The marquee game this week in the Pac-12 Conference will be played Thursday night, and UCLA players will be among those watching No. 2 Oregon at No. 6 Stanford.
The Bruins have insight into the matchup, having lost to the Cardinal and Ducks in consecutive weeks. The prevailing opinion from Westwood is that Stanford will win.
"From an analyst's point of view, I like Stanford," UCLA receiver Shaquelle Evans said. "They're at home. They have a good defense. When you have a good defense, you're giving yourself a chance to win."
Bruins receiver Jordan Payton was less sure but still liked the Cardinal.
"A lot people have been saying Oregon," Payton said. "I'm going to stick with Stanford. I just think they are a tough, sound defense. They don't make mistakes."
The game could be important to the Bruins. UCLA could face the winner in the Pac-12 championship game. That was linebacker Jordan Zumwalt's interest.
"I don't know who is going to win that game," Zumwalt said. "I just want a shot at one of them."
The Bruins, who are tied for second in the Pac-12's South Division, still have work to do to secure a spot in the title game: tough matchups against conference opponents Arizona, Washington, Arizona State and USC, teams with a combined record of 23-10.
UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau has been limping slightly on his way into practice this week, the result of a left leg injury he suffered against Colorado last weekend.
Coach Jim Mora said that Moreau would play against Arizona on Saturday. But cornerback Brandon Sermons is ready should Moreau be unable to play or is reinjured.
"Hopefully, Fabian heals up and is ready to go," Sermons said. "I think he will." Sermons has played a lot at cornerback this season, usually in the Bruins' pass defense packages. It has allowed him to put his own injury behind him.
Sermons missed the 2010 season after suffering a broken leg during spring practice.
"I have seen my hard work pay off and I have been getting better every day," Sermons said. "There is some satisfaction there. But I'm never too satisfied, because I always have to go to the next level, take the next step."
Another backup plan
Quarterback Jerry Neuheisel underwent surgery on his right thumb last week and will be available only to hold for kicks. His hand has been heavily wrapped for practice this week.
Neuheisel, Brett Hundley's backup, has completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards.
"He's a couple weeks from being able to throw," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "He just can't put the pressure on the football."
Walk-on Mike Fafaul will be Hundley's backup against Arizona. The Bruins also have freshman Asiantii Woulard, whom they would like to redshirt.
Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos had some out-of-the-box ideas for containing Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher.
"I told all 11 guys to tackle him," Spanos said.
As to whether he'll bring a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, Spanos quipped, "We're going to use 12 men, one guy from the sideline."
It should help having linebacker Eric Kendricks back on the field. He did not play last week against Colorado because of a shoulder injury.
"Eric has a nice natural feel of dissecting a play," Spanos said. "He's very instinctive against the zone-read offense."
Sooners come later
UCLA and Oklahoma will play a two-game series in 2018 and 2019. The Bruins and Sooners meet in Norman, Okla., on Sept. 8, 2018 and are scheduled to play again at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 14, 2019.