Colorado tight end Ryan Deehan yanks the facemask of UCLA linebacker Sean… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
UCLA linebacker Glenn Love squirmed a little when reminded that the Bruins have spent four seasons getting back to same spot they occupied in 2007.
"No program is perfect," Love said. "Other programs mess up. It's not just ours."
The Bruins got a look at one of those other programs Saturday. Colorado came to the Rose Bowl and lived down to expectations in a 45-6 UCLA victory.
The easy win secured, the Bruins could let their eyes wander to next Saturday, when they play USC for a chance to go to the Pac-12 Conference title game. The Bruins win the South Division title with a victory and can go to the Rose Bowl game with a win over either Stanford or Oregon in the conference title game.
This is almost exactly where the Bruins (6-5 overall, 5-3 in conference) stood in 2007 — bowl-eligible, a slim shot at the Rose Bowl heading into a game with USC and a coach who was unsure about his future.
UCLA lost to USC, 24-7, and the Bruins went to the Las Vegas Bowl … without Coach Karl Dorrell, who was fired.
The Bruins will try to alter the finish this time.
"There are always things you wished had gone better," said Love, a redshirt freshman on that 2007 team. "But we can win, go to the Rose Bowl. This can end in a good situation."
The Bruins set that up by doing what so many other teams have done this season — burying the Buffaloes (2-10, 1-7), who have lost 24 consecutive games outside of Colorado.
Quarterback Kevin Prince completed 15 of 19 passes for 225 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Johnathan Franklin had 162 yards rushing. The Bruins rolled up 328 yards on the ground.
Sure, the Bruins meandered a bit before scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns. But that amounted to a small mood swing in a season of much bigger ones.
"We may have done it a little unorthodox, but if we get the Pac-12 championship, we have accomplished the goal we set," linebacker Sean Westgate said. "We didn't say how we wanted to do it. We just said we wanted to do it."
There was little reason for the Bruins to sweat style points Saturday. By the time they had run three plays they had a 14-0 lead.
Prince was the catalyst, hooking up with Shaquelle Evans on a 54-yard touchdown pass on the Bruins' second play. He threw three more, as well as rushing for 84 yards.
"I go crazy when KP is running like that and throwing touchdown passes," Franklin said. "It just makes me so happy."
Even Coach Rick Neuheisel was impressed with Prince, saying, "You know what, a complete game."
Prince wasn't much for analyzing after the game, saying, "All I'm going to do is worry about USC right now."
USC has won 11 of the last 12 games against UCLA.
"It's funny, even the way this season has gone, we still have a chance to achieve our goal," wide receiver Taylor Embree said.
Whether getting to the Pac-12 title game would be enough to save Neuheisel's job is unknown. But for the first time since he became coach, the Bruins are playing for something when they play USC.
"That's how it should be, that's how it used to be," Neuheisel said.
The Bruins certainly benefited from being in the south, away from Oregon and Stanford. And that USC, which beat Oregon on Saturday, was ineligible was another perk.
But Neuheisel said, "Say all you want about the lack of great teams in our division or blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is we're playing for a championship."