With UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley set to return to school for next season, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday, that is very good news for the redshirt sophomore, great news for the Bruins, and downright terrible news for the rest of the Pac-12.
Hundley (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) gets another season of starts as he tries to make his game match his physical gifts. Those skills, especially his mobility and arm strength, would have been enough to make him a top draft pick, but now Hundley can address his weaknesses -- his erratic deep-ball accuracy, tendency to hold onto the ball for too long resulting in far too many sacks and struggles going through his progressions. He can also focus on doing a better job of setting his feet under pressure.
Hundley will bring plenty of momentum, having delivered arguably the finest performance in his two seasons as the UCLA starter in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31, throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a career-high 161 yards and two touchdowns in a romp over the outstanding Virginia Tech defense.
It is an outstanding development for UCLA, which will be strong favorites to win the Pac-12 South with Hundley at the helm. Even with the loss of senior pass-rushing outside linebacker Anthony Barr and junior offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo, head coach Jim Mora has dramatically upgraded the talent base. With top conference foes Oregon, Stanford, and USC all having to play in the Rose Bowl, UCLA could even be a darkhorse national championship contender.
And for the Pac-12? Well, get ready for another year of praise as the toughest conference in college football with not much to show for it. Expect the Ducks, Cardinal, Trojans, Arizona State, Washington and UCLA to all take turns pummeling one another to keep the conference from securing spots in the inaugural year of the four-team playoff, much as the conference landed only one BCS bowl bid this past season. Add in another challenging non-conference slate -- Oregon hosts Rose Bowl and Big Ten champions Michigan State, UCLA plays Texas at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, Stanford has its annual tilt with Notre Dame -- it looks to be almost impossible for any Pac-12 team to get through the season undefeated or with one loss.
But Hundley's return will be the best news for whatever NFL team drafts him, which should get a more seasoned product capable of delivering at a high level from the moment he arrives.