Dear Mr. Football: Is anyone on the planet picking UCLA to beat Arizona today?
A: I've checked every conceivable source. Nobody. Not the Daily Bruin. Not the Daily Wildcat. No Pac-10 beat writer. No Pac-10 blogger. No odds guru from Vegas. Not Beano Cook, that Petros guy, Lee Corso, Lee Trevino or F. Lee Bailey.
But the truest words spoken by Mike Stoops were "they've got enough players to beat us, that's for sure."
Dear Mr. Football: Isn't this a rebuilding period for the Bruins?
A: The last two fired UCLA football coaches - Bob Toledo and Karl Dorrell - have one thing in common with Rick Neuheisel: There is no true rebuilding at UCLA. They recruit so well, so often, that it's inconceivable that the Bruins are ever any worse than 9-3.
According to final rankings from Rivals.com, UCLA signed 48 four-star players from 2006-2010, the classes that make up this year's team. Arizona acquired 21 of them in the same span.
So I'm not buying the "give poor old Rick a chance" angle. As UA outside receivers coach Dave Nichol said: "They've got dudes."
If you want to give a guy a break, give it to Stoops. The only four-star recruits he has in Arizona's starting lineup today are cornerback Robert Golden and linebacker Derek Earls, although reserve tight end A. J. Simmons and nickel back Adam Hall and quarterback Matt Scott are four-star recruits. Arizona recruited starting UCLA QB Richard Brehaut from Southern California and offered him a scholarship. He didn't even agree to visit Arizona.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is Scott's favorite receiver?
A: It is probably Ricky Marvray, a four-star recruit who signed with UCLA after catching 34 passes from Scott when Corona Centennial High School went 13-2 in 2007; Marvray caught eight of the 19 TD passes Scott threw that season. Alas, Marvray is suspended for today's game after breaking UCLA team rules.
That Centennial team was so good - as was Scott - that the backup quarterback was Taylor Martinez, who has already rushed for 870 yards and passed for 1,046 this year at Nebraska. The best player on that team was surely linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the oft-penalized all-star sophomore at Arizona State.
Dear Mr. Football: Was Scott's performance against Washington a fluke?
A: Stoops said, "Matt's performance didn't shock a lot of us," but, come on, who expected an 18-for-22 passing performance, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and, as a bonus, 9.3 yards per carry on seven scrambles?
Scott's numbers were so good that they rank in the top five single game QB performances in Arizona's Pac-10 years. Here are the other four:
• Ronald Veal, 1987, vs. Oregon State. As a true freshman, Veal ran 22 times for 142 yards and completed 15 of 23 passes (no picks) for 203 yards and a touchdown. Arizona won 31-17. Veal had been on campus for five weeks.
• Keith Smith, 1996, at Cal. He threw five touchdown passes (25-for-35, no interceptions) and threw for 418 yards. He ran 20 times for 84 yards and two scores. His TD passes were 46, 25, 20, 14 and 7 yards. Arizona lost 56-55.
• Chuck Levy, 1993, vs. Oregon. Converted from tailback in an emergency role, in a huge game for a 7-1 team, Levy threw just one pass (incomplete to stop the clock). But he ran 27 times for 126 yards, scored three touchdowns (one from 48 yards) and did not fumble as he adroitly managed the option offense. Arizona won 31-10.
• Jason Johnson, 2002, at Cal. Two days after 41 UA players met with school president Peter Likins, asking that coach John Mackovic be fired, Johnson was dazzling against the 6-4 Bears. Johnson completed 31 of 45 passes for 492 yards and four touchdowns. Mackovic was carried from the field by several players. They should've carried Johnson instead. Arizona, which finished 4-8, won 52-41.
Dear Mr. Football: Does UCLA have the oldest coaching staff in college football?
A: The Bruins have a 64-year-old offensive coordinator, Norm Chow; a 62-year-old offensive line coach, Bob Palcic; a 55-year-old running backs coach, Wayne Moses; and a 59-year-old linebackers coach, Tim Hundley.
Those guys have been around college football so long that Palcic, who coached at Arizona in 1984-85, is in his second term at UCLA. Since leaving Tucson he has coached for Ohio State, USC and Wisconsin, and Atlanta, New Orleans , Detroit and Cleveland in the NFL.
Don't expect Chow to be sorry he ever left BYU and all those great quarterbacks. He received a $250,000 retention bonus last spring, is being paid a base salary of $340,000 and, although he is no longer a cutting-edge guru compared to, say, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Boise State's Chris Petersen, he can always blame the mess on Neuheisel.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it true that former Arizona All-Pac-10 catcher Nick Hundley, now a starter for the San Diego Padres, will be cheering for the Bruins today?
A: "I'll be decked out in UCLA gear," Hundley said Wednesday. "I hope Arizona plays well and wins the rest of its games after Saturday, but I'll be with UCLA this week."
Inasmuch as his father, Tim, is UCLA's linebackers coach, Nick knows the drill. Since he was a little boy he has alternately been a diehard fan of UTEP, Washington, SMU, Oregon State, Nevada and Colorado. When Nick helped Arizona to the 2004 College World Series, his father used to drive from El Paso to Tucson to watch the Wildcats play, sometimes wearing an Arizona cap in the stands even though he worked for UTEP.
Dear Mr. Football: Is history repeating itself at Arizona?
A: I like those coaches who say a player can't lose his job because of an injury. Some of them actually mean it.
In 1997, Brady Batten lost his starting QB job in a loss at Iowa. Sound familiar? By the time he was healthy, Batten had lost ground to both Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins.
But in the '97 Copper Bowl, Batten started and played three quarters in a 20-14 win over New Mexico.
Today's game is more important to Arizona than any old Copper Bowl. At this stage, you don't follow protocol. You play your best quarterback. The only thing Stoops cares about today is that the best QB at the Rose Bowl isn't Richard Brehaut. Scott starts, wins a close one, and Stoops hopes that he doesn't have to use Nick Foles for another week. Arizona 23, UCLA 19.