UCLA waltzes into the Rose Bowl on Saturday a prohibitive favorite, facing a Washington State team that has been blown out in its two Pacific 10 Conference games.
The Cougars come into the game with a defense that ranks near the bottom, which has helped make UCLA a 17-point favorite despite a three-game losing streak.
"We lost the last three games, so you can never overlook a team," Bruins linebacker Reggie Carter said. "We approach every opponent like they are the best and we're the worst."
But a victory would be a tremendous stepping stone, Carter said.
"You've got to know how to do something before you can do it," he said. "To win games, you've got to know how to win games. Hopefully it will get us familiar with the winning. You have that bitter taste after a loss. We haven't had a sweet taste in a long time. Hopefully we can get a sweet taste after this game, and be hungry for more."
Like the Bruins, the Cougars are down to their third-string quarterback. The difference is that the Cougars reached that point after the season began.
Senior Gary Rogers suffered a cervical spine fracture and Kevin Lopina has a back injury. That has left redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael running the offense. He had two passes intercepted and fumbled once in a 63-14 loss to Oregon last week, his first start.
Coach Paul Wulff had to ditch his no-huddle offense because, "we're playing an inexperienced, young quarterback and we have to keep him settled down," he said. "We need to give him enough time to make sure he can think."
That, plus the defensive sieve the Cougars have been, giving up 44.4 points per game, seems to give the Bruins an edge.
"Hopefully, we show people that we're not at their level," Carter said. "Show that we're a better team than we've shown the previous three weeks."
"Every loss hurts, but four in a row, three at home . . . guys wouldn't quit, but it wouldn't be good for our team," Carter said.
"It would probably mess up some confidence a little bit, because we've worked so hard for something. It might bring some questions, 'Why are we losing? We work hard, it's not like we don't practice hard every week.'
"It would put us in a bad mind-set, like what we are doing is wrong."
Getting ahead of the game
Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel, asked how his players could prepare better mentally, said, "We've got to get guys with more anticipation skills. A lot of that is just one-on-one conversations with coaches. Just come and ask more questions. Watch the tape and come and ask.
"The more you learn about the game, the more you can start to anticipate what's going to happen. Now you can be where you needed to be on a fitted block or you can be where you need to be running a route or let the ball go a little early. It is why great players are great players. They have great anticipation."
Odds and split ends
Neuheisel ruled out wide receiver Marcus Everett (dislocated toe) for the Washington State game, saying, "He's a week away." . . . Defensive end Tom Blake sat out practice because of general soreness. He is expected to play Saturday.