My feeling is that this week's game against Stanford is a "must win" for the Bruins.
Here is why:
1 - Stanford does not have "better athletes" than UCLA does.
Don't misunderstand, Stanford has some good players. If the two teams were combined, they definitely have some of the better players who would start for a combined team. But watching them play, you don't ask yourself "Man, how are we going to match up with their speed and their athleticism?"
2 - It's a home game.
Winning on the road is something that occurs after you learn how to win games. It's not just playing in front of a hostile crowd -- playing on the road forces a change of routine, a change of scenery that subliminally creates an air of discomfort. Teams that expect to win turn that discomfort into a challenge and winning programs thrive on big road wins.
UCLA isn't there yet. UCLA is far from ready to relish the road.
On the other hand, we must protect the home field. This week it is Stanford that must cope with the unfamiliar and UCLA's young and inexperienced team needs to turn their home comfort into confidence.
3 - It's one of the more winnable game left on the schedule/
Okay, the game at Washington might be the easiest if it were played on a neutral field, but it isn't, it's going to be played in Husky Stadium. And that Washington team only lost to BYU (the same 0-59 BYU) by one and that was partly due to Jake Locker's dumb celebration penalty at the end of the game. In other words, that game won't be easy for a team that gets road sick.
The other two home games are Oregon State and USC. One of those teams already upset the current number-four team in the nation and the other is the current number-four team in the nation.
Cal and Arizona State are the other, remaining road games.
In my opinion, Stanford-at-home is the most winnable game left on the schedule.
4 - This team has a little bit of momentum
No, I'm not crazy.
Yes, I know the team is coming off a loss to Oregon.
But the offense actually did some nice things in that game and maybe there were some questionable decisions that contributed to the loss. (Not saying there were any glaring coaching errors, not at all, just some decisions combined with less than perfect execution that ultimately figured into the final tally.
If the defense can hold Stanford close, perhaps the offense can build on the last three games (31 vs Fresno State, 28 vs Washington State, 24 vs Oregon) and do some damage.
5 - Speaking of the defense, Stanford is the type of team that DeWayne Walker has been able to scheme well against. They aren't a spread team. They don't posssess a plethora of great athletes who make match-ups a nightmare. It's more like they come right at you out of a pro set and try to just execute their plays. They execute well, but this is the type of team that Walker has schemed well against.
None of this should suggest that Stanford will be an easy win. Stanford is a good team with good players and a good coach in Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh seems to have good game plans and he seems to get the most out of his team. (He might have to, too, Stanford's starting quarterback Tavita Pitchard is questionable at the moment.)
Still, with that acknowledgment respectfully made, the Stanford game is a must win for UCLA.. This is a season where progress will ultimately be assessed beyond the final won-loss record. But, there is too much that suggests the game is very winnable and this team can not afford to pass up an opportunity like this.