Oct. 26, 2001
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP MegaSports Writer
UCLA coach Bob Toledo knows how little the early Bowl Championship Series standings mean.
The fourth-ranked Bruins (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10), who visit 20th-ranked Stanford on Saturday, are currently third in the BCS standings, behind Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Bruins learned three years ago how little the BCS rankings mean this early on. In 1998, they were 10-0 and headed for the national championship game before losing at Miami 49-45 in the regular-season finale.
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 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."
UCLA is more concerned about staying unbeaten than its current BCS ranking.
"We know that doesn't mean anything," linebacker Robert Thomas said. "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."
Standing in the way will be a vastly improved Stanford squad.
The Cardinal (4-1, 3-1) are coming off an impressive 49-42 upset of Oregon on Saturday, taking advantage of two blocked punts, an onsides kick and a costly interception of Ducks star quarterback Joey Harrington. Stanford rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to win.
"We believe in everybody on this team," said Stanford's Tank Williams, who got an arm around Harrington's neck to force the errant throw. "We knew that somehow, some way, we were going to pull this game out."
Stanford will have to figure a way to stop UCLA running back DeShaun Foster. The Heisman candidate has rushed for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. He was held to just 117 yards in the Bruins' 56-17 victory over California last Saturday as the Bears stacked against the run.
"You saw the way they were playing defense - nine guys in the box," UCLA quarterback Cory Paus said. "We're still going to run the ball. I'm just glad we were able to do some things we wanted to do."
UCLA leads the all-time series 38-29-3, including a 37-35 victory last year.