A tale of two locker rooms.

Jim Harbaugh met his Stanford team for the first time in 2007.

Bo McNally, a Stanford safety from 2006-09, recalled: "He said, 'Look, we're going to be champions here. If you don't think it's possible, we don't want you here. No hard feelings, but take your scholarship for the rest of the year and figure out what else you want to do.'"

Jim Mora faced UCLA players for the first time in 2012.

UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr said: "His face was stone cold. He said, 'The way NFL people perceive UCLA is it is soft. I'm not a soft guy and that is no longer going to be the mark of this program. You're going to work harder than you ever have in your life. If you're not willing to do that, there's the door.'"

Two coaches. One mandate.

The Cardinal has realized Harbaugh's vision. Stanford, no longer the Pac-12's 98-pound, 198-IQ weakling, is the defending conference champion.

A clearer picture of UCLA will be known after this weekend. The No. 9 Bruins are tough. How tough will be judged after they play the No. 13 Cardinal in Palo Alto on Saturday.

Many have compared Mora to former USC coach Pete Carroll, who was also a former NFL coach when hired to coach in Los Angeles. But Carroll merely reanimated a culture that had existed at USC. Mora, like Harbaugh, has changed a culture.

Stanford had not been to the Rose Bowl since losing the 2000 game. The Cardinal is 35-5 the last three seasons. Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers after 2010. The Cardinal continued on, winning the 2012 Rose Bowl under his successor, David Shaw.

UCLA has not been to the Rose Bowl since losing the 1999 game. The Bruins came close last season, finishing 9-5 and losing to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.

Cardinal wins

Harbaugh walked into his first conference media day and poked the bear. Deadpan, he insisted that USC was not only the best team in the nation, but the greatest team in college football history.

"He called them out," McNally said. "We looked at each other and it was like, 'This is interesting, but we're the guys who are going to have to back it up on the field.'"

The Cardinal had a 30-49 record in six seasons before Harbaugh arrived. Stanford finished 1-11, losing to USC, 42-0, in 2006.

"There was no way around the fact that we were everyone's punching bag," McNally said.

So …

Shaw, an assistant who came with Harbaugh, said: "We had to change the attitude. It wasn't that we had kids who didn't know how to work, they just weren't able to walk into a situation knowing they had a chance to win."

Harbaugh showed some, and showed others the door, weaning out the non-believers.

He demonstrated that you could recruit at a school that had high academic standards. Brawn and brains could mix. He landed prized quarterback Andrew Luck in 2008 and brought in a passel of linemen, tight ends and linebackers, then beefed them up.