Florida State may have ended the SEC’s streak of consecutive national championships this past January, but the ACC isn’t the conference most likely to catch or surpass the boys down South anytime soon. No, that honor might just belong to the Pac 12.
Yes, you know about preseason No. 4 Oregon, and yes, you know about No. 11 Stanford. But what about the team sandwiched between them? That would be No. 7 UCLA, a team that many feel has a legitimate chance to win the Pac-12 and play in the College Football Playoff.
But is it possible that the Bruins – by virtue of playing in Los Angeles and getting a lot of attention – are being overhyped? Even worse, is it possible they could fall victim to that hype?
“A lot of times before you are ready to walk fully through the door, you got to knock a few times,” former NFL Pro-Bowler and current Colorado Buffalos analyst Chad Brown said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “They’ve rebounded back pretty quickly from some not-so-good days in Westwood, but yes, once you start reading the hype and (quarterback Brett) Hundley is reading about himself being a Heisman candidate and the Defensive Freshman of the Year with the linebacker there (Myles Jack), it’s inevitable that a team can start believing in that.”
UCLA went 10-3 last year and dismantled Virginia Tech, 42-12, in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Bruins, however, lost their three toughest games of the season and suffered back-to-back road losses to Stanford and Oregon last October. Combined margin of defeat? Forty-two points.
And yet, many people want to anoint them as the cream of the Pac-12 crop.
“Jim Mora has a pretty tough duty this fall camp trying to get those guys to be humble and put in the same type of work they used to get to this point right now to have the opportunity to be great,” Brown said. “You can’t be great because people write about it in the newspaper; you got to be great on the football field.”
That’s something Stanford knows a little some about. The Cardinal have been one of the most consistent programs in America over the last several years and won the Pac-12 a season ago, ultimately losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.
Still, Stanford’s success has been incredible – in part because its attack is so straightforward.
“They are not going to come out and trick people,” Brown said. “That’s not their philosophy. Their trickeration is to put their formation on the field where there’s nine offensive linemen, one quarterback and one running back. And they’re going to run the ball at you, and they’re going to let you know, ‘We’re going to run the ball. See if you can stop nine 300-pounders coming at you.”
“So in todays college football – with so much spread, with so much attention to tempo and all those kind of things – Stanford chose to go (with) the opposite formula with size and power,” Brown continued. “Defensive (players) are recruited on their ability to play against spread offenses, not on their ability to play against an offense like Stanford’s. So very few teams have the type of defenders, the type of athletes, that are needed to stop a team like Stanford, which is just going to line up and try to run you over.”
UCLA hosts Stanford in its regular-season finale Nov. 28.