With the now-16th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers football squad coming to town, UCLA fans are now well over a high-octane win over the Rice Owls and setting their eyes on an upset at the Rose Bowl against the Huskers.
Of course, with such a good team in Nebraska looming, one has to wonder: Is this game significantly more important than any other game on UCLA’s schedule, save for the Bruins’ date with a rival on November 17 against South Cal?
Is a game against a top-25 team at home any more important than a game against, say, Colorado or California on the road?
UCLA proved that they can hang points on teams they should hang points on. Rice was a solid test to see if UCLA could “take care of business” but we’ll now see if UCLA can take down a team with as much talent as our Bruins do, and one that has a helluva lot of continuity in the coaching staff arena.
Nebraska’s good, though. Great, even. And while UCLA has done its fair share of upsetting through the years, they’ve never been consistent enough to do so after UCLA put the hurt on a weaker team.
And it’s been awhile since UCLA had beaten a ranked team that’s almost guaranteed to win at least nine games. No. 20 ASU saw their program go into a tailspin last season, Texas finished 5-7 the year that their top-10 team was beaten by our Bruins, the Houston Cougars also went 5-7 that year when they were ranked 23rd when UCLA had beaten them early on, and the 2008, 18th-ranked Tennessee Vols finished 5-7 in Rick Neuheisel’s first game as head coach in UCLA.
You’d have to go all the way back to Mike Belotti’s Oregon Ducks in 2007 to find a solid, ranked team that UCLA emerged victorious against (and even then, Oregon lost another two straight after UCLA had upset them; before this, UCLA’s last win against a team that good or better was against South Cal in the now-famous 13-9 game in 2006).
So really, if Nebraska is as good as we think they will be — major Rose Bowl contenders in 2012 — it’s possible that today’s Cornhuskers could be UCLA’s biggest upset for the past six years. In fact, it’s not crazy to say that, should UCLA win on Saturday, it would be the Bruins’ best win since UCLA beat South Cal 13-9 in ’06.
Considering the ramifications and the context — under a new head coach, with a new, talented freshman QB, utilizing a novel-to-UCLA offensive scheme with an entirely different mindset than in the past 20 years of UCLA football — this game could have incredible significance for UCLA as a football program in general, the exact counter to what UCLA’s loss to Miami in 1998 did.
Or maybe this is wishful thinking, and perhaps, if UCLA beats Nebraska, the Cornhuskers will flame out and go 5-7 like every other ranked team UCLA has beaten has done since 2007.
Who knows? And, for now, who cares? Let’s just get a damn win against a ranked team.