Both of them are coming off tough losses at the hands of ranked opponents that they doubtlessly wish they could take back.
Both of them displayed anemic offenses last week. Both of them are lingering far lower than they'd like to be in the Pac-12 standings.
This weekend, one of them, at least, will have an opportunity to get a leg up.
After putting up four consecutive losses, the Utah Utes will have a chance to take down the California Golden Bears, losers of four of their last six. In defeat, each of these teams has displayed some very troublesome offensive woes, both against stiff competition and not-so-stiff competition.
Saturday's game will be all about whichever team can manage to overcome them, if only for an afternoon.
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Watch: Pac-12 Network
Listen: KGO 810 AM in Northern California, ESPN 700 in Utah
Live Stream: CalBears.com
Betting Line (via OddsShark.com): Utah -1 1/2
California Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- TE Spencer Hagan (knee) hasn't played since Sept. 15 and is questionable for Saturday
- LB David Wilkerson (ankle) is out for the season
- LB Cecil Whiteside (academics) will miss the entire season
- LB Khairi Fortt (knee) is out for the season
- LB Jason Gibson (foot) is out until mid-November
- OL Mark Brazinkski (knee) is out indefinitely
- DB Stefan McClure (knee) is out indefinitely
Utah Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- DB Wykie Freeman (leg) is out for the season
- QB Jordan Wynn (shoulder) is out for the season
- DT Junior Salt (foot) is out for the season
- WR Anthony Denham (shoulder) is out for the season
- DB Keith McGill (shoulder) is out for the season
- OL Marc Pouvave (Achilles) is out indefinitely
- QB Chase Hansen (shoulder) is out for the season
It's safe to say that neither of these teams stands a good chance of sneaking into the BCS poll by season's end. Climbing back to .500 by season's end might be a more reasonable goal.
And it's not one that looks promising for Cal. It has four games remaining on its schedule, two of which are against teams currently ranked in the Top 10. In other words, in order to salvage pride, it at least needs to win this week against Utah and next week against Washington.
Utah has a bit of an easier time of it, as none of the remaining five games on its docket will come against ranked opponents. That means, despite the fact that there's not a lot at stake (besides getting their first conference win), Utah needs to start winning at home in order to pull it together, and it needs to start this weekend.
What They're Saying
A berth to a bowl game isn't yet out of the question for Cal, even if a BCS bowl is far from in the cards. But time is running out, and it's absolutely essential that the Bears come out of this weekend with a win if they want to remain in the hunt.
The only problem is, it might be difficult for them to swing the momentum in their favor after suffering a devastating 21-3 loss at home to their fiercest rivals. And another problem is that the Utes are strong precisely where the Bears are not, according to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News.
Not only does Wilner believe the Bears need a win on Saturday (and one or two more down the line) in order to snag a bowl bid, but he believes that the career of head coach Jeff Tedford could depend on their ability to do so.
Until Saturday, the Bears had reason to be mildly optimistic. Beat Stanford and climb into the postseason after a 1-4 start—that would have provided the administration with enough justification to bring him back, if it was so inclined.
The Utes aren't doing too much better themselves, though—in part, due to their quarterback situation. Injuries have forced true freshman Travis Wilson into a starting role, and he made the second start of his career in Saturday's 21-7 loss to No. 8 Oregon State.
It's obvious from the box score that things didn't go well for Wilson and the Utes' offense. It was also obvious from the four turnovers the QB coughed up (two fumbles, two picks).
The good news is, Wilson isn't skirting the blame. He knows that for the Utes to be better, he has to be far better. Wilson told the Deseret News' Dirk Facer:
It definitely hurts, but I think this team has the potential to finish out the season strong and I think we'll do it. We just need to keep on working hard. I definitely need to work hard, too.
He and Utah should be on a level playing field, at the very least, against Cal this weekend.
Cal Player to Watch
The Bears' offense struggled last Saturday, mostly because senior quarterback Zach Maynard struggled. The QB has had an up-and-down season thus far, but Saturday marked only the second time this season that he failed to throw or rush for a touchdown.
More problematic was the fact that it marked the third straight game in which he registered at least one turnover; he's had four in his last three games, and he's only had two games this season in which he's managed to hold on to the ball.
This offense's success starts with Maynard's ability to protect the football, and he has a big opportunity to show up a true freshman on the road this weekend. He needs to take every advantage of that opportunity.
Utah Player to Watch
Last week, Utah seemed very committed to its running game, rushing the ball 45 times (and gaining just 135 yards) while passing it just 28 times for 172 yards. Given Wilson's inexperience, turning to the backfield makes sense—especially with senior John White and junior Kelvin York back there.
Both of these running backs need to step up and get something done against a Cal defense that is far from formidable. Last week, White got 20 carries and only managed 68 yards, nearly half of which came on a single rush attempt. York got 10 carries for 52 yards. They're going to be the primary form of offense of Utah, especially against a Cal team that allowed a whopping 252 rushing yards to Stanford last week.
For the first time in at least three weeks, the Utes are facing a team that, objectively, they are very capable of beating. Saturday is the perfect time for this offense to show up, and it starts with White and York.
The winner of this game could very well come down to whichever team manages to make fewer mistakes, because the errors were numerous for each of these teams last week.
Utah's offense committed four turnovers. Cal coughed up the ball three times (two fumbles, one pick). Both of these teams know they have a huge opportunity to turn the season around this weekend, but they also know that they don't have much time, making Saturday's matchup a must-win for each of them.
It really is anyone's game. Utah is only favored by 1 1/2 points at home, and it's going to be a battle. Whichever offense manages to be a little less sloppy will be the one that comes out on top.
Prediction: Cal Wins
When it comes to picking the team with better odds of limiting the mistakes, Cal is the answer. They may be on the road, and Utah may be favored (by the slimmest of margins), but the Bears have experience at quarterback, which is one thing the Utes are desperately lacking at this point.
Utah's inexperienced freshman QB will once again be unable to produce against a Pac-12 rival, and Maynard, meanwhile, will get his act together in a must-win for the fading Bears.
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