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UCLA will need special inspiration to prevail

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

PASADENA, Calif. -- In 2000, a Miami team laden with future NFL starts visited Washington. My take in advance of the game? The Huskies had no chance.

Washington won 34-29, and the score is no way indicative of how in control the Huskies were throughout.

I was stunned.

After the game, a handful Washington players talked about Rick Neuheisel's pregame speech, how he went around the tense locker room -- full of players who'd been told all week that they were going to lose -- and told each individual exactly how he was going to help the Huskies win.

It remains the only time players have volunteered to me how inspiring a pregame speech was.

Of course, that Huskies team turned out to be pretty good, finishing third in the country after winning the Rose Bowl.

This UCLA team that Neuheisel will lead out of the Rose Bowl locker room is not nearly as good as that Huskies team, but I doubt Tennessee is as good as that Miami team, either.

Point is that Bruins players have heard and read they're not very good for a month, but it remains possible that Neuheisel can convince them otherwise before the game.

If the Bruins play with confidence and a chip on their shoulder, they've got a shot at the upset.

College football has showcased a few of those of late, and a UCLA victory wouldn't make most folks' list of utter shockers.

The first key for the Bruins is not making stupid mistakes on offense. There's no way they win the game if they don't win the turnover battle.

That means reversing last season when UCLA ranked last in the Pac-10 in turnover margin (-4).

With the offense playing things close to the vest, the defense will need to make aggressive plays. It will need to rattle new starting Vols QB Jonathan Crompton.

That's way easier said than done. The Tennessee offensive line probably is one of the best units in the country, welcoming back four starters from a group that yielded just four sacks a year ago. An NCAA-record four sacks, that is.

It's hard to rattle a QB, no matter how inexperienced, when he's standing comfortably in the pocket with nary a power blue jersey around him.

UCLA ranked third in the Pac-10 a year ago with 39 sacks, but Bruce Davis took 12 of those away to the NFL.

The crowd doesn't figure to be much of a factor. Only 65,000 are expected, and even the normally obsessive Tennessee fans -- an easy to distinguish orange contingent already filling up their stadium pie slice -- is expected to number a manageable 7,000.

A few just tried to get an "SEC! SEC!" chant going. It died quickly.

With about 45 minutes until kickoff the atmosphere hasn't hit yet electric, but the San Gabriel Mountains sure look pretty in the background.

Bruins fans are hoping that won't be the only good view tonight.