LOS ANGELES -- UCLA so far this season has been just about as good as any Bruins fan could have hoped, but now the team has a chance to make it a perfect 10.
UCLA (9-4) plays Baylor (7-5) on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl, and the Bruins have a shot at equaling the school record for victories in a season. UCLA has reached the 10-win plateau seven times in school history, the last coming in 2005.
"It makes a difference getting in the double digits," quarterback Kevin Prince said. "The most wins any UCLA team has had is 10 so that would right away put us in as one of the best UCLA teams that ever existed. To be put in that class makes a big difference, so we're focused on getting that 10th win."
The Bruins defeated USC on Nov. 17 for victory No. 9 and have had two opportunities to get to 10 wins, but lost to Stanford in the regular-season finale and again in the Pac-12 championship game, so they are hoping the third attempt at No. 10 will be the charm.
Getting to a bowl game with nine wins seems to have been the pattern for past 10-win UCLA teams. In 1946 and 1998, the Bruins won 10 games before getting to the Rose Bowl and they lost the game in each of those years. In 1982, the Bruins reached 10 wins by winning the Rose Bowl.
In 2005, win No. 10 came in the Sun Bowl, in 1997 and 1988 it came in the Cotton Bowl and in 1987 it came with a victory in the Aloha Bowl. The Bruins hope to add a Holiday Bowl victory to that list of games that gave them double-digit victories.
"It would be big," safety Andrew Abbott said. "Ten wins, we haven't had that in a while. It's been a pretty special season already, but putting an end to the season in that fashion would really make it special."
Players who have been around for five years have endured a pair of 4-8 seasons and have won as many as seven games only once before this season. The Bruins have won nine games twice since 1998, so a win on Thursday in San Diego would help the outgoing seniors put their stamp on the program.
"My big thing now is to leave this team with a 10-win season," said offensive lineman Jeff Baca, a fifth-year senior who grew up as a UCLA fan. "I remember watching the Bruins when they had 10-win seasons and it's been a while, so it would be huge to say, 'Hey, we struggled a little early in our careers, but our senior year we won 10 games.' That's something we would talk about for a long time."