The time is right for UCLA.
The Bruins have an elite quarterback, a schedule in which most of the key games are at home, a likely stout front seven on defense ... and crosstown rival USC isn't fully recovered from its recent NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions.
All that and more is why the Bruins, in the third season under coach Jim Mora, are predicted as the favorite in the Pac-12 South and a preseason Top 10 team by many media outlets and the coaches poll, which pegs UCLA at No. 7.
"I don't really view it any differently," Mora said of the expectations.
"Every day our goal is to be the best we can be that day and come back the next day and be a little better. That is the approach you have to take. If you look too far down the line or listen to what's going on outside you make a mistake."
Mora has overseen a bounce-back for the program, but nobody would be talking about UCLA in such glowing terms if it wasn't for redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley, who was recruited by the staff of former head coach Rick Neuheisel.
Hundley seems cut exactly from the mold of a modern NFL quarterback -- 6-foot 3, 227 pounds, cannon for an arm, can take off and run at any time. This season, he'll be working behind a more experienced offensive line, whose youth was problematic in 2013.
"I have a lot of trust in Brett," Mora said.
"I think our team and coaches have a lot of faith that he's going to do the right thing. I think the reason is because he's put the work in. He just doesn't show up and kind of wing it. He's had a great offseason. He's invested a lot of time in his craft, and he understands his offense now. He understands his capabilities. He knows the players around him a lot better.
"So when you see a young man work as hard as Brett is, and be as invested as he is in this team and this position, it gives you a great deal of faith."
DRAFT PROSPECTS (includes 2015 NFLDraftScout.com rating as applicable):
--QB Brett Hundley (No. 3 quarterback, 25th overall) -- UCLA hasn't had a quarterback drafted since Cade McNown in 1999, and Hundley's size, athleticism and arm strength should give him a much more satisfying pro career. Hundley, who has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 6,816 yards in two seasons as UCLA's starter, will be able to make any NFL throw. He's as complete as any dual threat QB in the 2015 draft, also rushing for 1,103 yards and 20 touchdowns as a Bruin.
--LB Myles Jack -- He's only a true sophomore, but his motor and big-play ability make him one of the most intriguing players in college football. He amazed last season when he dabbled at running back down the stretch, but he's likely to be strictly a linebacker in 2014.
--DT Ellis McCarthy (No. 3 defensive tackle, 28th overall) -- He needs to show more consistency and fitness, but he has a high ceiling as an NFL gap-stuffer. At 6-5, 330 pounds, the junior has been used inside and outside at UCLA in what is usually a three-man front, but his bull-strong skills fit better inside at the next level.