No. 22/23 Cal at No. 5 Utah
When: 7:15 p.m. Pacific, Sat., Oct. 10
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
Weekly Preview Presser: Message Board Thread
TV: ESPN - Dave Pasch (Play-by-Play), Brian Griese (Analyst), Tom Luginbill (Field Analyst)
Radio: KGO 810 AM - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), former Cal QB Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (Sideline)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: Sirius (137) and XM (197)
Series History: California leads, 5-4
Last Meeting: at Utah 49, Cal 27 (Oct. 27, 2012)
First Meeting: Cal 63, Utah 0 (Oct. 23, 1920)
ESPN College Game Day
Fans will be admitted into the GameDay site starting at 4:30 a.m. at Presidents Circle. The first 300 people in line will earn a place in the pit, located immediately adjacent to the GameDay set. While signs are encouraged, fans should be aware that prohibited items include projectiles, signs on sticks, food or drink, backpacks or purses.
On Saturday morning, there will be free parking for the general public in the Merrill Engineering lot and fans are encouraged to arrive at the GameDay grounds on Presidents Circle by 5 a.m. for the start of the live hits.
The ESPN College GameDay show will air from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. and will feature hosts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Sam Ponder and David Pollack.
No. 1 Key for Cal? It Could Be No. 2
The Bears have to get the run game back to where it was against San Diego State and Texas against a very stout Utah front seven, which ranks No. 41 in the nation in run defense, but ranks 109th in the nation in tackles for loss.
The Utes are, however, seventh in the nation in defensive touchdowns, 12th in fewest first downs allowed by penalty, seventh in forced turnovers, 15th in interceptions, and fourth in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed.
Also, while the Bears have had issues converting on third-and-short, so far, Utah has been middling, at best, when facing third downs on defense, allowing opponents to convert 42.37% of the time, 97th in the nation. That said, the Utes are 38th in the nation in fewest first downs allowed via the run.
Here's where the running game can really help: Giving Goff time. The Utes allow 2.25 passing touchdowns per game, and have not faced a quarterback nearly as prolific as Goff. That 2.25 passing TDs? It ranks 111th in the nation.
Daniel Lasco has been itching to get let off the chain all week, after a poor performance in the first half against Washington State earned him a seat on the end of the bench. His timing and rhythm, he said were not there.
"If you miss two games, it's hard to go back out there and play against a good team like Washington State, and just go back out there and expect to be 100 percent," Lasco says. "Going into the game, I knew I wasn't quite there, but I wanted to convince myself that I was, and I tried to make a lot of home run plays happen, and I failed on them. It proved that I wasn't quite there yet. The coaching staff decided to sit me for the rest of the game, make sure that nothing else happened to me, and I come out of it not taking a step back."
He said after the game that he didn't have the pop that he had wanted, but this week, he did.
"I'm still getting there," he said on Tuesday. "It's just hard and frustrating that I can't be back at 100 percent, right when I want to, but I've got to trust in the process and in our strength and training staff, and believe that they're going to get me right."
When asked where he is now, compared to two weeks ago, Lasco scoffs.
"It's way different," he says. "It feels a lot better. I'm able to run around. It's not harping on my mind too much. I can go out there, do plays and not think about it. Once I can finally do it without thinking about it at all, run 10, 12 plays without thinking about it, that's when I'll know when I'm back, for sure."
There are still moments of consideration, and even hesitation.
"It's not a sharp pain, or anything like that; it's just tight," Lasco says. "It's just one of those things that I have to work through. It's healed. Everything's fine with it. I just have to know in my head that I've got to get right."
The injury actually did not happen when Lasco was hit in his hip/groin area with a helmet in the third quarter against San Diego State.
"That's what everybody believes, but it was just a freak accident," Lasco says. "I just got rolled up on, my body went one way, and somebody hit my leg the other way, so it contorted one way and opened my legs too far, almost like I was doing the splits. Unfortunately, I'm not that flexible. It was a minor injury, and I'm just trying to get back to 100 percent."
Playing "balls to the wall" is all that's on Lasco's mind.
"I wouldn't say it's frustration, and I'm aggravated with it, a little bit," Lasco said of the injury. "It's all in my head. I know I'm 100 percent, or very, very close to it. It's just the mental side that I'm going to have to push through and trust in my body, and trust in what the training staff and what the strength staff have put a lot of hours into."
Having Lasco get going early will be important to keep Cal ahead of the chains, and give Goff a chance to target a weak back half that was exposed early on by Michigan.
"We were in a lot of second-and-10s and a lot of third-and-longs," Dykes says. "It's going to be important for us to do a better job in early downs, running the ball, staying on schedule. We've got to get four or five yards on first down, which we did a very poor job of doing on Saturday. Pad level Saturday was not what it needed to be. They leveraged us a lot. They got under our pads and we didn't play as low and as physical as we'd played the two weeks before."
Odds and Ends
This is the second straight Pac-12 opponent Cal will play, coming off of their bye week.
"It's not ideal," says Dykes. "But, I like where we are right now, as a program. We have a little bit of momentum."
Utah is eighth in the nation in third down conversion, and there's a good reason: Success on first and second down. The Bears are tied for 86th in the nation in third down defense.
"They have a little bit different approach, offensively, than some of the teams we've played against," Dykes said. "They've done a really good job this year of staying ahead of the chains. They do a good job on first and second down. They haven't had to throw the ball a lot down the field on third downs. They've done a nice job of managing it and making sure there's not too many third-and-long situations. When they've gotten in those, they've executed well and protected well. That's going to be the big thing for us. First down's going to be big in this ballgame. We've got to do a good job defensively on first down, and then, we've got to create turnovers."
Cal leads the nation with 18 turnovers gained this season.
A big part of defending first downs, and against the Utes' running game, led by read-option quarterback Travis Wilson and running back Devontae Booker, will be the defensive front, in particular Mustafa Jalil, James Looney, Tony Mekari, Marcus Manley and David Davis.
Jalil will "have a much larger role" this week, Dykes has said, and Art Kaufman detailed what that means earlier this week.
"We had several sacks when we only rushed three, and part of the reason you rush three is you get an extra dropper, and it creates smaller windows," Dykes said of Jalil's lack of snaps last week, and the decision to play three down linemen for most of the game against pass-heavy Washington State. "It allows you to do some different things on the back end, defensively. Most of the time, when you rush three and you get sacks, it's not necessarily somebody beating the pass blocker; it's more a product of covering everybody."
Cal defensive end DeVante Wilson has practiced all week, after missing last week's game with a foot injury.
The Utes installed a new field turf this week, and some of the early reviews have been mostly good, but it's going to have some new turf softness to it.
Utah has been practicing on their new field all week, and the Bears got to practice on it Friday. The new field is a bit slippery, according to the Utes players who played on it on Monday, but they will only have had 2 more days to acclimate to it than the Bears. If you see some footing issues, that's why.
The old turf was seven years old -- about when the field turfs wear out -- and it was going to be replaced at the end of the season, but with a month between home games, the Utes decided now was the right time. The field was originally installed in 2009.
After missing two games with a leg injury, starting defensive end Hunter Dimick is expected to play this week. He's been practicing all week. Former Cal recruit Kylie Fitts Fitts, and Filipo Mokofisi have been working in, in his stead.
Game Week Content
- Bear Republic Podcast with LB Coach Garret Chachere
- Cal at Utah: Two Minute Drill
- BTTV: Art Kaufman Talks Defending Utah
- Behind Enemy Lines Chat Transcript
- Key Match-Up: Rock vs. Hard Place
- Bear Republic Podcast: The Good, The Bad ...
- Key Match-Up: Tuesday Special
- Stefan McClure Named Player of the Week
- Chaos In College Football Power Rankings
- What Does Cal Need to Improve vs. Utah?
- College Football Week 5: Top 10 Storylines
- Breakdown: Chopping Up Cal's Win Over Wazzu
- Instant Analysis: Cal Beats Washington State