There are 17 undefeated teams in major college football. UCLA, at 3-0, is among them. Yet, there is something much less than a groundswell movement toward the bandwagon.
That may be because the Bruins are coming off a 4-8 season, or it may have something to do with the three victories having come against teams that have failed to distinguish themselves.
San Diego State (1-3) has beaten Southern Utah. Tennessee (2-2) has victories over Western Kentucky and Ohio -- University, not State. Kansas State (2-2) has wins against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech.
So wait and see seems the order of the day. The Bruins are one of only five undefeated teams that have yet to break into the Associated Press media poll’s top 25.
“The majority of people are probably thinking we haven’t played too many tough teams,” senior cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “They are waiting until we get into Pacific 10 [Conference play] to see if this team can last the whole season.”
The Bruins travel to Stanford for their conference opener Saturday to face a Cardinal team that is nearly as much of an enigma.
Stanford (3-1 overall, 2-0 in conference play) beat Washington, which beat USC, which was supposed to be a national title contender. But, as with the Bruins, no one is quite sure about Stanford, which was 5-7 in 2008 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2001.
Asked whether people were cautious about both teams, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said, “I think that’s probably the right thing. It’s still early in the Pac-10 season. But it’s fun to be looking and pointing to where there is something, and feeling anxiety that goes along with a really fun opportunity, one that can be squandered.”
Neuheisel, asked if he had a 3-0-type team, turned diplomatic: “That’s what our record says we are. I’m still about improving.”
UCLA tailback Christian Ramirez returns to the scene of his greatest college football moment. In 2007, Ramirez made his debut at Stanford, gaining 55 yards in five consecutive carries late in the game, capped by a 24-yard touchdown run.
“I remember standing around a lot,” Ramirez said of the game, a 45-17 UCLA victory. “It was my first taste of game time. It was exciting.” But, he added, “It was garbage minutes.”
Ramirez, who was No. 1 on the tailback depth chart this season before hamstring and ankle injuries, hopes for a more significant role this week. However, the Bruins’ backfield is crowded.
Starter Johnathan Franklin is looking to become the first UCLA back to have consecutive 100-yard games since Chris Markey in September 2006. Derrick Coleman and Milton Knox, who is back from a one-game suspension, have been part of the tailback rotation.
Neuheisel is concerned about Stanford’s Chris Owusu, who played at Westlake Village Oaks Christian and has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season.
“We’re going to need great coverage and good hang time on kicks,” Neuheisel said. “Or we can do some other things, like not kick to him.”