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Bruins Hope to Make It Academic

College football: Showing an aptitude for polls, UCLA will try to take Stanford to school.

October 31, 1998|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA will salute Dr. Louis J. Ignarro between the first and second quarters today at the Rose Bowl, honoring the faculty member who recently shared the Nobel Prize for medicine for his discoveries of how nitric oxide affects the heart and vessels in the human body. Big deal. Decipher the Bowl Championship Series system, then he'll really be on to something.

The tribute will come as the Bruins put their 0.04 quartile rating on the line in a 3:30 kickoff against Stanford, a school of considerable intellectual reputation that might be in position to help with the calculations of the BCS standings were it not dealing with a different problem. Someone stole the Tree.

Or at least stole the outfit of the school mascot. The crime was apparently hatched in Berkeley, confirmation coming when a photo of the outfit, complete with blindfold, appeared in the Daily Californian. So the overtones of the meeting between first place and last place in the Pacific 10 Conference grow by the minute: medicine, computer technology, and now, Treeson.

What are the chances an actual football confrontation will also break out? The Cardinal is 1-6, having beaten North Carolina in September, so the Bruins, 6-0 and winners of 16 in a row, are favored by 28 1/2 points. That or a quartile ranking (the arcane strength-of-schedule component in the BCS rankings) valued somewhere around pi cubed.

The Bruins are No. 2 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls and as of this week were fitted for a bigger target to lug around, No. 1 in the BCS ratings. The potential effects of that on the heart are obvious enough that no prizes will be awarded for analysis.

"The pressure of being No. 1 in anyone's poll means we not only need to win, but need to win convincingly and look like a No. 1 team," defensive end Pete Holland said.

"No doubt about it. They'll definitely be looking for blowouts and seeing the scores Ohio State puts up and making more of things like that. I definitely understand that's what people are thinking and what people want to see. But I tend to think we'll listen more to what our coaches want from us in a game than what voters or Lee Corso or some other pundit wants from us.

"Actually, what it may have done is instill a belief in us that people will accept us as a team that can play for the national championship and take us seriously. Or at least the computer in someone's office is taking us seriously."

Said Coach Bob Toledo: "Obviously we've got to get the win. That's the No. 1 thing. We've got to win the football game. But we'd like to win it convincingly, if you want to put it that way."

That is all the more imperative today because Stanford is 0-4 in the Pac-10, young and having been cut so deep by injuries that it often uses a one-back offense more out of necessity than desire. So this is a chance for the Bruins to pounce.

This is the same Cardinal program that was 7-5, capped by a Sun Bowl win over Michigan State, only two years ago and then opened 1997 by going 4-1. That's when everything changed--a five-game losing streak before closing with a one-point victory over Cal, the departure of quarterback Chad Hutchinson with two years of eligibility remaining to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, the injuries.

Of the 92 players on the Stanford roster, 54 had never played in a college game before this season. Six true freshmen, including running back Brian Allen from Damien High in La Verne, have played extensively, after only two had played at all, and not much at that, in Tyrone Willingham's first three seasons as coach. Fourteen of the Cardinals listed on the two-deep chart for today are either in their first year or sophomores.

"I think it's some of all of the above," Willingham said. "I think we are a young team and in some regards we've made mistakes across the board, whether it's our upperclassmen or our young guys that are in the lineup for the first time. I think there's a bit of maturity that has to take place. I think we're making some progress on that and I can really see some improvement as we go forward.

"Our players have been amazingly positive, as, I think, have our coaches. We understand what we're dealing with, we understand where we have our program pointed and we recognize that sometimes there's going to be hurdles or obstacles that are put in your way, and most of the times those will probably be yourself. But we still have to overcome those and I think our young men are looking forward to the challenges of doing that."

It has been a rough season. But at least some things are looking up--under threat of the Cal mascot being benched for the Nov. 21 Big Game in Berkeley, the Tree was scheduled to be back in Stanford hands by Friday night. Around the Farm these days, they'll take the good news where they can get it.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TODAY

No. 2 UCLA

vs.

Stanford

* TIME: 3:30 p.m.

* WHERE: Rose Bowl

* TV: FX

ZIG ALERT: Bob Toledo will pay tribute to Red Sanders again. Page 8

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