When making the decision to return to UCLA last season, quarterback Brett Hundley said that trying to win a national championship was one of his biggest goals. He was a potential Heisman candidate, but the national championship was the bigger goal.
Now, in early October, that's almost certainly off the table. Barring some sort of epic collapse among the best teams in the country, the College Football Playoff committee isn't going to take a two-loss team.
So now that the national championship is essentially out of reach, is Hundley glad he came back?
"I'm so happy I came back, and I think I've grown that much more as a quarterback," he said after Saturday's 42-30 loss to Oregon. "Obviously, there will be a one- or two-loss team in that playoff, so we can win out and do our part. If we play good ball the rest of the season, anything is still in front of us."
Hundley hasn't had a great year — he's no longer even close to winning the Heisman — but he's had some great games and made some electric plays. He's completed almost 73% of his passes, throwing for nine touchdowns and two interceptions. If he keeps this pace, all of those numbers would be better than last year. On the ground, he's rushed for just 122 yards, but those stats are skewed because he's played behind such a porous offensive line.
Another factor is that the draft class that Hundley would have been a part of hasn't been put into great positions, or really even positions to play at all. Johnny Manziel hasn't played at all for Cleveland. Teddy Bridgewater has only one start in Minnesota. Derek Carr won the starting job by default and is getting pummeled in Oakland. Blake Bortles didn't start for the Jaguars until the end of September, and he has to play for Jacksonville, a team getting more publicity for their end zone cabanas than their actual product on the field.
In terms of draft stock, Hundley is still projected to be drafted late in the first round to middle of the second round. The concerns with Hundley — decision making, ball security, throwing accuracy — are all still there.
Coming back to school was Hundley's decision, and it won't be questioned in this space. His life, his choice. But with UCLA out of title contention and Hundley not doing much to help his draft stock in the process, you have to wonder whether he's had second thoughts.