UCLA spent the past week learning about the perils of unreasonably high expectations, which haven't existed in Westwood with any regularity in the school's football history.
The No. 11 Bruins (1-0) emerged from a closer-than-expected 28-20 victory at Virginia with a ranking outside the Top 10 and a renewed commitment to focus on themselves, not any external expectations about where their season should go.
It's a strategy the Memphis Tigers (1-0) would be wise to follow Saturday night when they attempt to add another early-season pitfall to UCLA's path toward a national title shot.
"It's just about maintaining the consistency of the team," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "We're going to focus on us, and playing our game for our fans. It's always fun to go out and play in front of our crowd."
Memphis and UCLA will meet for the first time in the Bruins' home opener, and the Tigers realize they're playing for a monumental upset. Brett Hundley leads a Bruins offense eager for redemption after managing just one touchdown at Virginia, while the UCLA defense is looking to build on a strong game highlighted by a remarkable scoring burst of its own.
"When I watched the film, I'm watching a defense that scored 21 points," Memphis coach Justin Fuente said. "That's pretty impressive. They're pretty dangerous defensively. I think offensively, they provide plenty of problems and will continue to improve. I don't think they're over there freaking out or panicking about their offense. They have a fantastic quarterback and good skill players."
While Memphis is a 24-point underdog, the Tigers will debut at the Rose Bowl with an impressively diverse offense and a defense that just posted its first shutout since 2000, trouncing Austin Peay 63-0.
The Bruins have done their homework on the Tigers, but they're more focused on improving what they do. Mora expects to take major steps in that direction on a cool night in Arroyo Seco.
Here are some other things to watch in UCLA's home opener:
ALL EVERYTHING: Memphis presents a comprehensive offensive challenge to the Bruins' defense, with sets including everything from spreads to option formations for quarterback Paxton Lynch. "For as much as they do, it seems like he has great command of the offense, and that's saying a lot when you are asking him to do as much as he does," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "That's kind of the equalizer in college football. A team that does not necessarily (have) equal talent can definitely give you some fits with the option."
AFTER MANFRO: The Bruins lost a third of their tailback trio on Tuesday when junior Steven Manfro tore a ligament in his knee during practice. Jordon James and Paul Perkins are the primary ball-carriers, but Manfro was a valuable receiver out of the backfield and a change-of-pace back. Look for freshman Nate Starks to get more action in Manfro's place, but the Bruins' run problems were bigger than one player in their opener. "It was hit and miss, no rhythm to it," UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "We've always been able to run the football. It hasn't been an area of concern for us, so we're not going to panic. We got to be a little bit better, and I've got to do a better job."
O-LINE WOES: The Bruins' offensive line was their biggest flaw at Virginia. Along with the struggling ground game, Hundley was sacked five times. But three-year starting center Jake Brendel might be ready to return to the lineup after missing the opener with a sprained left knee.
GOOD START: Memphis is chasing its first 2-0 start to a season since 2004, but the Tigers have lost 17 straight games to major-conference teams and 14 straight to ranked opponents.
NO LOOKING AHEAD: UCLA must keep its focus on the Tigers with a trip to Texas looming next weekend, but Ulbrich believes it won't be a problem given last week's result. Memphis has no such worries with an upcoming bye.