Oct. 26, 2001
By JOHN NADEL AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - UCLA is in position to play for the national championship - provided it wins the rest of its games.
The Bruins, in good shape for a Rose Bowl berth, are No. 3 in the first Bowl Championship Series rankings. Oklahoma is No. 1 and Nebraska is No. 2.
Since the Sooners and Cornhuskers meet Saturday, the Bruins (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10) should rise to at least second with a victory at Stanford this weekend. And they shouldn't drop if they then beat Washington State, Oregon, Southern California and Arizona State.
Stanford is ranked 20th in the AP poll and 14th in the BCS rankings, Oregon is No. 11 and 13th in the BCS rankings, and Washington State is No. 14 and 10th in the BCS rankings.
"We know that doesn't mean anything," linebacker Robert Thomas said some three hours before the BCS rankings were released Monday. "We're not really worried about that until the season's over. You lose one time, you're pretty much out.
"I don't think we really need that for motivation. All that stuff's going to come - the BCS, the polls. We're 6-0, we want to be 7-0. We want to be flying back on that plane with a smile on our face."
Ranked No. 4 in this week's Associated Press poll, the Bruins learned three years ago how little the BCS rankings mean at this point. That's because they were 10-0 and headed for the national championship game before losing at Miami 49-45 in the regular-season finale.
UCLA coach Bob Toledo said he planned to tell his players the BCS rankings were coming out, "and not to pay attention to them."
"I think the big thing is what we've been telling them all along - the BCS doesn't matter until the end," he said. "If you look too far down the road, you get hit in the head.
"I really don't care. I think it's nice that we've positioned ourselves for the opportunity. If we don't take care of business, it doesn't matter. You can feel the pressure building, the pressure just mounts and mounts. These are kids, they're not pros. They don't always bring their `A' game."
Toledo did say he believes if Washington State or UCLA - the Pac-10's only unbeaten teams - finish without a loss, they deserve to play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3.
"I'd be disappointed if we didn't," he said.
Toledo pointed out that the Bruins became bowl eligible with their 56-17 victory over California last weekend.
"Now, it depends on what bowl we want to go to," he said. "Right now, I told our guys, `We're in the Toilet Bowl.' We're working our way up."
Toledo has stated repeatedly he's a fan of a playoff system, but said the BCS rankings are a pretty good No. 2
UCLA quarterback Cory Paus, on the other hand, said he believes the BCS works.
"An undefeated team falls every week," he said. "We still have to play a lot of games. Stanford showed definitely it's a real talented team."
The Cardinal (4-1, 3-1) beat previously unbeaten Oregon 49-42 last weekend to snap the Ducks' 23-game winning streak at Autzen Stadium.
"I don't want to lose a game," Paus said. "I wouldn't want to be in the national championship game if we lost a game. Every team wants to win every game."
It's possible the Bruins will be facing a backup quarterback for the third straight game at Stanford.
Senior Randy Fasani didn't play against Oregon after spraining his right knee in the second quarter, and the Stanford sports information office issued a brief statement Monday saying further information on Fasani's injury will be made available Tuesday.
Before being injured, Fasani completed 7 of 11 passes for 141 yards. Sophomore Chris Lewis relieved and completed 12-of-26 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
"They're both outstanding," Toledo said.
Lewis threw two TD passes in relief of Fasani against the Bruins last season.