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Top 25 | The Master List | Lower Divisions
Five Minute Guide to '99

14 UCLA

The Bruins have the nation's top receivers, but who will throw them the ball?

Sports Illustrated
  Danny Farmer
Farmer had 58 receptions for 1,274 yards last season.   Aubrey Washington/Allsport
The off-campus apartment shared by UCLA receivers Brian Poli-Dixon and Freddie Mitchell is decorated with macabre mementos from that harrowing evening in Miami last December when the Bruins' dream of a national championship evaporated with a 49-45 loss to the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl. Taped to Poli-Dixon's bedroom mirror is a photograph of himself amid a sea of Hurricanes revelers, snapped moments after UCLA's 20-game winning streak ended. Mitchell, meanwhile, has a different way of remembering that defeat. In his closet he has several pairs of Miami workout shorts brought back this spring from Florida, where he met some Hurricanes players. "I asked for [the shorts] because I wanted something to remind me how quickly success can be taken away," he says.

Mitchell, a sophomore, knows about that. In his varsity debut last year he had 250 all-purpose yards in a season-opening win over Texas. The following week he fractured his right femur and was sidelined for nearly four months before returning for spot duty in the Rose Bowl. With a healthy Mitchell, emerging junior Poli-Dixon (44 catches) and senior Danny Farmer (58 catches for 1,274 yards), UCLA is blessed with the nation's best receiving corps. "We always talk about the things we can do," says Poli-Dixon. "We just have to fill that one spot. Who is going to throw us the rock?"

For the first time in four years the answer is not Cade McNown. Junior Drew Bennett tops the depth chart, but don't count out redshirt freshman Cory Paus. The running back situation is far more stable. Coach Bob Toledo says he plans to continue last year's running back by committee, but it shouldn't be long before star sophomore DeShaun Foster wins the job.

The defense, however, is shaky. Last season the Bruins ranked 99th in the nation in total defense and allowed 87 points in their final two games. They will switch to a 4-3 alignment under new defensive coordinator Bob Field. The team has off-the-field problems, too. Seven Bruins have been suspended for the first two games after pleading no contest to submitting false applications for handicapped-parking permits. Two other UCLA players are scheduled to be arraigned on August 25.

With the Bruins most likely a year away from contending for a national championship, talk is swirling around their white-hot chances for next season. UCLA will lose only a handful of starters after this year. Deciding on a quarterback will go a long way toward determining the team's fate in 1999, and it may be the most important call Toledo makes for 2000. "We need to find out who that guy is going to be," Toledo says. "Whoever it is will be around here for a while."

-- Richard Deitsch

Fast Facts

1998 record: 10-2 (8-0, 1st in Pac-10)
Final ranking: No. 8 AP, No. 8 coaches' poll

1998 Averages Offense Defense
Scoring 40.5 27.5
Rushing Yards 188.1 165.5
Passing Yards 294.5 267.0
Total Yards 482.6 432.5

Key Games
Schedule strength: 6th of 114

Sept. 11 at Ohio State
A win here would get the attention of pollsters because the Buckeyes haven't lost a nonconference game in Columbus since 1990.

Oct. 30 vs. Arizona
The Wildcats have to visit the Rose Bowl to take the Pac-10 title from the Bruins.

Bottom Line

This is a year for the Bruins' young talent to develop. UCLA will put a scare in some good teams, but it won't be a serious national championship contender until next year.

Top 25 | The Master List | Lower Divisions
Five Minute Guide to '99



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