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UCLA has head start in conference play for first time since 2007

UCLA sits atop the Pacific 12 Conference South Division standings (tied with Arizona State). The Bruins are looking down on USC — and, hey, what Bruin doesn’t?

No one, especially Coach Rick Neuheisel, is talking about football monopolies.

UCLA has not been in this position in a long time, but with sixth-ranked Stanford coming up Saturday, there was no reason to deviate from the coach-speak. Neuheisel stuck to the “one game at a time” file card.

Still, the Bruins have an opportunity.

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The victory over winless Oregon State left UCLA 1-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The schedule tilts in the Bruins’ favor.

Stanford this week “is a huge hurdle,” Neuheisel said. The following week, UCLA plays Washington State, which was picked to battle Oregon State for last in the North Division.

UCLA gets a break in the schedule, playing neither ninth-ranked Oregon nor Washington. Neuheisel said the schedule “is out of our hands” and he never considered its strength.

“The way I look at it, we’ve got to play nine conference games; all will be a battle,” he said.

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But Neuheisel did take time to note Arizona State’s schedule, pointing out the Sun Devils “don’t have to play Oregon or Stanford.”

Neuheisel said, “We hope to get to play Oregon somewhere down the line.”

And when would that be?

“I’m just throwing it out there,” Neuheisel said.

UCLA could only play Oregon this season in the Pac-12 championship game.

Former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell took winning conference records into November four times in five seasons and got the Bruins to five bowl games.

Neuheisel’s teams have entered November with losing conference records and chasing victories. UCLA strung together three to slip into the EagleBank Bowl in 2009. But poor conference starts had the Bruins out of bowl contention by the time they played USC in 2008 and 2010.

Brehaut starts

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Quarterback Richard Brehaut’s antiseptic performance against Oregon State earned him another start this week.

Brehaut was efficient, completing seven of 11 passes for 146 yards in the 27-19 victory. He had 84 of those yards on two completions in the Bruins’ second possession — a 62-yard pass to Josh Smith and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Embree.

“Richard was very poised, maybe as poised as he has ever played,” Neuheisel said. “His demeanor was exactly what I was looking for in a quarterback.”

Quarterback Kevin Prince, meanwhile, is either healing or has healed from what Neuheisel said were two shoulder injuries. Neuheisel said Prince injured his left shoulder against Texas after injuring his right shoulder against Houston.

“Kevin is better,” Neuheisel said. Later, he amended that, saying, “I would say he is 100%"

Injury report

Sheldon Price (sprained right knee), safety Dalton Hilliard (sprained left shoulder) and Johnathan Franklin (bruised hip) were injured against Oregon State.

“I expect him to play,” was Neuheisel’s response on each.

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Neuheisel said last week he expected safety Tony Dye (shoulder injury) to play against Oregon State. Dye didn’t practice all week and sat out the game. Neuheisel said, “I anticipate him playing this week.”

Cornerback Andrew Abbott has cleared the concussion protocol and will practice this week, Neuheisel said.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes


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