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MORA

The UCLA campus is gorgeous.

We're talking Beverly Hills gorgeous.

Plush landscape. Perfect weather. Beautiful people.

It's nothing to see R&B artist Mary J. Blige jogging on campus. I'm told film actor and former decathlete Rafer Johnson is a regular on the running track. Actor Benicio del Toro is on the scene occasionally.

Wonder if they give a damn about UCLA football.

Chances are they don't.

UCLA is not a football school.

It is a leading academic institution (think Stanford, Northwestern) in the entertainment capital of the world.

But it is not a football school.

Nebraska is a football school. Much of the free world understands that fact. The majority of NU athletic department employees go to work every day with a singular mission — do what it takes to help the football team win.

No way that is the case at UCLA.

Perhaps for that reason alone — unyielding and undeniable commitment to the sport — 16th-ranked Nebraska should prevail Saturday night when the teams play in the Rose Bowl.

Granted, a university's commitment to football guarantees nothing. If it did, Northwestern wouldn't have left Lincoln victorious last November.

But let's face it, Nebraska shouldn't lose to UCLA. It really shouldn't.

Nebraska shouldn't lose to a program that has facilities befitting a mid-major team. UCLA players lift weights in the basement of a campus recreation center. It is a beautiful rec center, but a rec center all the same.

Nebraska shouldn't lose to a team that routinely draws only 55,000 spectators to the 91,000-seat Rose Bowl. Watch Husker fans flood the place. NU actually might have the "home-field advantage."

Nebraska shouldn't lose to a program that hasn't displayed consistent toughness for at least a decade. In the last 10 years, the Bruins have averaged 6.4 wins. They haven't produced a double-digit win total since 1998.

Not that this game will be a cakewalk for the Huskers. The Bruins return 16 starters from a team that last season went 6-8 but won back-to-back home games against Cal and Arizona State. Not bad.

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On the other hand, the Bruins managed only 18 rushing yards (219 total) in a loss to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

UCLA fired coach Rick Neuheisel and hired Jim Mora.

"I take full responsibility for not moving the needle as far as getting more wins, but you need a partnership at this level, and there has to be a commitment, and that wasn't the case," Neuheisel said recently.

We all understand Neuheisel's credibility is lacking. In this case, though, I think he might be right.

UCLA tried to hire Boise State's Chris Petersen but eventually settled on Mora, an NFL guy.

UCLA has proven unable to hire a great coach. My guess is great coaches understand the program's built-in limitations.

At any rate, the Mora era began successfully, with a 49-24 victory Aug. 30 at woebegone Rice.

"Luckily for UCLA, it got its feet wet with a bad Rice team, went on the road and smacked them around and did a real nice job in the second half — no points given up," said Charles Davis, FOX Sports' lead college football analyst, who will be alongside play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson for Saturday's broadcast.

"The Bruins got a lot of people involved and walked out of that game with a lot of smiles," Davis said.

Mora's program now gets a chance to make a positive impression in front of the home crowd. Nebraska probably should brace for an initial surge of emotion.

Get this: Davis doesn't expect UCLA to back off at any point.

"I think the Bruins are prepared to go a long time to prove UCLA is making moves in the right direction," he said. "They're tired of getting clowned in their own town."

USC again is the talk of the town.

UCLA is the school where a concert is held most every day on campus near the student union, which happens to be near the football coaches' offices. The music often is so loud that the coaches essentially have to shut down business for an hour or so.

I'm sure Tom Osborne would be thrilled with such an arrangement.

"UCLA's a unique place," a former Bruin assistant told me recently.

The Rose Bowl is also a unique place.

But it's not a place where Nebraska should lose Saturday.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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