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UCLA does have an eye on the schedule

UCLA FOOTBALL

For the 4-1 Bruins, it's hard not to take a peek ahead. Their toughest games appear to be down the road. 'As it gets harder, we have to get better,' safety Dalton Hilliard says.

October 07, 2012|By Chris Foster

BERKELEY — UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt is looking forward to the coming weeks, even though he's supposed to turn a blind eye.

The Bruins stick to their one-day-at-a-time guns. Yet it's hard not to take a peek down the line. Their toughest games appear to be down the road.

"You don't play to bull over teams, you play to compete," Zumwalt said. "If we came out every game knowing we were bulling over every team, where's the fun?"

Fun apparently is in the eye of beholder. UCLA fans have had a ball through most of the first five weeks, with their team off to a 4-1 start. The players are itching for more.

The first five weeks brought a marquee victory over Nebraska and a disappointing loss to Oregon State. There were also victories over Rice, Houston and Colorado — a college football version of Larry, Moe and Curly with a combined record of 2-13 through September.

Still to come for the Bruins: Arizona State on Oct. 27, USC on Nov. 17 and Stanford on Nov. 24. "As it gets harder, we have to get better," safety Dalton Hilliard said.

Arizona State is the Pac-12 South Division leader, and UCLA has lost five of its last six games in Tempe.

USC is ranked 13th nationally. The Trojans have won 12 of their last 13 games against the Bruins.

Stanford is ranked 18th. The Cardinal has beaten the Bruins the last three seasons, its longest winning streak in the series since before World War II.

The Bruins came into Saturday off to their best start since going 5-0 in 2005. They finished 10-2 that season, the only time since 1998 they have reached double digits in victories.

"We're not satisfied at all," Hilliard said. "We have not done anything. Yeah, we have had success early in the season. But you know what, until we finish the season with only one loss, we won't be satisfied."

The Bruins see opportunity in the Pac-12 South this season. USC has already lost to Stanford. Arizona has lost three straight since its 3-0 start. Utah has lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn.

"The Pac-12 is all over the place this year," Zumwalt said. "People are winning games they shouldn't be winning. People are losing games they shouldn't be losing."

The Bruins see those results as a lesson. They are cautious about talking about future games, as it strays from Coach Jim Mora's here-and-now philosophy. He can point to history to back that up.

This is the third time the Bruins have had four victories before October. The previous two fast starts didn't end so well. In 2001, UCLA was 4-0 when September ended and finished 7-4. In 2000, the Bruins were 4-1 heading into October and finished 6-6.

"All I'm worried about is watching film on Sunday and getting better," running back Johnathan Franklin said.

The key, Hilliard said, is for the Bruins not to be fixated on the opponent.

"We play our brand of football," Hilliard said. "We don't change for anybody. We're playing against ourselves, our brand, our morals, our values."

That requires self-discipline, wide receiver Jerry Johnson said in a stream of coach-speak.

"Sweep the corners, do all the little things right, make sure every player does what he's suppose to do individually," Johnson said. "If we do that, we'll be a great team."

Time, of course, will tell.

"It's going to get a lot more competitive," Johnson said. "That's what we all want."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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