UCLA Football: 2017 is a make or break year for UCLA

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins celebrates a first down with Josh Rosen (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins celebrates a first down with Josh Rosen (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The UCLA football program is playing in the shadow of cross-town rival USC this season. However, this season may be more impactful to UCLA’s program.

The last time the UCLA Football Bruins left the field they had just been shellacked by their in-state rivals the Cal Bears 36-10. It was their sixth loss in their last seven games and it ended a miserable season where UCLA went 4-8 overall and 2-7 in conference.

It was easily the worst year of the Jim Mora era for UCLA, it started with an overtime loss on national television to Texas A&M and the decline was rapid once UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury suffered against Arizona State.

The Jim Mora era started so promisingly as UCLA won 29 games in the first three seasons Mora coached the team and defeating their rivals the USC Trojans three straight years. In the two seasons since then, the Bruins have been a .500 team falling out of the Pac-12 title picture and watched USC rise up as the top team in Los Angeles.

It is safe to say that this year is going to be a make or break year for UCLA and their coach Jim Mora. Mora is now on his third offensive coordinator in three years and though he continues to produce NFL quality players he finds himself on the coaching hot seat. Either the team will exceed expectations or continued mediocrity will sink the regime. Bruins fans should be optimistic there is only one way to go and that’s up.

Good news for the fans is the return of Rosen, the much touted and outspoken QB will be coming back from injury eager to fulfill the potential that accompanied him as a freshman. Optimism should be tempered; before he went down last year the Bruins were only 3-3 with Rosen throwing five interceptions in those six games.

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Some of that wasn’t Rosen’s fault, the new offensive scheme never got the running game going putting too much emphasis on the passing game. When Rosen was passing his receivers were either dropping the ball or Rosen was on his back due to a failing offensive line.

So while Rosen will boost the offensive attack, there is little to show that he has the personnel around him to help. Last year’s running back corps was dead last in yards (1,011), no receiver had more than 750 yards or five touchdowns, and the offensive line was like sieve giving up 25 sacks.

If those aspects of the UCLA offense don’t improve it could be more of the same this year. On defense, the Bruins lost their best defenders to the NFL draft but still return six starters. A difficult schedule starting with Texas A&M this Sunday will test the Bruins defense week in and week out.

Next: Josh Rosen has a lot on the line

Time will tell how this season will turn out for the UCLA Football Bruins, it’s evident that the program is at a crossroads. As their profile grows will that translate onto the field or will they lament another letdown? Come Sunday all the talking will be done and it will be left to the players and coaches to decide how this team is remembered.