UCLA has the added chore this week of facing the top-ranked team in the nation. Oregon, which plays host to the Bruins on Thursday in Eugene, ascended to the top spot Sunday.
“We can’t worry about playing the No. 1,” safety Rahim Moore said. “We’ve just got to go out and play football.”
On the other hand …
“This game is going to test our manhood,” Moore said. “It’s a big-time man’s game this week.”
The Bruins would seem to have enough problems to worry about without the rankings or a national television audience.
Oregon leads the nation in offense (567 yards per game) and scoring (54.3 points per game), and is third in rushing (314.8 yards per game). UCLA ranks in the top five in only one category: net punting.
“You can’t get caught up in who they are or what they are,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “It’s about playing the game and seeing how it matches up.”
Still, defensive tackle David Carter said, “Not many people can say they got to play against the No. 1 team in the nation. It’s a great opportunity to go out there and show what we’ve got.”
This is the first time UCLA has played the No. 1-ranked team since losing to USC, 66-19, in 2005. The Bruins have a 4-10 record against top-ranked teams and have lost the last six.
UCLA had extra preparation time in all four victories over a No. 1 team. The Bruins beat Ohio State (1962) and Nebraska (1972) in season openers. They beat Michigan State (1966) and Ohio State (1976) in Rose Bowls. UCLA will have had 11 days to prepare this time.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince said the swelling in his right knee went down after a couple of days of rest, but the pain remains.
“The quarterback in the ‘pistol’ offense doesn’t just drop back and throw,” Prince said. “If that was the case, I would be fine. The fact of the matter is we’ve got to run the ball. I have to prove to myself that I can run the ball and make cuts.”
Through Sunday’s practice, Prince said he hasn’t been able to do that “to the full extent I want to.”
Neuheisel acknowledged that Prince is “a little hobbled. We’ll have to see how the week goes.”
Oregon received better news. Quarterback Darron Thomas, who left the Washington State game because of a shoulder injury, went through practice Saturday and was pronounced 100%, according to media reports.
F-back Anthony Barr (calf injury) and defensive end Keenan Graham (hip flexor injury) rejoined practice. … Running back Jordon James (hip injury) suited up, but he did not participate. … Wide receiver Nelson Rosario (high-ankle sprain) said he will try running on a treadmill Monday and is hoping to rejoin practice Tuesday. … Wide receiver Shaquelle Evans will have shoulder surgery Tuesday.