UCLA football coach Jim Mora was channeling another Los Angeles-based head coach Tuesday morning at Spaulding Field.
Doing his best Darryl Sutter impression, Mora kept his answers exceptionally brief when speaking with the media, as the No. 7 Bruins prepped for their season-opener at Virginia. But one particular question was met with more brevity than most.
What does Mora think of college football pundits predicting the Bruins as national champions this season?
Nothing at all.
"Nope," he said. "That’s how I answer it. We don’t talk about it, we don’t think about it. It’s all about Virginia.
"Today was Tuesday, we had a great Tuesday. Tomorrow is Wednesday, it’s all about having a great Wednesday."
Maybe channeling Sutter is a good thing. After all, the Los Angeles Kings head coach has hoisted a Stanley Cup in two of the last three years. The Kings are proven winners and the lofty expectations they face each spring simply are the byproduct of victory.
But once upon a time, they looked more like the Bruins, vaunted players who left without ever having won the biggest trophy of them all. It could happen for the 2014 Bruins, but as they enter the season with historically high expectations, they’ll need to learn just how to manage them.
"You can close your ears all you want but you’re definitely going to hear stuff that people are saying about your team," said linebacker and Heisman Trophy hopeful Myles Jack.
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Jack himself learned the hard way about how difficult shielding yourself from the 24-hour news cycle can be when he inadvertently created headlines after he was booted from one day of training camp. Seeing alerts on his phone about his early exit from practice was an eye-opener.
"It definitely feels different," Jack said. "You’re going to come across an article here and there, or just turn on ESPN and hear them saying good stuff about us."
For some, it might be easier. Junior receiver Jordan Payton heard the same hype last year when UCLA went 5-0 to open the season. One game at a time, he preached.
But it’s up to some of those veterans to temper the excitement and emotions of the younger players.
"There’s always expectations on what we should do, what we can’t do and even what we can do," said quarterback Brett Hundley. "But as a captain of the team — me and all of the other captains — we just have to help them understand that and manage expectations."
While not an overwhelming favorite to win, they were picked by many to be one of the four teams to play in the inaugural college football playoff, and they were picked by a few to win the entire championship. But preseason predictions, in the eyes of those inside of the programs, are essentially meaningless.
"Nothing matters until you play," Hundley said.
Just one National Championship has ever been brought back to Westwood, and you’d have to look all the way back to 1954 to find it. They were more likely to be favored as doormats in most years, but now, with two Heisman hopefuls and one of the hottest head coaches in the game, the noise is louder than ever.
"We’re aware of what the expectations are," Jack said. "We just have to uphold it and live up to that standard."