With UCLA’s CFP hopes gone, much less fascinating choices await

On a wonky evening for UCLA, its protection giving out yardage like Rose Bowl flea market fliers and its offense a beat off its normal rhythm, one factor remained fixed.

Coach Chip Kelly repeated his chorus about everybody choosing their heads up in December to see whether or not their accomplishments over the course of the season had been ok.

Because of what occurred on a frigid evening on the Rose Bowl that chilled the Bruins to their soccer core, it may not be.

Earlier than Saturday, UCLA was on observe for a New 12 months’s Six bowl sport. A couple of extra wins and it might have ended that epic Rose Bowl sport drought that goes again to 1999 or been chosen for the Cotton Bowl as a gratifying comfort prize. Even the Faculty Soccer Playoff remained a dreamy however not out-of-the-question chance.

Now, after a horrid 34-28 loss to Arizona, the Bruins are on tempo for just a few different vacation locations. San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl? El Paso for the Solar Bowl? San Diego for the Vacation Bowl, ought to bowl organizers be in a forgiving temper after the Bruins’ last-minute pullout a yr in the past?

All these fallback choices stay in play for a staff whose late-night stumbles dropped it right into a tie with Washington for fourth place within the Pac-12 standings.

First issues first: Overlook in regards to the CFP. No. 12 UCLA (8-2 total, 5-2 Pac-12) will fall up to now when the brand new rankings come out Tuesday that even a loud “Help!” echo received’t attain these within the high 4.

Successful the convention for the primary time since 1998? At this level, it’d really feel like going 99 yards in three performs. The Bruins are 1½ video games behind the Trojans and one sport behind Oregon and Utah. The Geese and Utes taking part in one another subsequent weekend in Eugene helps in that it’s going to depart a type of groups with a second convention loss, however the tiebreaker permutations are so muddled that they’re not value stepping into for an additional week.

Even with a victory over No. 8 USC on Saturday on the Rose Bowl, UCLA may want some tiebreaker assist to achieve the Pac-12 championship sport Dec. 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, however it might be an enormous step towards the Strip. Apart from the rapid catharsis of a second consecutive overcome the Trojans, it might give the Bruins head-to-head wins in opposition to USC, Utah and Washington that might in all probability come in useful as a part of tiebreaker situations.

However who’s kidding whom if UCLA’s protection can’t tighten significantly given its showings the previous couple of weeks. What likelihood do the Bruins have of stopping USC quarterback Caleb Williams if they will’t preserve Arizona’s Jayden de Laura — a plucky participant, to make sure, however one main what was then a 3-6 staff — from doing no matter he needed on the Rose Bowl?

De Laura’s capacity to scramble and preserve performs alive was the first motive the Bruins trudged off their residence discipline losers for the primary time since falling to Oregon on the Rose Bowl on Oct. 23, 2021.

Afterward, Kelly appeared in denial in regards to the points that plague his protection, crediting De Laura as a substitute of criticizing his overmatched linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

“Our guys played with great effort,” Kelly stated, including of De Laura, “but he extended plays like nobody we played against this year and I can’t recall since we’ve been here a kid that’s run around like that, you know, and I think all those big plays he made when he was running around were the difference in the football game.”

(As a facet word, Kelly appeared to have forgotten in regards to the equally slippery Jake Haener, who made loads of heroic performs in main Fresno State to a victory on the Rose Bowl final season.)

Requested about going through Williams, Kelly spouted his normal pablum about making corrections earlier than observe this week. The issue is, he stated the identical factor after his protection gave up 18 unanswered factors to Arizona State the earlier week and appeared incapable of constructing any corrections in opposition to Arizona.

As unhealthy because it was, UCLA’s protection wasn’t the one offender Saturday. The Bruins failed to attain at the least 30 factors for the primary time since a 44-24 loss to Utah final season, having topped that threshold in 12 consecutive video games. A blocked discipline purpose, a dropped third-down go by in any other case spectacular working again Zach Charbonnet and a fumble within the Arizona purple zone earlier than halftime all contributed to the upset.

Assembly with reporters simply earlier than Saturday become Sunday, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson appeared glum however not devastated, suggesting that the clock had not struck midnight on the Bruins’ season.

“We know it’s not the end, we know we have the rest of the way,” Thompson-Robinson stated. “Now we just focus on the next one. Put this behind us, watch the film — watch the ugly, watch the good — and move on to the next one. We got a big one coming up.”

Sadly for the Bruins, its sport in opposition to USC will not be as massive because it might have been.