UCLA Bruins vs. Cal Golden Bears: Complete Game Preview
The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (4-0) will look to stay undefeated in 2013 as the team welcomes the struggling Cal Golden Bears (1-4) to the Rose Bowl.
UCLA surely has the thought of revenge on its mind. Last year, Jim Mora's team was embarrassed in Berkeley by a score of 43-17. Brett Hundley had perhaps his worst game of his young career, throwing four interceptions in the loss.
Cal has been absolutely besieged by injury thus far in the season. The majority of the projected starting defense has not been able to play. Additionally, the Golden Bears are facing injuries on the offensive line.
Here's everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 12
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: ESPN 2
Radio: Sirius XM Radio
Spread: UCLA -25 per VegasInsider.com.
Cal Keys to Victory
1. Play unconventionally to compensate for depth and injury issues
Cal is shorthanded in this game, both in depth and overall talent. Injuries have robbed the Golden Bears of what was looking like a solid defense heading into the season.
Projected starting defensive linemen Mustafa Jalil and Brennan Scarlett have not played this season. Starting defensive end Chris McCain was dismissed recently from the program. Defensive captain and starting safety Avery Sebastian was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Sonny Dykes' team has nothing to lose in this contest. Trick plays, misdirection and anything out of the norm should be brought to the table. The turnover battle is also something to note. If Cal is to have a chance in this game, it cannot turn the ball over multiple times.
2. Get the ball to Treggs and Harper
Realistically, quarterback Jared Goff will be throwing the ball upwards of 30 times. Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper will be the top two targets in the pass game and for good reason.
Each have the potential to take the proverbial top off of a defense. Treggs is a great route-runner and a very technically sound receiver. Harper is the big-play threat for the Golden Bears. His quickness and leaping ability help make him one of the better receivers in the conference.
Cal will undoubtedly test UCLA's young, inexperienced secondary. Goff's ability to throw the ball down the field with accuracy makes the matchup between the Bruins' secondary and Cal's wide receiver corps very interesting to watch.
UCLA Keys to Victory
1. Keep it simple
UCLA does not have to reinvent the wheel in this contest. The Bruins could come with a rather vanilla game plan and likely still score upwards of 40 points. Cal's defense is No. 121 out of 123 teams in the country.
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh's defense is giving up an average of 524 yards a game. UCLA is ranked No. 4 in total offense.
That's not good news for the Golden Bears.
2. Get after Goff
UCLA should do everything it can in order to make life difficult on Cal's true freshman quarterback. The likes of Anthony Barr, Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, Cassius Marsh and Keenan Graham figure to provide a stiff test for Cal's young offensive line.
With constant pressure, it could force Goff into making ill-advised throws. Although inexperienced in its own right, UCLA's secondary has proven to be very opportunistic. The defensive backs were able to get six interceptions against Utah quarterback Travis Wilson last week.
While repeating that performance might not be feasible, it's realistic to assume that the Golden Bears might turn the ball over a few times. Cal turned the ball over five times last week in a loss to Washington State.
Players to Watch for Cal
The Crespi High School product just has a knack for getting open and separating from defenders down the field. He constantly is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He also has great leaping ability on jump balls.
Interestingly enough, usual starting running back Brendan Bigelow has been demoted to third on the depth chart. In his place against UCLA will be true freshman Khalfani Muhammad.
Like Harper, Muhammad is a Southern California native. He will likely want to perform well in front of his family and friends. He's rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries thus far in 2013. Muhammad is also Cal's best option on kick returns.
Muhammad came to Cal as a highly decorated athlete. He was the first repeat winner of the Cal-Hi Athlete of the Year Award since 1904. He also was the California state champion in back-to-back years (2012-13) in the 100 meters and 200 meters.
He's not overly big at 5'8", 175 pounds, but Muhammad has speed to burn. The Bruins need to be mindful, or else the diminutive running back could be gone in the blink of an eye.
Players to Watch for UCLA
Barr has been very active in the 2013-14 campaign. He's second on the team in sacks (three) and third in tackles (23). Barr also leads the Bruins with eight tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
The Golden Bears' offensive line has been not only injury-prone but just not all that good. Starting center Chris Adcock and right guard Matt Cochran will not be available for the game.
All of the above adds up to UCLA's best defensive player having a monster game.
With Jordon James doubtful for the game, Perkins is the likely replacement.
Perkins had a nice game in his first bit of extended time against Utah last week. He rushed 16 times for 92 yards. He also had two catches for 49 yards.
Against Utah, Perkins proved to be a very smooth runner, possessing good vision and running effectively behind his pads. He hit the hole hard and ran with surprising power. Cal's defense is No. 70 nationally in rush defense. He should be able to have some success on the ground.
What They Are Saying
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes on his team: "We have no confidence right now, and I think we're a fragile football team."
UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr reflecting on last year's loss to the Golden Bears: "Any time someone beats you, you kind of want to play them a little tougher. This is the biggest game on our schedule."
Cal offensive tackle Freddie Tagaloa on going up against Anthony Barr: "I'm very confident, but I have to respect his speed. Using my long arms is something I've been working on this week going into the game."
Cal quarterback Jared Goff on UCLA: "Right now our goal is to beat UCLA. We need to keep getting better, fix the things we're not good at and continue to do the things we're good at."
UCLA 56, Cal 24
You have to feel for Sonny Dykes. Injuries have essentially robbed the 2013-14 season from his team. There's no depth on either side of the ball. For the positions that aren't paper-thin, experience is an issue.
With two starters out on the offensive line, the Golden Bears figure to struggle against UCLA's talented front seven. On the other side of the ball, a decimated secondary will have trouble defending against the Bruins' wide receiver corps.
Lastly, the angle of revenge will be freshly on UCLA's mind. The team won't be looking ahead to Stanford in the following week. This contest will strictly encompass a business-like approach for Mora's bunch.
Cal should have some success in the air. The duo of Harper and Treggs is one of the better ones in the conference. However, UCLA's speed up front will force some errant throws by Goff. If Cal has any chance in this ballgame, it cannot turn the ball over.