It was not a very pleasant Thursday night for Jim Mora and the rest of the No. 17 UCLA Bruins as they were blown out by Baylor 49-26 in the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl. It was never a contest and Baylor’s run game was just too much for an overwhelmed UCLA defense.
UCLA gave up 494 total yards, 306 on the ground and Baylor did all of this even without last year’s Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Just imagine what would have happened if he were still in college. I shudder at the thought.
Regardless, the loss not only reflects badly on UCLA but it shines a harsh light on the Pac 12 conference as a whole.
The Bruins were one of the best teams in the conference during the regular season, even winning the Pac 12 south division by finishing 9-3 and beating crosstown rival USC. They played Stanford tough in the Pac 12 title game, losing by just a field goal, and it looked as if they could carry some momentum into their bowl game. Well, so much for that.
By getting blown out at the hands of a team that was a middle of the pack finisher in the Big 12 what does that say about the Pac 12? Here you have a UCLA, a team that competed for a conference championship, getting dominated by a team that went just 4-5 in the Big 12 this season. I’m not sure if that says more about how bad the Pac 12 must be or just how much better the Big 12 is, probably both.
The Pac 12 had eight teams qualify for bowl games this season and there’s plenty of time for better showings from the other league members but with UCLA’s loss the Pac 12 is just 1-2 so far this bowl season. The conference really should be 0-3 in the postseason if it weren’t for a stunning comeback by Arizona in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
There was progress from the Pac 12 this year with Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona all making appearances in the top 25 at different points during the regular season. Besides Colorado, Utah and probably USC every team in the conference played above their preseason expectation.
However, if the Pac 12 can’t show up during bowl season and play well against the rest of the teams in the country then their regular season accomplishments don’t mean a thing. As of right now that is what is happening but the conference still has a chance to save face with five other games yet to be played.
UCLA’s bowl loss leaves a black eye on the Pac 12, hopefully the rest of the conference isn’t down for the count.