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California (4-2, 2-2 in Pac-12) vs. UCLA (4-2, 1-2)
Last Time Out: at UCLA 37, Cal 10 (Oct. 12, 2013)
Last Time in Berkeley: Cal 43, UCLA 17 (Oct. 6, 2012)
The Betting Line: UCLA -7; O/U 74
When: Oct. 18, 12:30 PM Pacific
Where: KABAM Field at California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Watch: ABC/ESPN2; Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Quint Kessenich (sideline)
Listen: KGO 810 AM, Cal IMG Sports Network; Joe Starkey (play-by-play), Mike Pawlawski (analyst), Todd McKim (sideline reporter)
Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM; Glenn Borok (play-by-play), Vince Morgado (analyst), Nic Montano (analyst)
California Injury Report: Stefan McClure (probable; calf), Khalfani Muhammad (probable; thumb), Joel Willis (out for season; ACL), Griffin Piatt (out for season; ACL), Michael Lowe (probable; concussion), Ray Hudson (probable), Chris Borrayo (questionable; concussion), Jeffrey Coprich (questionable; foot), Edward Tandy (probable; concussion), Brennan Scarlett (unlikely; knee)
Q&A With L.A. Daily News
HUGE OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL VISITOR LIST
Cal Game Notes
UCLA Game Notes
DISCUSS: Message Boards
FUN FACT: Cal has won the last seven meetings at Memorial Stadium, dating back to 2000.
FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. We will see Luke Rubenzer get back in the offense after spending a game on the sidelines.
2. Cal will have at least three passing plays of over 20 yards.
3. Noah Westerfield will tally his first sack against a UCLA line that allowed 10 sacks against Utah.
4. The Bears will hold Paul Perkins to 100 rushing yards or less.
5. Khalfani Muhammad will have at least three carries, despite his casted thumb.
What to Watch for on Offense:
UCLA’S LINEBACKERS: The Bruins have perhaps the best and deepest corps of linebackers in the conference. Sophomore Myles Jack, redshirt senior Eric Kendricks and junior Kenny Orjioke have combined for 113 tackles and six tackles for loss. Kendricks is second in the Pac-12 in tackles with 68, and Jack is tied for ninth with Shaq Thompson and John Timu, with 46 stops.
Kendricks – the younger brother of former conference defensive player of the year and former Bear Mychal Kendricks, who will be in attendance on Saturday – is just like his older brother. He’s a physical presence all over the field, and is very good in run support, something that’s going to be crucial to find a way around if Cal is to get the run game going, like head coach Sonny Dykes hopes, particularly given how well Oregon ran against the Bruins last week, averaging 6.3 yards per carry and totaling 258 yards on the ground on the evening – even better than their 217.2 ypg season average.
“That’s something we certainly want to improve in,” said Dykes, who has not had a back go for over 100 yards for two straight weeks, now. “We always want to run the football, and I think it’s particularly important this week. They’ve got a good defensive front, they rush the passer well, so the more success we can have running the football the more heat it takes off of that group.”
DEFENSIVE FRONT AGAINST CAL’S OL: The ghosts of recruiting seasons past will certainly haunt the Bears up front. Eddie Vanderdoes and Owamagbe Odighizuwa on the ends, Kenny Clark and Ellis McCarthy in the middle – this is arguably the best defensive line that Cal will face all season. There is not a single man up front who wasn’t at least a four-star coming out of high school.
Clark leads the group with 29 total tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, with one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery. Vanderdoes has 23 stops, including 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one forced fumble. Odighizuwa has 23 stops, a team-leading 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one pass breakup. He’s long, fast and can get into passing lanes.
[IN-DEPTH: One-On-One With Yenser and the OL]
Cal’s offensive line allowed a season-worst four sacks on Saturday, and without left guard Chris Borrayo -- perhaps the most aggressive interior lineman – the big uglies will be a little less nasty, though Matt Cochran subbing in could help. Cochran getting his first start since going down after three games last year brings an experienced lineman into the mix, but it also leaves guard depth a bit shallow. Last game, Alex Crosthwaite as subbed out because of three penalties and some poor performance, and he was replaced with Cochran. With Cochran now potentially starting, that means Cal would probably go to Cochran’s younger brother Aaron Cochran at the right guard spot. That can be good and bad. The younger Cochran’s pass sets still need some work, but having a 6-foot-8 guard who specializes in run blocking could be a boon. The X-factor is whether or not his inexperience rear its head.
Last season, Anthony Barr tore apart left tackle Freddie Tagaloa because of his unwillingness to adapt to multiple pass rush moves. Current starting left tackle Steven Moore won’t be facing the departed Barr, but he’s going to have to be able to provide more blindside protection than he provided quarterback Jared Goff this past week.
WHAT CAN AN EXPERIENCED SECONDARY LEARN FROM Washington: Coming in to last week’s game, Cal had 29 passing plays of at least 20 yards, peaking at 10 such plays against Washington State and its imposing front seven. UCLA’s front seven will provide even more pressure than either the Cougars or the Huskies, which limited the Bears to not a single passing play of over 20 yards for the first time this season.
The Bruins, though, won’t play deep quarters – or at least, have not this season – so they are not built to defend the deep pass – or at least, to cut off that option. That said, UCLA has a very experienced defensive backfield, and perhaps the most athletic that Cal will fact this season.
What the Bruins won’t have is safety Randall Goforth, who will be out with a shoulder injury. That could lead to Cal attacking the deep middle of the defense with both Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper.
“He’s a good player. He’s a good athlete, and he’s got some experience, so what that does is, it forces somebody into that role that maybe doesn’t have as much experience,” Dykes said. “The good thing for them is that they’ve got a lot of depth. They’ve got a lot of good athletes, and guys that can play. I don’t think that’ll be that big of a drop-off.”
Who’s going to be starting in place of Goforth? Former Bears commit Jaleel Wadood.
“Kudos to him for breaking the starting lineup as a freshman,” said wide receivers coach Rob Likens. “He plays with a lot of great confidence. He’s a safety that comes down. He’ll play at linebacker depth sometimes, and they count on him to make plays. He’s a smaller guy, but plays with a lot of spirit.”
It’s clear that explosive plays are the key for this offense. Against Colorado, the Bears had three rushing plays of over 12 yards and six passing plays of over 20. In the offensive shootout in Tucson, Cal rushed four times for at least 12 yards, and passed seven times for over 20. It’s no coincidence that the only games in which the Bears had two or fewer explosive plays (rushes of over 12, passes of over 20), they’ve had their lowest offensive outputs (the opener against Northwestern, and last week against Washington).
[FEATURE: Cal WRs Reunite With Old Friends]
What to Watch for on Defense
UCLA’S RUN GAME AND PAUL PERKINS: UCLA has the No. 5 rushing attack in the conference, and the Bruins’ Paul Perkins is the second-most prolific back in the Pac-12, behind USC’s Javorius Allen. He’s averaging 121.7 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry, and has the second-most carries in the conference with 116. Last week, Perkins broke out for 190 yards against Oregon in a 42-30 loss.
“I think he’s had right at 100 yards in every game, maybe high-90s, but he’s had right at 100 yards, and the last game, he had 190, and he’s a tremendous back,” said Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. “A lot of what helps him is their quarterback and their throwing game. People start playing that, and they’ll hand it off to him.”
Containing the edge will not only be important in stopping mobile quarterback Brett Hundley, but Perkins, as well.
“He sticks it in there north and south,” Kaufman said. “When I look at the plays that he made against Oregon, he gets the ball on one play, and a guy has a chance to tackle him within two steps of having the ball, he’s able to get that guy, slip that guy and then takes it downhill. That’s the biggest thing, I think. He’s a slash back that sticks it downhill, and you’ve got to get him before he gets going.
“I think he’s probably the best running back that we’ve seen thus far this season. I think we were able to handle Arizona, but it’s a different type of offense than what Arizona did, and I think this’ll be a good challenge for us.”
That said, Cal still owns the third-best rushing defense in the conference, holding opposing backs to 3.5 yards per carry – the fourth-best in the Pac-12. Not having Brennan Scarlett to pressure Hundley, though, could mean more throws than runs, just like last week, when Scarlett was unavailable against run-heavy Washington.
HEALTHY SECONDARY: It’s no accident that, since safety Stefan McClure first went down before Arizona, the Cal secondary has been abysmal. In four games, opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 165.5 rating against the Bears, with 8.3 yards per attempt and a 68.9% completion percentage. Opposing passers have piled up 21 touchdowns and 1,982 yards.
In no game since McClure went down has Cal had the benefit of its top three most experienced safeties, and now, the Bears will have McClure, Avery Sebastian and Michael Lowe, along with converted receivers Patrick Worstell and Bryce McGovern, somewhat mitigating the loss of leading tackler and leading interceptor Griffin Piatt.
The Bruins have the seventh passing offense in the Pac-12, despite Hundley’s eye-popping completion percentage, but are averaging over eight yards per attempt. As pressured as Hundley has been, he’s only thrown three interceptions in 162 attempts, and is third in the conference behind Goff and Marcus Mariota in passer efficiency (170.1).
BRETT HUNDLEY: The UCLA quarterback leads the nation with a 72.2 completion percentage, and is sixth in the Pac-12 in total yards of offense, having run for 211 net yards despite taking a conference-worst 25 sacks.
“I think the big thing is, we have to do some things to get pressure on him,” said Kaufman. “He’s been sacked, but some of it may have been coverage sacks, and some of it may have been protection, but he does a tremendous job of getting the ball off and knowing what he’s doing when things are working in his favor. He’s an experienced guy, a tremendous player.”
Hundley’s accuracy against a secondary that’s been gashed for four straight games will also be a factor, particularly with young corners.
“We’ve got to try to do some things to make him hold the ball when we can, and make him throw it where he doesn't want to, or make him make good throws; that’s the biggest key,” Kaufman said.
Having McClure and Lowe back will help take some of the pressure off of the linebackers when spying Hundley.
“It’s everybody doing their job,” Dykes said. “The biggest thing you’ve got to do is keep him covered on the back end, because he can scramble around and throw it down field, but at the same time, you’ve got to do a good job of staying in your rush lanes and the ends keeping contain and just doing all the stuff that you have to do, and then get your linebackers to fill. It’s really kind of a team effort to try and keep him in the pocket, and then he obviously does a nice job when they have designed runs.”