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Midseason review: UCLA

10/10/2011

UCLA BRUINS

Record: 3-3, 2-1

Just when it seems like you can finally bury UCLA, which also means considering who might replace coach Rick Neuheisel, they flash enough potential to merit a "maybe."

In the preseason, Neuheisel put a lot of importance on the Bruins' visit to Houston, so when they got off to a horrible start before a comeback fell short in a 38-34 loss, it was deflating. A lackluster win over San Jose State was followed by a blowout loss to Texas. That meant UCLA had lost to teams, Houston and Texas, it blew out the previous season. Not good.

The buzzards were circling. The Bruins then won at Oregon State, another desperate team. Hope! Got blown out by Stanford. Fire Neuheisel! Then beat Washington State. Hmm ... maybe.

If the Bruins are going to rally and save Neuheisel's job, they will have to do it with Kevin Prince at quarterback. He was buried on the bench after throwing three early interceptions against Texas and replaced by Richard Brehaut, but Brehaut broke his leg against Washington State and is done for the season. Fans at the Rose Bowl booed Prince as he entered the game, then cheered him when he led an impressive fourth-quarter comeback.

Quarterback is a big issue, but it's not the only one. The defense has been terrible thus far, ranking 10th in the Pac-12 in both scoring and total defense.

Still, the schedule ahead is not terribly taxing (the Bruins don't play Oregon or Washington). It's not hard to imagine three more wins, which would get them to bowl eligibility. But how many win does Neuheisel need to survive?

Offensive MVP: Running back Johnathan Franklin. Franklin leads the Bruins with 399 yards rushing -- 79.8 per game. He averages 6.1 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Aaron Hester. Hester is second on the Bruins with 36 tackles and is tied for seventh in the Pac-12 with six pass breakups. He had 20 tackles combined in wins over Oregon State and Washington State, and has held up well in a beaten-up Bruins secondary.