SEATTLE (AP) — In any other week, all the talk would revolve around Jim Mora coming back to face Washington in Husky Stadium for the first time since moving into the college ranks and taking the head coaching job at UCLA. Washington is where Mora played, where he got his start in coaching and where it was long thought he would eventually end up.
SEATTLE (AP) — In any other week, all the talk would revolve around Jim Mora coming back to face Washington in Husky Stadium for the first time since moving into the college ranks and taking the head coaching job at UCLA.
Washington is where Mora played, where he got his start in coaching and where it was long thought he would eventually end up.
Much to Mora's delight, most of the attention surrounding Saturday's matchup between No. 18 UCLA (7-2, 5-2 Pac-12) and Washington (6-3, 2-3) is focused elsewhere. Mora's return became secondary, just as the UCLA coach wanted.
"I don't plan to see anybody. This is a business trip," Mora said. "I'm going to go up there, I'm going to spend the time with my team that I would on any road trip and I'm going to get on the plane and come home after the game."
Even when Mora was a head coach in the NFL, he always seemed to be linked with the position at Washington. When he was in line to become the Seattle Seahawks' next head coach in 2009, there were plenty hoping Mora would make the jump across the lake and fill the same vacancy with the Huskies.
Now, nearly three years after moving to Los Angeles and taking over the Bruins, Mora will finally step into Husky Stadium as a head coach, but on the opposite sideline.
"I'm just excited to go play another game with my team and hopefully play well, and play well against a very good Washington team," Mora said. "Other than that, it's just another game."
Mora's return took a backseat to all the other news surrounding the matchup.
Standout Washington cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team during the week, leaving the Huskies with three true freshmen starting in their secondary and facing one of the top quarterbacks in the conference in UCLA's Brett Hundley.
There are also the pending collisions between UCLA's dual-threat running back/linebacker Myles Jack and Washington's dual-threat running back/linebacker Shaq Thompson, two of the top athletes in college football.
"He knows how it feels to go back and forth and play two different positions, learn two different playbooks, and get twice as many plays and do over 100 snaps," Jack said. "I don't know if there are any others in the country, but I guess me and him are making the most noise doing it. I give nothing but respect to him for doing it."
Here are other things to watch when the Bruins travel to Seattle for the first time since 2010:
SOUTHERN COMFORT: UCLA will eventually need some help to win the Pac-12 South. The upside for the Bruins is they already hold the tiebreaker over Arizona and Arizona State by virtue of their earlier wins and will have a chance to do so over Southern Cal. The only team UCLA doesn't hold the tiebreaker over in the South is Utah.
SHAQ ATTACK: Thompson has been exclusively a running back the past two weeks and for good reason, with 272 yards rushing in the two games and a nearly 7.6 yards per carry average. He's sparked a dormant Washington run game that was already thinned by injuries, leading to Thompson's offensive shift in the first place.
"I might be a little biased. I just like blocking for that guy," Washington center Colin Tanigawa said.
Washington coach Chris Petersen said there's a chance Thompson will play some defense this week.
JACK ATTACK: While Thompson has become Washington's go-to back, Jack is still just being used in specific situations. He hasn't carried more than six times in a game this season and only twice in his career — last season against Washington and Arizona State — has Jack gotten more than 10 rushing attempts.
Jack has had more impact this season on defense, where he already has 63 tackles, second-best for the Bruins.
YOUNG PUPS: Peters' dismissal makes Washington's young secondary even more inexperienced. Freshmen Sidney Jones and Naijiel Hale will start at cornerback with freshman Budda Baker at safety. The Huskies could get some help with the potential addition of wide receiver John Ross to the secondary.
"A little bit like Shaq, we figure out where we think he can best help the team and we'll keep analyzing each game and each week," Petersen said.
SACK MASTER: Washington defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha continues to lead the nation in sacks with 15½ and has already set school records for single-season and career sack totals. Kikaha still has an outside shot at Terrell Suggs' NCAA single-season record of 24 sacks.