photo credit Kirby Lee//USA Today
by Lisa Horne
Pasadena, CA—Los Angeles is owned by UCLA for another year.
"UCLA runs L.A., if you guys didn't hear last year," Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley said after the team's 38-20 victory over USC.
We heard. Loud and clear. But now that the afterglow of battlefield victory has dissipated, what is UCLA going to do with the spoils of war?
Are the Bruins going to move forward? Or is beating USC still the end-all?
This year, the Bruins are in a self-proclaimed "Bruin Revolution." There's even a hashtag (#Bruinrevolution) that head coach Jim Mora uses on his Twitter account. The book store appears to be sold out of the Bruin Revolution tee shirts. Fans are on board.
The 2014 revolution will be complete if several things happen this season.
The Rose Bowl needs to filled to capacity on Friday
The Rose Bowl's capacity is around 92,000. It was loud with 82,431 butts in seats on Saturday. Will the fans sell out the stadium and support the Bruins on the day after Thanksgiving? Or will they hit the Black Friday specials at Best Buy instead?
A berth to the Pac-12 Championship is on the line. The Bruins will have a date with Oregon on Friday, December 5 if they beat Stanford. They are in the enviable position of controlling their own destiny.
The winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game on Friday will only play in the Pac-12 Championsip if UCLA loses. Unlike UCLA, they cannot control their destiny. It has been a long time since any team has wanted to be in the Bruins' position in late November.
UCLA football can best be described as lights on in September, lights off in November. The Bruins have won their final game of the regular season only once in the last seven years—against USC on November 30, 2013.
UCLA can post a winning streak against the November curse if it wins out but it needs a full house at the Rose Bowl. UCLA was feeding off of the crowd noise when it beat USC.
Cure the hangover from the USC victory
After the USC game Mora cautioned that the team "can't sit here and gloat."
"We don’t bask in moments," he said. There is a reason he's not dwelling on the Bruins' victory. UCLA, a three-point favorite, was expected to beat USC.
Prior to losing to UCLA, the Trojans had already lost to Boston College, Arizona State and Utah. The reality is that UCLA did what three other teams had already done to USC. Notre Dame has a shot to make it four when it plays USC on Saturday.
Until UCLA makes a loud commotion in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately department, this latest victory will not mean much—except in crosstown rivalry smack.
Since beating the Trojans in the previous two years, the victor has not done a lot with the momentum. UCLA lost to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl and beat Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. During the same time period, the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl and beat Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
UCLA played in two higher-tiered bowls so the Bruins have slightly improved. Or have they?
UCLA beat a Trojan team that was fielding 57 recruited scholarshipped athletes on Saturday. That's 28 less recruited players than most FBS teams have on their roster. Would the Bruins have beaten USC three straight years if USC had been at full strength?
We will never know but it's not UCLA's fault that USC's athletic department was found by the NCAA to have a lack of institutional control 10 years ago. USC's NCAA-mandated roster depletion is not UCLA's problem.
But Stanford is.
Beat the Cardinal and make a statement
"We have to get on Stanford," Mora said. "They have beaten us three times in a row."
Actually, Stanford has beaten UCLA in six consecutive games. If UCLA beats Stanford, it will face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. Oregon has a five-peat going against UCLA.
If the Bruins don't start winning meaningful games, the victories over USC will all be for naught. Remember, UCLA was ranked No. 7 in the AP's 2014 preseason poll. Remember, the Trojans will be back at full strength in two years. This team seems to recognize the urgency in looking ahead and not basking in the spotlight.
UCLA must not let this precious moment go to waste.
Beat the five loss, four-point underdog Stanford Cardinal and UCLA can actually bask for a day as its football program turns the page. Win out and the Bruins can bask for six weeks.
There are times when the moment is perfect for seizing.