Fourth-year UCLA head football coach Jim Mora has turned his cavalry of Bruins into one of the more feared squads in the country, reaching as high as No. 7 in the nation with critical victories over ranked BYU and Arizona.
But over the last four seasons one opponent has had Mora's number: the Stanford Cardinal. The 53-year-old coach has yet to defeat the Cardinal, though he feels that No. 18 UCLA shouldn't emphasize one game over another when they travel to Stanford Stadium to face No. 15 Stanford on Thursday night.
"You have to look at it like one game," Mora told reporters. "I think that has always been our approach -- every week is a game that we're trying to win. Once you start making one game more important that the other then you open yourself up to inconsistency."
While the Bruins are surely aware of the arduous Pac-12 schedule, it's perhaps difficult for Mora and his staff to not feel the pressure to finally overcome their nagging nemesis. UCLA has actually dropped its last seven meetings to Stanford, and often in convincing fashion. In his inaugural season, Mora nearly guided the Bruins to an upset in 2012’s Pac-12 title game, but UCLA gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter and fell, 27-24.
Since then, David Shaw's squad have won by an average of 17.5 points. It's a large disparity, particularly since Stanford have a 19-8 record over two seasons, compared to the Bruins' 20-6 record.
True freshman quarterback Josh Rosen and a solid rushing attack may improve UCLA's chances to defeat Stanford for the first time since 2008. The offense will need to bounce back from a lackluster effort in their most recent game.
The Bruins suffered their first defeat of the season two weeks ago, a 38-23 crushing at the hands of Arizona State at home. The offense particularly struggled on third down, going 3-for-14, and picking up only 2.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Rosen went 22-for-40 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss, while senior running back Paul Perkins gained 63 yards and a score on 18 carries. Junior receiver Thomas Duarte caught both of Rosen’s touchdown scores and led the team with six receptions for 101 yards.
The loss sent UCLA tumbling down the national rankings from a season-high No. 7 to No. 20, but with a week off and USC enduring a nasty loss, the Bruins climbed two spots in the latest rankings.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal are enjoying their highest ranking of the season, and have ripped off four straight victories after losing the season-opener to previously unranked Northwestern 16-6.
Shaw’s squad, powered by senior quarterback Kevin Hogan and the conference’s third-leading rusher Christian McCaffrey, have since proceeded to dominate opponents by 22.5 points during the streak. In their lone win against a ranked opponent, Stanford's offensive line overwhelmed then-No. 6 USC's front seven in a 41-31 win at the Coliseum.
Most recently, Stanford crippled Arizona 55-17 by rushing for 314 yards and four touchdowns, with Hogan completing 17 of his 19 pass attempts for 217 yards and two more scores. McCaffrey, an impressive sophomore who has already doubled his rush total from 2014, led all rushers with 156 yards and has averaged 159 yards over the last three games.
Betting Odds: Stanford -6.5 points
Over/under: 56 points
Prediction: Stanford over UCLA, 28-24