No. 16 UCLA\Notre Dame


Separated at playoff berth? While investigating potential bounce-back season candidates, the profiles of the Bruins and Irish started morphing into identical twins. We saw the sonogram and named them “Jackie” and “Knute.” Both schools are coming off unacceptable, 4-8 seasons, with losses to USC and Stanford. Both lost heartbreaking openers, last year, in Texas, in overtime.

UCLA and Notre Dame, in my opinion, have the prettiest uniforms and call home to the No.1 and No.2 most hallowed college football stadiums.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The coaches, Jim Mora and Brian Kelly, simmer with stove-top tempers and own win-loss records that were supposed to be better than the odds of a coin flip. Mora is 17 games over .500 in five years at UCLA, while Kelly is 18 over entering his eighth season in South Bend. Their most memorable “viral” sideline moments, unfortunately, are of them screaming at someone. That’s why Mora and Kelly have shown up on several “coach on the hot seat” lists.

These two schools with so much to offer, and so little to apologize for, are surprisingly insecure and sometimes suffer “paranoia creep.”

They’re like the pretty girls in high school who need to be told every day they’re pretty but still don’t believe it.

“Tell me again!”

Mora and Kelly go through assistant coaches like proctologists go through gloves. UCLA is working on its third offensive coordinator in three years; Notre Dame has three new coordinators this year.

Both coaches are prone to bouts of manic, hyperbolic, spits of confidence and introspection. They are head strong and high strung.

“If you stop learning,” Mora said at Pac 12 media days, “you die.”

Mora claims the awful things that led to 4-8 have been addressed, dissected and resolved.

“The culture is different,” he said. “The way they talk to each other is different.”

Kelly says the things that led to 4-8 have been addressed, dissected and resolved. He tore the team room up, roof to floor boards and has done more soul searching than Deepak Chopra. He’s looked inward, outward, and sideways to figure out how a program that has everything—history, pedigree—could lose the same year to Duke and Navy.

Kelly blames himself for letting the process of winning slip away.

“They’ve had a tough summer,” Kelly said in July. “It’s been difficult. They’ve done a great job. I’m proud of them. But now we go through another difficult phase. They feel really good about where they are with relationships, with coaches and players and now we go through the next stage.”

Then, in early August, Kelly unveiled a practice media coverage policy that almost mirrored the one Mora instituted at UCLA a couple of years ago.

It basically allows reporters to watch practice under more conditions than a timeshare in Cabo.

It’s a “look but don’t touch” policy that prohibits writers to tweet, report or signal anything they see until after practice, at which time the coach will tell them what they say.

This is fine for in-house fan bloggers, scouting sites and sycophant “friends of the program,” but not for anyone who works for the Daily Bruin or South Bend Bugle.

But enough about Journalism 101.

The important thing is UCLA and Notre Dame have what it takes to flip 4-8 around.

Both play the kind of formidable schedules that can move you up the polls in a hurry. Both have huge, statement games but this year get them at home.

UCLA hosts Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 3, while Georgia plays at Notre Dame the next weekend.

That’s a chance to make hay early against the SEC and get the mojo flowing.

UCLA is more secure at quarterback with the return of quote-machine Josh Rosen, while Notre Dame seeks to replace DeShone Kizer with the talented Mr. Brandon Wimbush.

There is glitz and glitter, everywhere you look, at these places.

It’s time for these two mirror images to look in the mirror and find the self-confidence hidden behind blue eyes.. [/membership]