Per Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples of SI.COM, UCLA and Tennessee are traditional powers on the upswing:
The Bruins have several factors working in their favor entering their third season under Rick Neuheisel. Most notably, their cross-town rival just got hit with heavy NCAA sanctions (10 docked scholarships each of the next three seasons) that, at the very least, will benefit UCLA in head-to-head recruiting. But the Bruins weren't exactly struggling in that arena: Even coming off a 7-6 season, they landed Rivals.com's No. 8 class last spring.
"I think we're right on the cusp of being there," said Neuheisel. "The last three years, we've gotten great recruiting classes. We've done our R&D. Now we need to execute the business plan."
If UCLA, which enters preseason camp with just one projected senior starter, struggles this fall, it could spark grumblings about Neuheisel. But by then the foundation should be in place for either him or a successor to instigate a breakthrough right around the time USC feels the brunt of its sanctions. Remember, the Trojans started the 2000s with 5-7 and 6-6 seasons.
CRN has done a wonderful job setting the program up for success, and I (of course) agree that the program is positioned for some very good football.
I do not agree, however, that struggles this year could place CRN on the hotseat, as this article suggests. The fact of the matter is, CRN had to essentially start from scratch. While 4-8 and 7-6 are not good records, they were successful seasons for the most part.
The coaching staff has done a great job putting our team in a position to win. Beating Tennessee (the other power on the rise per SI) was amazing. If some of those close losses are turned in to close wins, competing for the Pac-10 crown soon is not out of the question.
..o.k., for those of you who want to talk smack, better have rung up at least three or four NCAA roundball titles (UCLA has eleven), and something approaching 100 NCAA titles in all sports (UCLA has 105 and counting), then we'll talk.
If you are a devotee of the Figueroa Felons, you have my condolences.