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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) passes the ball against Utah in the first quarter during an NCAA college football game on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Pac-12: Expectations sky-high for Brett Hundley, UCLA

It gets easier, sure. UCLA has maybe the most difficult schedule in the country this year.

But there may be no time like the present for Jim Mora and the Bruins to fulfill some hefty expecations. Conference championship? Seems reasonable. College Football Playoff? Why not?

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Here's the evidence: There's a strong corps of linebackers, including last year's freshman sensation Myles Jack. The secondary returns almost all of its starters. They've got talent and experinece on the offensive line, weapons at the skill positions, and maybe the next Heisman winner under center.

"We've got a difficult schedule, an exciting schedule," Mora said at Pac-12 media days. "A very challenging schedule that we're going to embrace fully. Lot of expectations out there as I've read for our team, but none of that matters. What matters are our expectations for ourselves."

Of course, for themselves, that expectation is high. That happens when you win 19 games in two seasons, and bring in three straight top-20 ranked recruiting classes.

Maybe no one UCLA player embodies the potential for UCLA quite like returning quarterback Brett Hundley, who is preparing for his third starting season in an offensive system that has made him a star. Big, athletic, and blessed with a strong arm, Hundley has thrown for more than 6,800 yards with 53 touchdowns during his career.

Some thought he might leave for the NFL last year, but he came back to help guide UCLA to a Pac-12 championship, which so far has escaped Mora's Bruins. They also wouldn't mind a win over Stanford after going 0-3 against the Cardinal in the last three years.

There's question marks for this team, especially in a defensive front that is looking to replace its pass rushing presence from last year. But UCLA is on a mission. Hundley didn't want to leave yet to fulfill that mission, and Mora certainly isn't going anywhere anytime soon, he said.

"I'm staying there until they kick me out," he said. "That might be tomorrow, who knows. I've been kicked out before. But I'm staying until they kick me out."


2013 IN REVIEW • 10-3, 6-3 in Pac-12, beat Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl

RETURNING STARTERS • 13 total (7 offense, 5 defense, 1 specialist)

TOP RETURNING PLAYER • No point dancing around it: Brett Hundley is the leader of the offense, a dynamic player who makes things happen with his arm but is also hard to bring down in the backfield or when he cuts to run. A Heisman candidate, Hundley shoulders much of the Bruins' hopes of making the College Football Playoff this year.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK • Can the Bruins stop the run? Replacing four of your front seven is never an easy task, especially when one of those players is Anthony Barr. While it helps UCLA to have Myles Jack playing linebacker full time now, the issue remains a pressing one. Even with Barr, the Bruins were No. 71 in run defense last year - not

SCHEDULE OUTLOOK • This one starts out with winnable games against Virginia and Memphis that aren't exactly cakewalks. Things really get interesting in Week 3, with a date in Texas, followed immediately by a grudge match with Arizona State that could well end up determining the South Division champ. One huge plus for UCLA is its biggest games are all in Pasadena: Oregon, USC and Stanford all have to play in the Rose Bowl this year. UCLA has some incredibly tough games to play, but the stage is set for the team to take its next step under Jim Mora: winning the conference.

Kyle Goon


Twitter: @kylegoon

PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
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» UA sports Throwback Thursday: Arizona vs. Oregon 2013
» UA football: On Bondurant, Solomon and facing Ducks
» UA football: On Bondurant, Solomon and facing Ducks

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» Deantre Lewis says struggles are behind him
» Haller's Pac-12 power rankings
» Games to watch: College football's best week
» Rankings: Colleges by AZ high school players

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Cal could face Title IX suit with field hockey now homeless
» Cal's struggling pass defense better gets its act together quickly
» Cal's Oct. 11 home game vs. Washington set for 3 p.m. kickoff
» Cal outlasts Colorado 59-56 in two overtimes

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Speedy freshman Donovan Lee gives CU Buffs another playmaker
» Colorado coached to avoid coin-toss glitches, MacIntyre says
» Colorado's MacIntyre gratified Buffs practiced hard Monday
» CU Buffs tackle Jeromy Irwin might play vs. Hawaii after concussion

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks open up Autzen Stadium doors for Fan Fest: Photo gallery
» Canzano: You vote, which Pac-12 team is softest?
» Can Marcus Mariota improve his Heisman odds with a win over Arizona?
» Can Oregon's offensive line play like it belongs in the College Football Playoff? It tops the 3 things to watch this week

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State roundup (Sept. 19)
» OSU men's basketball: Tinkle says positive steps being made
» Spencer to become new AD at Evansville
» BeaversSalute program gives tickets to military personnel and veterans

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Stanford's Shaw shoots down interest in Raiders job
» Stanford beats Washington with fourth-quarter touchdown
» Matchup: No. 16 Stanford at Washington
» Stanford facing must-win game at Washington's noisy Husky Stadium

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Improving UCLA has questions to answer during preseason football camp
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA's prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play by NCAA after leaving Notre Dame
» Pac-12 Media Day: Eyes on Anthony Barr for UCLA's 2013 hopes

USC (Los Angeles Daily News)
» USC Football Notebook: Marqise Lee's injury not too serious
» USC Football Notebook: QBs Max Wittek, Cody Kessler present dilemma for Trojans coach Lane Kiffin
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel thinks Trojans might not miss QB Matt Barkley
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dion Bailey says it's 'now or never'

Washington (Seattle Times)
» Huskies morning links: Pac-12 Week 6 picks
» UW football live chat at noon today
» Huskies rallying around Cyler Miles after offensive struggles
» Washington volleyball team sends USC packing in straight sets

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» The West Coast is out in front again
» Eastern football links
» Ewu sports chat Oct. 2 (noon)
» Pac-12 proposes pay for play

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