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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

UCLA is master of Pac-12 Conference destiny

The outcomes of Saturday's games between the Bruins and Stanford and between Oregon and Oregon State will determine whom UCLA plays for the Pac-12 championship.

November 18, 2012|By Chris Foster
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It has become the norm for Oregon to wear different uniforms, usually with wacky color schemes.

So powder blue and gold against Oregon State this week?

The loudest "plop" onto the UCLA bandwagon Saturday night was the Ducks. They have become true Sons of Westwood.

Oregon needs UCLA to beat Stanford in order to play the Bruins in the Pac-12 championship game. A Cardinal victory sets up a rematch with UCLA in the title game Nov. 30. And if 15th-ranked UCLA wins and Oregon State beats Oregon, then the Bruins host Stanford in the title game.

Those dizzying scenarios will swirl around Westwood, where hangovers — literal and figurative — are being nursed following the Bruins' 38-28 victory over USC on Saturday.

"I don't think this team's motivation was ever to just beat USC," Coach Jim Mora said. "They want to win as many games as they can. They've got until tomorrow's meeting, then we get back to business."

But does the Bruins' 24-hour rule get trumped by a victory players will spend a lifetime talking about?

"As long as they talk about it after the season is over," Mora said. "I don't want to hear about it this week."

The Bruins had a lot to talk about.

"We didn't just get through that [USC] game, we dominated it," senior defensive end Datone Jones said. "We took back Los Angeles. We took back California."

Not so fast, big guy.

UCLA lost to California and now has to deal with Stanford.

The Cardinal also needs short-term memory loss. Stanford shocked then-top-ranked Oregon on Saturday, holding the potent Ducks to two touchdowns in a 17-14 overtime victory.

But the Bruins' situation was far more personal, after beating USC for only the second time in 14 seasons. It was the type of victory that increases expectations instantly.

Mora welcomed that, saying expectations are "a good animal to have. It's an animal you like to have in your house in a cage."

This is a rare occurrence for the Bruins, who almost always close the regular season by playing USC. History is against them.

UCLA has a 2-5 record when ending the regular season against anyone but USC in the last 50 years.

Thigpen out

Running back Damien Thigpen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against USC. He will undergo surgery.

Thigpen had been a big-play threat for the Bruins this season, as a runner and receiver. He was also the team's top kickoff returner.

Mora hoped Jordon James and Steven Manfro could plug that hole, though Manfro missed Saturday's game because of a knee injury.

Devin Fuller and walk-on Roosevelt Davis will get a look as UCLA's kickoff returners.

Earning it

A year ago, UCLA backed into the conference title game, after a 50-0 loss to USC. The Trojans won the division but were on probation. Conference officials allowed the Bruins to call themselves division champions.

This time, they don't need permission.

"We deserve to be in the Pac-12 championship game," Jones said. "No asterisks."

Cornerback Aaron Hester, also a senior, said, "I'm just happy we're going to the next level."

Quick hits

The weeklong sword controversy leading up to the UCLA-USC game ended this way: The drum major for the USC band didn't stick his sword into the UCLA logo. Instead, he knelt and rang the Victory Bell. The bell, which goes to the winner of the game, was also taken away from him and will be turned over to UCLA. … The Bruins and Stanford will play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, with the game televised on Channel 11.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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