Touted widely as a national title contender, UCLA was favored by 20-plus points against both Virginia and Memphis.
The Bruins escaped Charlottesville with a 28-20 decision, and held off the Tigers 42-35 at the Rose Bowl last weekend. Needless to say, many analysts are rethinking UCLA’s position on the college totem poll. After starting the season ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, the Bruins have dropped to No. 12 — falling behind USC (ranked ninth) for the first time since Oct. 28, 2012.
The problems have been difficult to narrow down. In the season opener against Virginia, UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns and held the Cavaliers to 4.6 yards per play — carrying a stuttering offense to victory. In the home opener against Memphis, the Bruins rolled up 540 yards of offense but allowed 469.
But can an underperforming 2-0 squad now be considered an underdog? Head coach Jim Mora wants it that way.
“I don’t want expectations to become a burden,” he said Tuesday. “Knocking us back on track — no. Maybe just refocusing a little bit. Getting back to the roots of who we are. We’re an underdog. That’s who we are. We like it when people doubt us. That helps inspire us. I’m not saying it should, but it does. …
“I just think we were tight. I think that we let the outside expectations become a little bit of a burden for us.”