattered to USC. Mora’s job was very much in danger even if the team had won! When they lost, you knew his days were numbered. (Especially with Chip Kelly still available to return to Pac 12 sidelines!)
Should UCLA have waited until after the California game to fire Mora? Some would say yes. But, I think there’s a better chance that the team plays with enthusiasm knowing that a bowl berth is on the line. At 5-6, a win over Cal makes them bowl eligible. Mora was going to have a “dead man walking” aura around him all week…and then into the bowl if the Bruins won. End the story now so it’s not a distraction. If making the announcement quickly improves their chances to get Chip Kelly, so much the better.
Before the season, I told you I was very interested in seeing how the team would perform with Coach Mora on the hot seat, and star quarterback Josh Rosen back in the spotlight in discussions for the #1 pick in the NFL draft. If something special was going to happen for the program, THIS WAS IT! And, while that big come-from-behind rally against Texas A&M was something special…it just goes to prove that UCLA is very lucky not to be 4-7 right now. Had they faced an opposing coach that new how to protect a lead in that opener…the Bruins would have been lame ducks a few weeks ago.
Among the key factors in play:
*Mora isn’t a very good recruiter
*Mora isn’t as influential with X’s and O’s as expected
*Mora isn’t a man who motivates young athletes well
*Rosen was given way too loose a reign because of his star potential
The media has hidden this because they want stars to hype as well. Rosen often has high passing volume. But, he’s thrown 20 or more incomplete passes FIVE times this season. That’s horrible accuracy against college defenses, particularly the many soft defenses on UCLA’s schedule this season. It’s easy to throw short, functional passes that gain yards, move the chains, and get you to the end zone. Mora and Rosen kept swinging for home runs. The legacy of their time in LA is going to be one of disappointment. Rosen has to overcome what he didn’t accomplish as a heralded recruit. Mora may have to drop down to a mid-major program to rebuild his coaching reputation.
As “handicapper to the stars” for so many years, I’ve always paid very close attention to the Los Angeles teams. That’s allowed me to enjoy great success across all the major betting sports whenever LA is involved. I have to say I was very disappointed with how “the Rosen era” turned out. Even if Josh beats Cal and wins a bowl (granting that he might decide to sit out a bowl to protect his health for the draft), this was supposed to be a program that would stay near the top of the Pac 12. Between UCLA and USC, at least ONE of those should threaten to reach the Final Four every season. Guess we’ll have to focus on the impressive young LA Rams of the NFL for the time being.
I decided to focus on the Mora story for you today because “lame duck” head coaches, or coaches otherwise on the hot seat are going to be a big story in the coming weeks. Some programs have already axed their coaches. Others are thinking very seriously about it heading into the rivalry finales and bowl season. There will definitely be GREAT betting scenarios in play over multiple dates because of this dynamic.
*Some teams will rally around their coach (not as common as it used to be)
*Other teams are already on their holiday break mentally because they’ve given up on their current head coach.
Either of those angles can be worth 2-3 touchdowns. Sometimes MORE if the opponent has their own issues that can magnify blowout potential. UCLA covered for Mora against USC because the Trojans were relatively flat and disinterested. Somebody trying to get a result this week is going to CRUSH a lame duck head coach.
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