Mora: UCLA not listening 'to the noise' as important stretch begins

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

The most important stretch of the season has begun for the UCLA Bruins.

Ahead of the most anticipated game of the season, UCLA moved up to No. 9 in the College Football Playoff Poll. The USC Trojans figuratively come to town Saturday, in a game that has significant importance to both teams.

"It's always a fun game when you play your rival, and it's even more fun when you have something at stake," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. "I know when I got here, that's what I heard was that it would be great to have meaning and something that matters, not just in the Pac-12, but nationally. It just adds to it, it adds to an already amazing rivalry."

Steve Sarkisian will be the third coach in as many years that the Bruins have faced in the Crosstown Showdown. USC is only two plays away from being a one-loss team, but they're a team that has been marred in inconsistencies throughout Sarkisian's first season.

The Bruins have been a model of inconsistency as their two losses -- against Oregon and Utah -- were their own undoing. Penalties, poor game management, rotating offensive linemen -- the Bruins have been a fascinating case study this season, which is why the focus in Westwood isn't about the rivalry hype this week.

With a little more than just the Victory Bell on the line this time, it's back to business for the Bruins. 

"I just think it's important that we stick to our mantra of, 'Don't listen to the noise,'" Mora said. "You can't ignore the significance of this game, and you can't ignore the significance of this rivalry and what it could potentially mean for both teams. But our goal every week is to come out and play to our standards." 

The Pac-12 South picture still as cloudy as the scenarios in the SEC and Big 12, giving Rivalry Week has a heightened sense of urgency as both UCLA and No. 19 USC each have two Pac-12 losses. Not to mention, No. 13 Arizona State and No. 15 Arizona each only have two Pac-12 losses, but both have lost to UCLA and the Wildcats lost to both. The Bruins came in behind Oregon as the second-highest ranked Pac-12 team in the latest edition of the rankings. The Ducks are the No. 2 team this week after clinching the Pac-12 North Division. 

Speculation in the other conferences aside, the Bruins hold their destiny in their own hands with the edge in the Pac-12 South. The playoff selection committee has said that they will take conference championships into consideration. But the Bruins' path to a playoff berth will go right through Oregon in a Pac-12 Championship game. Before getting there, the Mora-coached Bruins will need to win out, starting with USC on Saturday afternoon.