Pac-12 Championship: Why UCLA Win Would Cement Jim Mora as Bruin Hero

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Pac-12 Championship: Why UCLA Win Would Cement Jim Mora as Bruin Hero
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jim Mora celebrates after defeating crosstown rival USC

In just two days, the UCLA football team will take the field against the Stanford Cardinal in the Pac-12 Championship Game from Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.

The Bruins will be representing the South Division for the second straight season, though the 2012 squad won't have to worry about any asterisks in the books.

UCLA played its way into the conference championship game outright, knocking off every other team in the South to claim the top spot with a 6-3 record in the Pac-12.

First-year head coach Jim L. Mora took a program that was down for the count less than a year ago and worked his magic like a modern-day Wizard of Westwood.

Not only do the Bruins boast their best regular season record since 2005, including a defining win over archrival USC, but they're in position for their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1998-99 season.

And it's all thanks to a culture of winning that is grounded in the principles of hard work, dedication, accountability and unrelenting professionalism.

Mora and his no-nonsense staff have jelled perfectly since being assembled in January, already making a name for themselves on the recruiting trail and in the win column.

UCLA's players, whether they're part of Mora's No. 13 ranked recruiting class or they're holdouts from the Neuheisel and Dorrell eras, have all bought into the system and mentality of the new regime.

The new-look Bruins have been turning heads all season with their impassioned play, a characteristic that was missing from UCLA teams of recent memory.

Harry How/Getty Images
Joe Fauria has been an emotional and statistical leader for UCLA in 2012

Needless to say, Mora has revitalized a fanbase that was dormant for the majority of the last decade, quickly becoming a favorite amongst the Bruin faithful along the way.

But what is mostly just reserved optimism now will explode into fanatical worship should Jim Mora lead No. 16 UCLA to victory on the Farm on Friday.

A win over Stanford would do more than earn the Bruins a spot in The Granddaddy of Them All. It would give UCLA the chance to win 11 games for the first time in school history.

That's a far cry from the preseason poll at Pac-12 Media Day that selected the Bruins to finish third in the division and struggle to achieve bowl eligibility.

If the Bruins can overcome the elements for the second time in three weeks and top Stanford after losing to the Cardinal just six days prior, the momentum of the UCLA football program will reach an all-time high.

And if UCLA goes on to win the Rose Bowl...well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The 2012 season has been a renaissance for the Bruin brand and all the credit goes to the coaching staff. In just his first season in Westwood, Jim Mora is one win away from becoming a hero and two wins away from becoming a legend.

That's not too bad for a coach whose hiring was met with great skepticism and discontent after UCLA missed on multiple bigger targets. How is Mike Leach doing these days anyway?

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