UCLA Football: Ranking the 5 Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

Jason Fray@https://twitter.com/Jason_FrayCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2014

UCLA Football: Ranking the 5 Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The UCLA Bruins have a somewhat favorable 2014 schedule. It lends to the possible notion Jim Mora's team can compete for a potential BCS bowl spot in this upcoming season. 

    A majority of what could be considered the "tougher games" on the schedule will be played at home in the Rose Bowl. Two nonconference contests will also be played against major-conference opponents. 

    There are potential hiccups on the schedule. UCLA is now perceived as one of the premier teams in the Pac-12 South Division—if not the entire conference. With Brett Hundley returning, there's a considerable target on the backs of the Bruins. 

    Here is a ranking of the top five toughest games for the Bruins in 2014. They are listed in order of most manageable to most difficult. 

    UCLA's entire schedule for 2014 can be found here

5. Texas

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    Head coach Charlie Strong
    Head coach Charlie StrongErich Schlegel/Getty Images

    Sept. 13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

    The Longhorns are currently in a transitional period as a program. Longtime coach Mack Brown has departed in favor of defensive-minded Charlie Strong. 

    Strong has inherited a bunch expected to compete for conference and national championships on an annual basis. Texas has considerable talent on its roster, but the talent in recent years has failed to live up to the expectations set forth by the university. 

    This game will be UCLA's first true test of the season. Although technically classified as a neutral site, AT&T Stadium will be in essence a de facto home game for the Longhorns. 

    UCLA will need to play well against a very proud and prominent program. There's no telling how Texas could look in this affair. With a bit of mystery emanating from the contest, it could prove to be a difficult challenge. 

4. Southern Cal

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    Head coach Steve Sarkisian
    Head coach Steve SarkisianStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Nov. 22 at the Rose Bowl

    The contest against the USC Trojans and their newly appointed head man, Steve Sarkisian, should make for intriguing theatre. 

    While suffering some defections to the NFL, the Trojans do return a talented roster. It will be fascinating to see whether Max Browne can usurp the quarterback spot from returning starter Cody Kessler. 

    A rivalry game always brings something special to the table—especially when both sides are competent. In other words, expect the unexpected. There's no telling what could potentially occur in such a game. Additionally, this game in theory could be for the Pac-12 South Division crown. 

    With a potential third straight victory over the Trojans, UCLA could further cement itself as the best program in the city of Los Angeles.  

3. At Washington

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    Head coach Chris Petersen
    Head coach Chris PetersenOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Nov. 8 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. 

    Some might be surprised to see the Huskies ranked as the third-toughest game for the Bruins in 2014. 

    Washington returns a very talented roster, led by linebacker Shaq Thompson and wide receiver John Ross. New coach Chris Petersen is also very capable from a strategic standpoint. 

    Playing in the newly renovated Husky Stadium will be no easy proposition. Outside of perhaps Autzen Stadium in Eugene, there's no louder venue in the conference. Adding to the intrigue, this will be the first time Mora has coached against his alma mater in Seattle. 

    This is a quintessential trap game for the Bruins. UCLA will be facing an athletic squad led by a very good coaching staff. 

2. Stanford

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    Head coach David Shaw
    Head coach David ShawHarry How/Getty Images

    Nov. 28 at the Rose Bowl

    For UCLA to truly be considered a power in the Pac-12, it has to knock off the cream of the crop in the conference. 

    Stanford has proven to be a big thorn in the side of the Bruins. The Cardinal have defeated UCLA three times in the past two seasons. The physical brand of football employed by David Shaw has given the Bruins fits. 

    Fortunately for UCLA, this contest will be played at home in Pasadena. The Cardinal lose a lot from last year's Rose Bowl team, including Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds, Tyler Gaffney and Shayne Skov.

    Expect this to be a close contest. If UCLA can get the proverbial monkey off of its back and defeat Stanford, it could propel the Bruins to a BCS bowl berth. 

1. Oregon

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct. 11 at the Rose Bowl

    Oregon is the benchmark program in the Pac-12 right now. The Ducks have sustained tremendous success dating back to when Chip Kelly took over the program in 2009. 

    With Mark Helfrich now at the helm, it doesn't appear as if the Ducks will slow down anytime soon. 

    UCLA can truly make a statement with a victory in this contest. It won't be easy, considering the talent Oregon has at its disposal. Quarterback Marcus Mariota will in all likelihood battle Hundley for the title as the best quarterback not only in the conference, but perhaps in the country as well. 

    This is the type of game UCLA can use to its advantage. A possible victory against the Ducks will drum up interest from across the country. The ramifications from a win should pay dividends when it comes to recruiting. Lastly, a win against a perennial Top Five team should give the team a considerable confidence boost.