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Now Possibilities Open for Bruins

Times Staff Writer

At ease, UCLA.

Three months of constant football, from training camp in Thousand Oaks to a rout in Tucson, and, finally, a day off today.

Then another Saturday, an open date that precedes home games against the top teams in the Pacific 10 Conference, second-place USC and first-place Washington State.

“We deserve the time off,” Bruin tailback Tyler Ebell said. “We’ve earned it. On the other hand, we’re playing so good, I hate to stop, even for a week.”

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Whether the open date will be a plus or minus is one of several glass half-full, glass half-empty propositions that can be discussed this week. And there is plenty of time for talk.

After all, idle time is the workshop of second-guessers, worrywarts and Monday morning quarterbacks.

Yes, the Bruins can say it’s a shame the layoff has to slow momentum built by three consecutive victories, including a 37-7 trouncing of Arizona on Saturday.

Yet, they can say it’s a relief it comes in time for injuries to heal before the rivalry game against USC, which the Bruins haven’t won since 1998.

For them, it’s a shame their freshmen quarterbacks Drew Olson and Matt Moore appear so even that a quarterback controversy seems to be gathering like a distant storm despite Coach Bob Toledo’s protestations to the contrary.

For them, it’s a relief Olson and Moore are pushing one another while demonstrating tremendous poise and ability in spearheading wins over Stanford, Washington and Arizona.

For them, it’s a shame those victories were preceded by close losses to Oregon and California that kept this pleasant little Bruin season from becoming a bona fide bowl championship series-level turnaround on par with Ohio State and Notre Dame.

For them, it’s a relief they are almost certain to gain a bowl berth for the first time in two seasons and for only the second time in the last four.

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And while it’s a longshot, UCLA (7-3, 4-2) could find itself in the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins must win their last two games against USC and Washington State, and Washington State must lose to Washington on Nov. 23. That could create a three-way tie between the Bruins, the Cougars, and either USC or Arizona State. Based on the Pac-10’s tie-breaking procedure, UCLA would get the nod.

If UCLA wins its last two games and Washington State defeats Washington, the Bruins could go to the Holiday Bowl, not bad for a team supposedly in rebuilding mode.

But, such talk is premature.

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Notching back-to-back upsets of USC on Nov. 23 and Washington State on Dec. 7 -- after another open date -- is not likely to happen. Even though the Bruins are 6-0 under Toledo in home games after an open date. Losses in one or both games most likely would leave UCLA in the Sun Bowl, Insight Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl or Silicon Valley Bowl, which take the third- through sixth-place Pac-10 teams.

The Bruins can finish no worse than tied for sixth and would be left without a bowl game only in a combination of circumstances that begins with Cal winning an NCAA appeal to have its bowl ban overturned. Cal also must win another game, UCLA must lose twice, and either Washington or Oregon State must win their last two games, which would put them in a 4-4 standings tie with UCLA.

UCLA defeated the Huskies and Beavers, but each bowl other than the Rose Bowl can choose its Pac-10 participant when there is a tie.

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UP NEXT

Nov. 23 vs. USC

At Rose Bowl, Time TV TBA


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