Week in and week out, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue sounds the alarm, warning of the formidable potential of the upcoming opponent.
Be it Cornhusker, Aztec, Bulldog or Cardinal, he sees the imminent danger to his football team and braces for the battle. An invasion of the Torrance Pop Warner team would have Donahue all in knots.
This week, the Ducks are coming. Obviously, Donahue's nerves are all quacked up over that.
Now, a few weeks ago, Donahue would have had his work cut out for him, trying to conjure up great gobs of fear in the hearts of his players with the threat of incoming Ducks. But no more. This is the real McCoy, the right stuff for Donahue to dwell on, to dread. On successive Saturdays, the University of Oregon has beaten Washington and USC.
"Those two games saved me the trouble of having to convince my players that the Ducks are for real," Donahue said. "The Ducks are legit."
Oregon and UCLA are the only teams in the Pac-10 still undefeated in conference play. Both teams are 2-0 and 4-1 overall. UCLA lost, 42-33, at Nebraska and Oregon lost, 24-14, at Ohio State.
Who would have guessed it?
Well, nobody it seems.
"I would like to say I told you so, but I didn't have any idea," Donahue said. "You guys (the media) didn't predict it, either, so we all stand together on this."
Donahue, who coached with Oregon's Rich Brooks when Brooks was on the staff at UCLA, claims that not even Brooks predicted this kind of a season for the Ducks. "Rich . . . thought he had an improved football team, but he also had a grueling schedule. He was approaching the season with cautious optimism, like we all do.
"After the game at Ohio State, as tough as they had played in Columbus, he had a feeling his football team had a chance to be very good. Sure enough, he was right. . . . But he didn't tell me about this."
How was Brooks to know that his Ducks would open conference play with victories over Washington (29-22) and USC (34-27)? Oregon hasn't beaten Washington and USC in the same season since 1971. That's 16 years ago. Some of these current Ducks were waddling around in diapers then.
Oregon is ranked No. 18 in the United Press International poll, breaking into the national rankings for the first time in 17 years.
UCLA has one advantage that Washington and USC didn't have--playing at home.
But Donahue is downplaying just how critical this matchup is to the Rose Bowl race.
"I don't think the Rose Bowl game is on the line this week any more than it is every other week that you play," he said. "Every week in the Pac-10, the Rose Bowl game is on the line. I certainly do not believe that this game will be the Rose Bowl decider. This is the third week of conference games. I'm sure all kinds of things will happen in the next six weeks to affect the conference race."
One thing is for sure--the winner of this game will be in control.
UCLA is coming off an open week. The Bruins practiced just three days last week after beating Stanford, 49-0, the week before. And the Ducks are coming off two big victories.
Yet Donahue is not counting on the Ducks having a big letdown.
"Watching them against Washington and USC, I would say that they appear, on film, to be a real consistent team," Donahue said. "They don't appear to be real up and down. They're consistent in demeanor in the way that they play. Very workmanlike.
"Some teams jump off the screen at you as being very emotional. Oregon seems to have the typical college enthusiasm, but nothing that would set them apart from any other college team."
From watching the films, Donahue also has concluded that both victories were solid and well deserved.
"Believe me, they are a formidable force in the conference," he said. "They have had three very consistent recruiting seasons along with a defensive realignment from a four-man front to a three-man front. And Bill Musgrave is the hottest quarterback in the country right now. He certainly is a major, major factor in the resurgence of their team."
Musgrave, a red-shirt freshman, is ranked No. 4 in the nation in passing efficiency. He has completed 85 of 130 passes (.654) for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns, while throwing 3 interceptions.
Troy Aikman, UCLA's quarterback, is No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency. He has completed 60 of 86 passes (.698) for 963 yards and 6 touchdowns, while throwing 1 interception.
UCLA's defense is ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense, allowing 218 yards a game, and is No. 1 in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. And Donahue says that the UCLA defense and the Oregon defense are very similar.
It stacks up as a pretty good matchup.
UCLA's game against Oregon Saturday at the Rose Bowl will not be televised live, but will be televised by Prime Ticket at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The game is not a sellout. . . . UCLA is averaging 36 points a game and 435.6 yards a game in total offense, equally divided between rushing (219 yards a game) and passing (216.6 yards a game). . . . Flipper Anderson leads the Pac-10 in receiving with an average of 24.1 yards for his 14 catches. . . . Sophomore tailback Brian Brown, who played at the same high school (Gardena) as Gaston Green, is second to Green in UCLA's rushing statistics with 134 yards in 24 carries (that's 5.6 yards per carry). . . . Bruin kicker Alfredo Velasco has converted 8 of 10 field goal attempts (including a 49-yard kick in the game at Stanford) and has made all 18 extra-point attempts. He leads the Bruins in scoring with 48 points.