UCLA versus California may not be the biggest rivalry in California college football—UCLA versus USC or Cal versus Stanford each come to mind—but there will be no love lost when the Bruins travel north for a key Pac-12 game.
UCLA is having a resurgent season, currently ranked No. 25 in the AP poll, with the only blemish on the team's resume a 27-20 loss to No. 14 Oregon State.
Meanwhile, Cal has struggled to start the year. The Golden Bears are 1-4, and have not only lost to national powers USC and Ohio State, but have also dropped games to Nevada and Arizona State. Jeff Tedford and company are starting to feel the heat, you can be sure of that.
It's the battle of the bears in this Pac-12 showdown. To the preview!
Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, California
When: Saturday, October 6 at 10 p.m. ET
Watch: Pac-12 Network
Betting Line: UCLA (-2.5), according to Bet Online
Are you surprised UCLA is only laying 2.5 points?
UCLA Injuries (via USA Today)
Devin Lucien, Collarbone, Out
C Greg Capella, Concussion, Day-to-Day
CB Ishmael Adams, Shoulder, Out for Season
California Injuries (via USA Today)
DL Aaron Tipoti, Knee Questionable
TE Spencer Hagan, Knee, Questionable
OL Matt Summers-Gavin, Knee, Questionable
LB Khairi Fortt, Knee, Questionable
Two teams moving in opposite directions meet in this California clash. The Bruins broke a three-year losing streak to the Golden Bears a year ago, and they'll be looking to make it two years in a row.
Top 25 Implications
The 25th-ranked Bruins should remain in the 20-25 range in the rankings with a win, but they would drop out of the Top 25 like a pass hitting Jason Witten in the hands if they lost to California. Already 1-4, the Golden Bears won't sniff anywhere near the rankings this year.
What They're Saying
After five games, it is clear that the Bruins have something special in Hundley, a redshirt freshman. Now they have to protect him.
The Bruins have not had their No. 1 quarterback make it through the season since Drew Olson in 2005. In 2008, UCLA lost its No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks — PatrickCowan and Ben Olson—before the season started.
So every time Hundley takes off on a run, UCLA fans are certain to gasp.
Meanwhile, after Cal's disappointing start to the season, head coach Jeff Tedford might just find himself on the hot seat according to Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Before the game, I visited a tailgate party full of wealthy, influential alums. One of them, particularly well-connected and in the know, cast a grim outlook on Tedford's future. He asked not to be quoted by name, and that's always an unsatisfying experience for the reader, but there are times when off-the-record comments reflect the tone of a crisis, and that could well be the case here.
"I'm the last one off the bus when it comes to (firing) Tedford," he told me. "But we have to move on. His game management has been awful. I mean, that 4th-and-1 call at Ohio State (opting for a field goal) when we'd already racked up 500 yards! I like the guy, personally. This beautiful new stadium doesn't get done without him. But it's so frustrating. If this doesn't turn around, I really think they'll buy him out. I'm predicting that if we finish under .500, he's gone."
That doesn't sound good for Tedford. Stay tuned.
UCLA Player to Watch: Brett Hundley, QB
Let's talk more about that Hundley guy.
The redshirt freshman truly has been fantastic this year, throwing for 1,480 yards, 11 touchdowns (to just three interceptions) and a 66.1 completion percentage. Behind him, UCLA has the 18th-best passing offense in the country. Oh, and he's rushed for 165 yards and four touchdowns, too.
Not bad after five games for a redshirt freshman, huh?
But that is the underlying factor here—he's young and inexperienced. He's bound to throw up a stinker at some point, right?
Maybe, maybe not, but if he turns the ball over against Cal, he'll give a team the Bruins should be able to handle some confidence and a fighting chance. The young signal-caller will have to be sharp in a tricky game for the Bruins on the road.
California Player to Watch: Keenan Allen, WR
Without question, the most dangerous player for Cal is Allen. A year ago, he caught 98 passes for 1343 yards and six touchdowns, and he's picked up where he left off, nabbing 33 balls for 388 yards and two touchdowns. He's also added a punt return for a touchdown and a rushing score.
Allen will almost assuredly declare for the NFL draft after this season, but he has one more chance to get a win over UCLA. If he is able to get going early, the Bruins are going to have a hard time dealing with the dynamic playmaker.
Key Matchup: UCLA Rushing Attack vs. Cal Front-Seven
Hundley may have gotten a lot of love thus far in this preview, but running back Johnathan Franklin also deserves some love. The senior has run for 697 yards this season and three touchdowns, a huge part of UCLA's 13th-ranked rushing attack.
That's trouble for Cal, who has given up 220 or more rushing yards twice this season and has won the time of possession battle just once in five games.
If UCLA controls the ball and keeps the offense on the field, this game is going to get ugly, plain and simple. The Bruins are too good on offense to not take advantage of a surplus of possession.
Cal will play UCLA tough, but the Bruins are simply too talented to let this one slip away. UCLA wins, 31-20.
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