Here's a chicken-or-the-egg noodle scratcher for you. Does Noel Mazzone have an edge against ASU? After all, the former Arizona State offensive coordinator is now calling the offense for the Bruins, who face ASU this weekend in a critical Pac-12 South game. Mazzone knows the ASU personnel.
Or is it the other way around? Does the ASU defense have the edge because they know the scheme, having practiced against it day after day for two years?
And the answer is ... neither. Maybe 25 years ago -- before iPads, DVD cut-ups and War-and-Peace-sized scouting reports -- a former coach with intimate knowledge of his ex-team, or his former players would retain some inside info that could be perceived as advantageous. But that's become a moot point in the information age.
"They've moved on, I've moved on," Mazzone said. "I'm just worried about the UCLA Bruins right now. I don't know if there is any more than you just see on film. You watch film and you see how guys are playing. They are a really good defense, and one of the best pass defenses in the country. We've got our work cut out for us. We're just trying to get a little bit better this week than we were last week."
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham had a similar take.
"I think what I have found in the past when I have been involved in games where I have coached there, left, and then came back or had coaches there and stuff, and I think if you focus on that type of stuff you get distracted from the actual game," Graham said. "At the end of the day, we tell our coaches to think player more than plays. I think there are pluses and minuses on both sides. Obviously we have some familiarity with what he does, he has a lot of familiarity with our personnel, and to me, I'd rather have more familiarity with personnel. So to me, I do not put too much into that, we are focused on our players, our team, and focusing on how to beat a very good UCLA team."
So rather than reliving fond memories of his former players, Mazzone has spent the bye week focusing his attention on his current ones and watching some UCLA game film from the first half of the season.
"I only watch the games we win. I wanted to feel good about myself in the open week," Mazzone said -- probably tongue-in-cheek, but it's tough to tell with him sometimes.
Saturday's game at Arizona State also marks the return of quarterback Brett Hundley, who played at nearby Chandler High School. He was a highly recruited by the Arizona schools, the majority of the Pac-12 and other notable programs such as Michigan, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. It was a major coup for then-UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel to nab the four-star player.
Keeping him calm in front of the hometown crowd is a priority for UCLA head coach Jim Mora -- but an issue he believes Hundley can handle.
"I know he's going to be excited," Mora said. "But with Brett, you see a guy that is very level-headed at all times. He's unaffected on game day by the environment. He maintains great focus, and that's a sign of his maturity. He'll be excited and he'll have a lot of family members there. And that's OK. I think he's the right kind of kid to handle it."