Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Jim Mora does not care for what-ifs.
With No. 15 UCLA (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) already secured in the Pac-12 Championship game in two weeks, the Bruins now have several “˜what-if’ scenarios that could lead to UCLA playing anywhere from Eugene, Ore. to the Rose Bowl against No. 11 Stanford (9-2, 7-1) for the second consecutive week.
When the UCLA coach was explained the possible scenarios, he had more interest in comics than the Bruins’ potential fate.
“I have no idea what you just said. You sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher,” said Mora after being told the scenarios. “I don’t even think about it. I just think about one thing and that’s trying to prepare to have a great game and win Saturday.”
Saturday’s game will require the Bruins’ full attention as they will face a tremendous Cardinal team that is coming off a 17-14 overtime victory at Oregon.
Stanford is now on a five-game winning streak with the 10th-best scoring defense in the nation. The Cardinal is also second in the nation in sacks with 43 on the season.
“They have a big physical group that plays sound,” said redshirt senior offensive lineman Jeff Baca. “They might have the best defensive front we’ve played, so we just have to play our game and stay true at the point of attack and hopefully get the running game going.”
Offensively, UCLA will have to deal with a balanced pro-style offense that features senior running back Stepfan Taylor, who has 1,410 total yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
“He’s definitely in our game plan,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks, who just won Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors for the second time in three weeks. “We aren’t going to change too much, though. We’ll stick to what we do in practice and it should translate to the game.”
While Taylor is Stanford’s primary option on offense, sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan has emerged as a major threat for the Cardinal late in the season.
Hogan took over the position three weeks ago and he has shown a level of poise and leadership that was not seen in previous weeks.
“He’s a big, strong, physical quarterback so we’ll have to try and contain him,” Kendricks said. “It’s our goal to try and get pressure on him and that’s what our defensive line and outside linebackers are best at.”
For the record, if UCLA wins on Saturday, it will face Oregon in Eugene, if the Ducks prevail over the Oregon State Beavers. If Oregon loses, UCLA will face Stanford again in the Rose Bowl.
If UCLA loses, it will play Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. for a bid to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.