I'm a UCLA fan but ever since we played you last year I continued to check out your website from time to time, because I really liked it. While I can understand the self-criticism after the Oregon game I think you guys are being way too hard on your team. What you don't seem to fully realize is that what happened to you is very typical for Oregon opponents. I've seen Oregon play in person twice over the last two years and what happened in those games is almost exactly what happened to you.
Last year when Oregon played UCLA at the Rose Bowl we were ahead 3-0 at the half, and the game looked very winnable. Then guess what happened? Kenyon Barner (who is from my home town of Riverside) took the opening second half kick off 102 yards for a touchdown (the same guy that ran back the 80 yard punt against you). Then Oregon kicked off to UCLA and on the second play Oregon intercepted a Kevin Prince pass for a 70 yard pick 6 (sound familiar?). Those 14 points were scored in less than 1 minute elapsed time in the second half and there was no coming back for UCLA after that. It was eerily similar to the 72 yard run and the pick 6 against Tennessee in the 3rd quarter which turned the game around in exactly the same way.
Two seasons ago I saw Oregon play Oklahoma St. in the Holiday Bowl. Oklahoma St. was a highly ranked team who had lost to Texas by only 2 pts. in Austin. They were favored by 3 1/2. Oklahoma St. definitely looked like the better team in the first half which ended with a 17-7 Oklahoma St. lead. Oklahoma St. got their 17 pts. in the first quarter which they dominated (sound familiar). Other than one 76 yard touchdown run Oregon couldn't do much on offense. But in the second half Oregon just exploded scoring 21 pts in the 3rd quarter and 14 in the 4th. They won 42-31 scoring 35 pts. in the second half and essentially blowing a good Oklahoma St. team off the field. That's what Oregon does in games. It's just a matter of time.
Of course against most teams Oregon explodes offensively for the whole game like they did against USC last year or the way they demolished Michigan in Ann Arbor 39-7 in 2007. And this year's Oregon team looks like it might be their best ever. You lost to the most explosive, the fastest, and the best offensive team in college football this year and the absolute most dangerous on special teams. And they execute the spread offense to perfection. And don't forget that this is a team that played in a BCS bowl last year and has 18 returning starters. And you actually played quite well. Oregon got you mostly on big plays rather than on long sustained drives. It wasn't like the Oklahoma St. Holiday Bowl game when Oregon was averaging about 8 yards a play in the second half. Your defense was pretty tough, and your offense showed that it has a lot of potential by the way it moved the ball on the ground in the first half.
After the UCLA- Oregon game last year UCLA fans were saying exactly the same thing. How did we have such a mental collapse in that first minute of the second half? Give us those two plays back, and we could have won the game. But Oregon is so talented and explosive that it's almost inevitable that they are going to make big plays like that. And they do it even more in the second half. Here at UCLA so far we don't look too good this year, but I think we have a lot of talent and are going to be a good team when we get our offense going. But even so I fully expect that we'll get blown out when we go to Eugene to play the Ducks. I'd love to see them play Alabama for the national championship. it would be a hell of a game, but I'd give a slight edge to Oregon, because they have a better offense and more team speed. Don't put your team down and don't get discouraged. Oregon is a national championship calibre team this year, and there are very few teams in the country that have a chance to be competitive with them for a whole game. It's part of the psychology of sports that when a team loses to a superior team they attribute too much of the responsibility to themselves and not enough to the quality of the opponent.
Tennessee is my favorite team in the SEC. Your fans seem really classy and unlike some SEC teams who avoid playing anyone good out of conference so as to protect their BCS standings (think Florida) you have played a Pac 10 team in home and away series for the last 5 years. And I remember when you beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl with Peyton Manning when we had Cade McNown back in 1997. You beat a great UCLA team that year. We won 20 straight games after that loss, and we demolished Texas in Austin 66-3 the very next week.
I think you have a good team and should do well this year, and I wish you a very successful season. And I hope you beat Florida on Saturday, and I wouldn't be that shocked if you did.