With spring ball right around the corner, the UCLA Bruins and Jim Mora are gearing up for what they hope will be a successful 2014 season.
Expectations have been ramped up considerably from where they were before Mora took over.
Mora has won more games in his first two seasons (19) than any other UCLA coach has in the same time span. The 10 victories this past year were the most the program has won since 2005.
Perhaps most importantly for the Bruin faithful, Mora is 2-0 in his short UCLA career against crosstown foe Southern Cal.
There are a plethora of specifics that indicate having a successful season. The overall health of a football team is key. Coaching a talent-laden roster is also paramount for having success, as is having a veteran quarterback under center.
A third and significant determiner for a prosperous campaign is the strength of schedule, or a lack thereof. A BCS contender needs to generally play a respectable nonconference slate. A fortuitous conference schedule also could help out tremendously.
Looking at the upcoming year, there's no question UCLA is gunning for one of the four spots in the new College Football Playoff format. Mora returns an experienced squad—buoyed by a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in signal-caller Brett Hundley.
UCLA's slate of games in 2014 is a very favorable one. It offers two respectable opponents in the nonconference portion. As for the conference contests, many of the expected tougher opponents will have to travel to the Rose Bowl.
This piece will offer a brief look at the entire schedule for the Bruins. A more in-depth look will follow at a later date.
The season opener will take the Bruins to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Virginia. Mike London's team went 2-10 in 2013. After starting the season 2-2, the Cavaliers lost nine straight contests.
This game will provide UCLA with the opportunity to travel across the country and perform well in front of a national audience. Virginia will undoubtedly be amped for the game, but UCLA has a considerable talent advantage on both sides of the ball.
UCLA will head home to Pasadena to square off against the Memphis Tigers. Again, this is a game UCLA should have no trouble with. Memphis went 3-9 last year against inferior competition.
The third (and last) nonconference tilt is by far the most intriguing. UCLA will travel to Dallas to take on the Texas Longhorns. Playing this game against a big-name opponent, in the ostentatious AT&T Stadium, should provide for great theatre.
Texas is an unknown at this point. Charlie Strong will be in his inaugural season with what's been considered a very underachieving program as of late. Texas has talent, but its anyone's guess as to how quickly Strong will be able to implement his style of play.
Perhaps the bigger question comes in the form of a starting quarterback. As of now, there isn't a concrete option at the position. A potential win here could help in propelling UCLA forward for the remainder of its season.
When looking at UCLA's conference schedule, the Bruins are faced with a very manageable slate.
Road contests come at Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Washington. UCLA gets a bye before facing the Sun Devils in Tempe.
Games in Boulder and Berkeley don't figure to be overly difficult. Although the Bruins haven't beaten Cal in Berkeley since 1998, expect UCLA to exorcise the demons and come out with a victory.
The one potential trap game does exist with Washington. Playing in the newly renovated Husky Stadium is no easy task. The atmosphere can get incredibly loud up in Seattle. The Huskies also have a lot of returning talent coming back to play under new head coach Chris Petersen. It figures to be a very challenging affair.
UCLA is fortunate enough to play its two toughest opponents—Oregon and Stanford—at home in the Rose Bowl. The contest against rival Southern Cal will also be in Pasadena.
Assuming the team can stay healthy, this schedule sets UCLA up very well for a potential BCS bowl berth in January.
*UCLA's entire schedule for 2014 can be found here.