The last time the Bruins opened up conference play against the Cardinal, it didn't end so well for the blue and gold.
And the last time the two teams met face-to-face, the Bruins again found themselves in defeat.
Those results aren't all too uncommon for the in-state rivalry over the past 13 years, either.
No. 24 UCLA football (2-1) and Stanford (2-1) have a history dating back over a century, with World War II standing as the only thing in the way of the programs playing each other in 96 consecutive seasons. The Bruins dominated the head-to-head series 42-20-2 from 1942 to 2008, only for the Cardinal to rattle off 11 wins in a row over the following decade.
That streak came to a close when UCLA beat Stanford on their home turf in 2019, but coach Chip Kelly said the history of the rivalry did not play into that 34-16 win in the slightest.
"We don’t ever talk about 11 games in a row because none of these guys were here for the 11 games in a row," Kelly said. "They were excited because we won a conference game on the road against a real quality opponent. We never talked about it during the week, we never talked about it after the game, you know that’s just not how we’re wired."
With a chance to beat the Cardinal in back-to-back tries for the first time since 2007 and 2008, the Bruins led their 2020 matchup by 14 points with 2:35 to play. Stanford scored two touchdowns in the final minutes to force overtime, and they eventually came away with the 48-47 win at the Rose Bowl following two extra periods.
Running back Brittain Brown racked up a career-high 218 yards in that game, but said Wednesday that his final stats didn't make up for his team's big loss.
"I remember how I felt during that game – it was terrible afterward," Brown said. "I really wanted to win that one for the boys and it was the last game of the season, so I knew we were all playing our hearts out, but it’s a new year, a new team and squad, got a lot of faces that came back, so we’re ready to start hunting, start going back at it."
Before almost anyone on the current roster arrived in Westwood, UCLA and Stanford played during the first week of Pac-12 play in 2017. The Cardinal defended their home turf and won in a 58-34 barnburner.
Between that game, the failed comeback in the 2018 season finale that ended with a missed field goal and two turnovers on downs, the 2020 overtime shootout and the two losses in one week back in 2012 – the second coming in the conference title game – Stanford has long had UCLA's number and picked them apart in increasingly unique ways.
The collapse in 2020, and all the other bizarre losses for the Bruins, again won't play a part in motivating the team in 2021, according to Kelly.
"We're not in the avenge world, we look forward," Kelly said. "Again, success isn't a continuum, nor is failure. So to continue to dwell and to talk about things that went on in the past is just a waste of time and so that's what we always try and impress to our players."
UCLA does have some reinforcements this time around, reloading for what apparently is not a revenge game.
The only offensive starter the Bruins lost from last year, Demetric Felton, was banged up and did not play against Stanford in 2020. Now, Brown will have Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet alongside him in the backfield, boasting 291 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage in his first three games with UCLA.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson also left midway through the second quarter against Stanford, and he now enters this matchup fully healthy and leading the Pac-12 in passer rating at 183.7.
Cornerback Cam Johnson came in from North Texas and true freshman corner Devin Kirkwood has immediately inserted himself into the lineup even with so much veteran depth around him.
This will be the first-ever road game for Kirkwood, defensive lineman Jay Toia and all the other young faces on UCLA's roster. That means the first time following road COVID-19 protocols, which Kelly emphasized are still just as important to the team's success as they were last season.
The Bruins have also continued to blast music at practice to prepare for the road environment, Kelly said Monday. In terms of the trip itself, Kelly joked that there isn't much to prepare for on that front.
"We drove around campus like 16 times in a bus, that’s our practice," Kelly said. "You’ve just got to go. We were fortunate to play three home games because of how our out-of-conference schedule fell, we’ll have some kids travel for the first time, but it is a veteran team, most of these kids have traveled."
One of those veterans has quite a bit of familiarity with the Cardinal too.
Cornerback Obi Eboh, who graduated from Stanford in 2020, will face his old team in his old home stadium for the first time since transferring.
"I'd be lying if there wasn't a little extra motivation and emotion going back up there," Eboh said. "But as far as what the game plan goes with how I'm going to play, I don't think it changes things very much from how I prepare and do things from a week to week basis. I think, if anything, I'm gonna be playing pretty damn hard out there."
Throwing at Eboh, Kirkwood and Johnson will be quarterback Tanner McKee, who despite being part of Stanford's 2018 recruiting class, did not overlap with Eboh and did not show up on campus until 2020. McKee left for his Latter-day Saint mission before ever taking the field, but he has returned and lit up defenses this season for 452 yards, six total touchdowns and a 165.7 passer rating in his two appearances as a starter.
McKee will look to join the ranks of Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener by carving up a UCLA secondary allowing 342.7 yards per game through the air.
Having lost to Haener's Bulldogs in Week 3, UCLA will have to defeat Stanford to remain above .500 and stay in the AP top 25, in addition to setting the stage for their first potential winning season under Kelly.
UCLA and Stanford will kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday.