The UCLA football team is not just going for the Rose Bowl. The Bruins are also going for a bit of history.
No team in the 10 years of the Pacific 10 has gone unbeaten and untied in conference play while becoming the West Coast representative in the Rose Bowl. USC, 6-0-1 in 1979, was the only team to make it without a loss. In 1976, when the conference was the Pac-8, USC was undefeated at 7-0.
But with three games to play, UCLA is 5-0 and, to use the cliche, in control of its own destiny. The Bruins (7-1 overall) are in such control, in fact, that they could lose another game and still reach the Rose Bowl with a victory over USC at the Coliseum Nov. 21.
"That's obviously the best situation to have, to be in control of your own fate," said Arizona State Coach John Cooper, whose Sun Devils lost to UCLA, 31-23, last Saturday and all but fell out of the Rose Bowl race. "That's why I feel so bad this week."
And that is why UCLA, and, to some extent, USC, should feel so good. They are the only teams in position to win the Pac-10 title for themselves.
--UCLA would make its fourth Rose Bowl appearance since the 1983 game if it wins its next three--Saturday against Oregon State (0-4 in the conference, 2-6 overall) at Corvallis, next week at home against Washington (3-2 and 5-3) and Nov. 21 against archrival USC (4-1 and 5-3). The Bruins also would go if they lose to either the Beavers or Huskies and beat USC. Even should they split the next two games and merely tie the Trojans, UCLA would go on a tiebreaking point system.
--USC would win the Pac-10 championship with victories in its final three games, all at the Coliseum--Saturday against Stanford (2-3 and 3-5), next weekend against Arizona (2-2-1 and 4-3-1) and then against UCLA. A defeat before the Bruin game would give the Trojans two conference losses, which would mean that for USC to stay in the running, UCLA would have to lose one of its two games before the annual grudge match Nov. 21.
If the Trojans are still in the running then, history, if not necessarily the oddsmakers, will be on their side. In USC-UCLA games in the last 20 years with the Rose Bowl on the line for one team or both, the Trojans hold an 11-3 advantage, including 6 of the last 8.
The last time both were in contention, with a win being the deciding factor, was 1978. USC won, 17-10, then took its final two nonconference games and beat Michigan on Jan. 1, 1979, winning the national championship in one poll and finishing second in the other.
But as might be expected, neither of the coaches at the forefront this year wants to look ahead to Nov. 21, or even consider the possible combinations. At least publicly.
"We can't think about the Rose Bowl," USC's Larry Smith said. "We can't think about any bowl. We have to think about Stanford. . . . This conference race is far from over, and we can't be worrying about other teams. One thing we needed to happen last week happened, and that was UCLA beating Arizona State."
Said UCLA's Terry Donahue: "I do not think the conference race is over, by a long shot."
In this case, a long shot is three weeks. Three long weeks, perhaps.
THE PACIFIC 10
Team Conf. Overall W L T W L T PF PA UCLA 5 0 0 7 1 0 294 131 USC 4 1 0 5 3 0 236 162 Washington 3 2 0 5 3 0 202 155 Ariz. St. 2 2 0 5 3 0 220 156 Arizona 2 2 1 4 3 1 208 163 Oregon 2 3 0 4 4 0 138 174 Stanford 2 3 0 3 5 0 169 215 California 1 2 1 2 5 1 177 199 Wash. St. 1 3 0 3 5 0 185 274 Oregon St. 0 4 0 2 6 0 165 299
UCLA at Oregon State; Stanford at USC; Washington at Arizona; Oregon at Arizona State.
Washington at UCLA; Arizona at USC; Arizona State at California; Oregon at Washington State; Stanford at Oregon State.
UCLA at USC; California at Stanford; Oregon State at Oregon; Washington State at Washington.
Arizona at Arizona State; Washington State vs. California at Tokyo.