Rick Neuheisel and Brian Jones both played for UCLA in the 1980s, and Neuheisel was the head coach from 2008-2011.
Neither was happy to see the Bruins lose, 31-10, to Stanford last Friday. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak and came on the heels of a 38-20 win over then-No. 19 USC.
“I think it’s a tremendous mistake for UCLA to play a conference game after they played USC,” Neuheisel, the Pac-12 Network analyst, said on The MoJo Show. “As you know, having played here, that game is too big to the university. It’s too big to the football program, and the emotion expended, whether you win or lose, is immense. And you get ready – especially in a short week – to have to play Stanford, which is the different offense in this conference. It’s the one-two back. It’s the one sledgehammer offense in this deal and (to) expect your defense to be gap sound and do everything right – it’s a hard chore.
“I’m not making excuses for them because they should have won,” Neuheisel said. “They had a chance to win and represent the South in the conference championship game, but to ask them to get ready to play their best football on a weekend after they beat USC is asking an awful lot.”
When he was the coach at UCLA, Neuheisel was asked if he wanted to play a conference game or a non-conference game the week after playing USC. Neuheisel said non-conference, no question.
Only that request was denied.
“Ultimately they’ve decided otherwise,” Neuheisel said. “And in both instances, they played Stanford at the Rose Bowl following the USC victory. They’ve lost them both.”
As it stands, UCLA (9-3, 6-3) will wait for its bowl invitation, while No. 2 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) will face No. 7 Arizona (10-2, 7-2) in the Pac-12 Championship this Friday at 9 p.m. ET. Arizona has won its last two games against Oregon, including a 31-24 victory in Eugene in October.
“Oregon’s going to have to do something different,” Neuheisel said. “The way they’ve played run defense against Arizona – both in the next-to-last game last year and also that first Thursday in October this year – they were not sound defensively in terms of stopping the run.”
Ka’Deem Carey rushed 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns for Arizona last year, while the Wildcats ran 55 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns this year.
Arizona dominated time of possession in both games.
“When you do that, you take away possessions from Marcus Mariota, who is a magician of all magicians in terms of the quarterback position and these spread offenses,” Neuheisel said. “And when you limit him, make him stay inside of the pocket, make him give the ball away, you’ve got a chance to win. It’s a recipe for victory, and they’ve done it twice now.”
Interestingly enough, Arizona has converted 62 percent of its third-down plays; Oregon has converted only 38 percent.
“When that happens, this is not an accident,” Neuheisel said. “Oregon’s going to have to do some real soul-searching in terms of their game plan as to how they’re going to do things differently so that Mariota can factor into this game much more than he has in the first two.”