Cal coach Jeff Tedford has told his players that whatever happened between UCLA and Arizona should stay between those teams and not have a bearing on the Bears' game against the Bruins this week.
That's good in theory, but it's hard denying that six UCLA players, including three of the team's top four receivers, will be suspended for Saturday's game after last Thursday's bench-clearing brawl during the Bruins 48-12 loss to the Wildcats.
"I told the team that has nothing to do with us," Tedford said. "We're not going to get caught up in that. I know there's going to be a lot made of it through the week, but I want us to stay away from that."
But it's a huge opportunity for Cal to get a much-needed win and move one game closer toward bowl eligibility after missing the postseason a year ago. UCLA's best receiver will be Nelson Rosario, who has 30 catches for 558 yards, but after that it's pretty bleak. Josh Smith, who has six catches, will start and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is considering burning the redshirt of freshman receiver Devin Lucien.
But Tedford quashed any thinking of a potential opportunity and thinks the losses of the six players will actually make UCLA a stronger team.
"I'm sure they'll rally around the people that are playing," Tedford said. "I know how teams typically respond to something like that. There's a rallying cry. Really, anytime you see something like this happen, teams come out stronger than anything because of solidarity and the rallying cry it can bring out."
Neuheisel is hoping Tedford is right. The Bruins are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South and despite their loss to a bad Arizona team, the Bruins could win that side of the conference should they win out. That's a pretty tall task, considering they still have games against Arizona State and USC remaining.
"You have to discard he emotional setback that that game can give you because it's baggage," Neuheisel said. "It doesn't help you go forward. It needs to be instead churned into fuel that can help energize you for the next contest. That's exactly where we have to be. We have to get energized. We've been through tough losses here before and we've responded and we need to respond again."
- - -
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.