UCLA, Stanford face off with possible quick rematch looming
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) UCLA and Stanford couldn't really be blamed for looking back or looking ahead right about now.
The Bruins and Cardinal insist they're only looking at each other.
Both schools are basking in the glow of thrilling victories that would have been appropriate caps to their strong seasons. Instead, two teams on dynamic five-game winning streaks still must face each other at the Rose Bowl on Saturday and possibly again next week in the Pac-12 title game.
"We can't worry about next week," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Right now, we've got one game this week. If we play it and play it well enough, we'll earn another one, and we'll deal with that if that happens. But for right now, we have one game that we're all concentrating on."
Both California institutions are on rolls heading into a meeting that could be a dress rehearsal for the Pac-12 title game six days later. No. 15 UCLA (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) clinched the Pac-12 South title by blasting Southern California last weekend, while No. 11 Stanford (9-2, 7-1) moved to the brink of its own chance to play for the league title by stunning Oregon.
The Cardinal can clinch the North with a victory over the Bruins in Pasadena, or a loss by Oregon in the Civil War against Oregon State. If Stanford and Oregon both lose Saturday, UCLA would even host the title game a remarkable development for Los Angeles' new pre-eminent football power after knocking off the Trojans.
While the Cardinal have been a top team for a few years now, the Bruins appear to be adjusting well to higher expectations and bigger goals, such as an upset win over the school that played in the Orange and Fiesta bowls in the past two seasons.
"I don't know how many of these guys read the papers," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. I think that they just are looking forward to the challenge. They know that this is a very good football team. It's pretty common knowledge. When a Top-10 team comes to your town, to your stadium, they'd better get your attention."
Neither coach is having much trouble getting his team motivated these days not with a BCS berth up for grabs after the stumble by Oregon, which had dominated the conference until last week. Stanford took care of the Ducks with a historically impressive defensive performance and UCLA didn't even have to play Oregon this season.
Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov sees the game in black-and-white terms regarding the Cardinal's aspirations for a Pac-12 title, even if reality includes several shades of grey.
"We've had one goal in our mind since the season started," said Skov, who made 10 tackles against Oregon. "This week is literally all that matters if we want to get there. Everything we wanted to do this year is dependent upon winning this week. So we'll be ready, and hopefully it'll be a great football game."
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan will have difficulty topping his first two career starts, beating Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive games. Facing a ranked opponent for the third time, Hogan is hoping to keep following the path of Andrew Luck, who beat UCLA in each of the past three seasons.
Hogan hasn't spent much time considering the oddness of this possible two-game series between UCLA and Stanford.
"I guess it is rare," he said. "I don't know how many times that happens. But coaches are going to get us prepared, so we're just going to watch film, study them and we've got to get this game first. We've got to play well this game before we can look ahead to anything else."
Hogan has less experience than Brett Hundley, who concludes his outstanding freshman regular season with his first look at Stanford's imposing defense. Hundley is closing in on Cade McNown's single-season school records for yards passing and total offense, but he's aware the Bruins' biggest challenges still loom in their final three games.
"I tell all the receivers, 'Just give me the effort and I'll put the ball where it needs to be,'" said Hundley, who has 11 touchdown passes and three rushing scores in the past four games. "I told all of them they're going to be a vital part of this offense. Everybody that's contributing and getting on the field in this offense, everybody is doing what they need to do."