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“Success” is a weird, subjective thing, especially for UCLA football fans and college football fans in general. It is entirely impossible to determine an objective measure for success.
People will try, too. Some will say x teams needs y wins in order to be considered successful. Others feel their team needs to make certain bowls, while different people feel that all these things are fluid, and depending on the outcome of individual games, a team can be successful regardless of the amount of wins they accumulate.
We have a distinct set of measures and criteria to define success, in our eyes, for the upcoming UCLA football team. Given our schedule, quality of opponents and talent-level, these expectations are fair, but nothing that is asking too much of our team.
So without further ado, here are our outlined expectations.
1. Compete, opponent be damned
As we said in our post about “The Plan,” being able to keep up with the big dogs on our schedule — these “big dogs” being Stanford, Nebraska, South Cal (U$C) and Utah — is crucial. We threw out these numbers just a few days ago:
Last season, UCLA never touched any of its toughest opponents. UCLA lost to Stanford, South Cal, Oregon, Texas and Utah by an average of 27.6 points, and excluding the 50-0 manhandling we received, the average was a 22-point loss.
Losing by 22 points makes us look like we belong in a lower tier and makes the other team look like they’re miles ahead of the average Pac-12 team. It’s embarrassing and disappointing.
So for this season to be successful, UCLA’s bare minimum requirement for progress is to lose by no less than an average of ten points against a combination of Stanford, Nebraska, South Cal and Utah. What that allows, mathematically for a blowout loss of, say, 30 against one of these teams, but being behind just three points against three other teams when clocks hit zero.
To even further solidify this point, UCLA must only be behind by a maximum of 13 points at the end of the third quarter in each of these games; we can’t let this team slide with furious, damn near meaningless late-game rallies.
2. Finish top three in the Pac-12 South Division
After U$C and Utah, the Pac-12 south consists of UCLA, Colorado, ASU and Arizona. Clearly, UCLA is the better team of the four, even though Arizona and ASU have decent coaches at the helm.
Finishing in the top-three is crucial, because it will show we aren’t in the bottom tier. Plus, ASU and Colorado are awful while Arizona isn’t as talented as we are.
3. Kill the teams we can beat, torture the teams we can kill
UCLA has some serious cupcakes on the schedule, including our Pac-12 South rivals ASU, Colorado and Arizona.
For these cupcakes, UCLA needs to absolutely embarrass these schools to prove that they can take care of business instead of lingering around and playing down to the level of our opponents.
For our games against ASU, Colorado, Arizona, Rice, Houston, and OSU, UCLA needs to win by an average of 21 points. That’s 126 points total. This also means that we can call this team successful if they win against one of these teams by just three points, but beats the rest by damn near 25 points. Slipping up happens, and occasionally, a team can get hot. This would also allow for UCLA to lose one of these games as long as they beat the rest by 27 points or more.
Of course, there is a loophole: What if UCLA wins half of them but beats the other teams by 40 or so? To make sure some dumb-ass doesn’t walk up to me in the street and says “OH YOU CALL THAT SUCCESSFUL?!” a new criteria is added here: UCLA is only allowed to lose one of these six games, making them 5-1 against horrible teams.
4. We shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between home and away
Last season, UCLA was 5-1 at home — losing to Texas at the Rose Bowl last season — but was 1-7 on the road (losses to Illinois and Oregon included). Being able to compete with decent teams at home makes teams terribly inconsistent. It gives a feeling that home field advantage is about the only advantage that a team has.
So while fans want UCLA to hold down the Rose Bowl, we expect the same kind of performance in Corvallis, Berkeley, Pullman and even South Central LA.
Basically, winnable teams are winnable, and location should not matter.
5. If coin flips are 50/50, win half your toss-ups
When we say toss-ups, we mean any team could win. It’s basically a pick ‘em of sorts, and they’re incredibly hard to predict.
This season, UCLA has two of them. Both are on the road — and both are up north — so the odds of winning both should seem to get better, but if we’re consistent with our criteria, then it shouldn’t matter: We need to beat either Cal or Wazzu.
6. Finish the season with seven wins, bowl game excluded
UCLA has six cupcakes on the schedule, two toss-ups and four games that will be an uphill battle.
So it’s reasonable to conclude that UCLA takes care of all six of its cupcakes, one of its toss-ups and loses — again, by no less than an average of ten — to top-25 teams.
Of course, this can vary: As we’ve said before, UCLA can acceptably lose one of its cupcakes, but now, they’ll have to win either both of their toss-ups or a toss-up and a top-25 team (or, hell, none of the toss-ups and two top-25 teams).
This’ll leave us with a record of 7-5, and the hope is that UCLA is 5-4 in Pac-12 play (our four losses conceivably come against three top-25 Pac-12 teams and either Cal or Wazzu, but again, any combo works so long as our minimum 5-1 record against cupcakes holds steady).
This is pretty much the bottom-line for significant progress, to our eyes. UCLA has to have the look of a team that will be a force to be reckoned with once all the kinks are straightened out. This is a transition year after all, but Mora was blessed with a favorable schedule, for the most part.
Seven wins is not out of the question (and neither are the above requirements), and for us to get excited about UCLA football again, all of the aforementioned criteria need to happen. Anything less will be a disappointment.