Cal Preview

Is there a possibility for a letdown? Can the #4-ranked Bruins trip up against the winless Cal Bears? Does this team have that kind of championship killer instinct to destroy over-matched opponents?

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:

-- California's 0-5 start in its first in its 119-year history.

-- Cal is playing its third-straight ranked opponent, losing to Washington, 31-29, on September 29th and Oregon, 48-7, last week.

-- Cal is facing its sixth straight unbeaten team this season when it plays UCLA this Saturday. Cal has faced a brutal schedule; its first six opponents have a combined 32-2 record so far this year.

-- The loss against Oregon was the third worst in history at Cal's Memorial Stadium. The worst was to UCLA in 1978, 45-0.

-- Of course, former UCLA Offensive Coordinator, Al Borges, is the current Cal offensive coordinator.

-- Most telling stat: UCLA leads the Pac-10 in allowing the least amount of points per game (12.0); Cal is dead last in the conference in scoring points (17.6 ppg.)

-- Cal has beaten UCLA the last two years, beating UCLA last year in Berkeley in three overtimes, 46-38. In 1999, Cal beat the Bruins 17-0 at the Rose Bowl.

-- The Bears have the worst turnover margin in the Pac-10, -16.

-- Cal has not held an opponent scoreless in a quarter since it's September 8th game against BYU.

-- The third quarter: UCLA has outscored its opponents in the third quarter, 51-0, while Cal has been outscored in the third quarter, 65-13.

-- Of course, Cal starting quarterback, junior Kyle Boller, will sit out the game due to a back injury. Boller, who had wanted to go to UCLA when he played at Newhall Hart, is undefeated against UCLA in his two seasons with the Bears. UCLA coaches had prepared signs that were going to be hung around the UCLA locker room of Boller with a target on his uniform, and quotes from Boller where he comments about how he liked beating UCLA. New starter, senior Eric Holtfreter, will now undoubtedly have the target on his uniform.

-- UCLA running back, DeShaun Foster leads the nation in rushing with a 162.60 per game average. He is this week's favorite for the Heisman, according to various news outlets.

-- Cal is last in 10 of the 30 team statistical catetories in the Pac-10, including last in scoring offense, scoring defense, pass defense, total defense, and turnover margin.

-- Robert Thomas is on track to break UCLA's single season record for tackles for loss. After five games, Thomas has 16 tackles for loss; the all-time record ins 22, set by Marvcus Patton in 1989. He is first in the Pac-10 in tackles per game (10.2) and tackles for loss per game (3.2).

-- Cal Head Coach Tom Holmoe is on an extremely hot seat.

CAL OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE

Cal, so far this season, has pretty much abandoned its running game and taken to the air. Percentage-wise, Cal has thrown the ball more often than any team in the Pac-10. They've racked up some decent numbers passing the ball as a result, but it's made their offense particularly one-dimensional. Junior running back Joe Igber (pictured at right) averaged close to 100 yards a game last season, but this year averages just about half that. This trend looks to get even worse against UCLA, which is arguably the best run defense in the conference and one of the best in the country. Besides the incredibly deep front line, middle linebacker Robert Thomas (pictured below left) is on fire, coming off one of his best games against Washington, where he made three dramatic tackles for loss.

But with starting quarterback Kyle Boller out for the game, Cal's passing offense might not be able to go to the air as well as it has this year. Stepping in for him is Eric Holtfreter, a 6-2 senior with little experience. Holtfreter is thought to have a decent arm but isn't very mobile, which bodes well for a UCLA rush that has been pretty hard on opposing quarterbacks. Last week, the UCLA defense put the Washington quarterback, Taylor Barton, in the hospital.

This isn't a difficult game plan that UCLA will throw at Cal defensively; it's probably pretty close to the one we saw against Washington. Shut down the run, no need to blitz too much, let the front four provide the pressure like they have been all year on Holtfreter, and don't get burned by any long passes.

One highlight for the Cal offense this year has been the play of senior wide receiver Charon Arnold, who has caught 29 balls for 340 yards, he ranks second in the conference in receptions per game (5.6). But Arnold will have an inexperienced quarterback throwing to him, and while Cal's offensive line has generally provided good pass protection, they haven't seen a rush like they'll get from UCLA's defense.

Advantage: UCLA, clearly. Cal struggled against Oregon last week, and Oregon's defense is ranked ninth in total defense in the Pac-10. As opposed to UCLA's defense, which sits atop the total defense rankings. Expect UCLA's first string to shut out Cal pretty handily, or at least keep the Cal score very low. Not to sound arrogant, but the question will be whether UCLA's second- and third-string defense will be able to step up and stop Cal's offense from scoring.

UCLA'S OFFENSE V. CAL'S DEFENSE

This is also a very easy call; Cal, so far this year, has stacked the box against every opponent and challenged opposing offenses to beat them through the air. Doing this, they still haven't been that successful in stopping the run, giving up an average of 146 yards a game. What it has done is made their passing defense incredibly vulnerable, giving up a Pac-10 high of 320 yards a game through the air.

So, it's not too hard to speculate that Cal, going up against the best running back in the country in DeShaun Foster, will attempt to stack the box again and shut down Foster. The theory will be to try to make UCLA quarterback Cory Paus (pictured at right) beat the Bears. It makes even more sense from a Cal standpoint since UCLA's most experienced receiver, Brian Poli-Dixon, is out with a dislocated shoulder and UCLA is thin at receiver.

But, it's doubtful that Cal will be able to stop Foster even by stacking the box. UCLA's offensive line is getting better and better with every game, and Cal's defensive line is going the other direction. And it's just as doubtful that Cal will be able to stop UCLA's passing game, even without Poli-Dixon. Cal has been very unsuccessful at shutting down its opponents passing game, giving up a lot of big plays. Heck, giving up a lot of small plays, too.

Probably Cal's best defensive player is senior outside linebacker, Scott Fujita, (pictured below left) who has good size and good quickness. His job will probably be to get to Paus and get some hits on him and take him out of his rhythm. But UCLA will be on Fujita, and without much help from a under-talented and young defensive unit, probably be able to neutralize him.

Cal's defense has allowed 43.6 points a game so far this season. That says it all.

Advantage: UCLA. It's not as one-sided as UCLA's defense against Cal's offense, but it's close. UCLA is going to try to use this game to get its offense to function at a higher level of effectivness. Watch for UCLA, of course, to run Foster, but don't be surprised if Paus gets close to 300 yards passing, going to his fullbacks and tight ends more, and then stretching the Cal defense deep. If UCLA just gave the ball to Foster they'd put up plenty of points (as it did against Washington last week), but UCLA will use Cal to try to get its passing game better on track.

PREDICTION: Predicting a score for this one is a bit tricky since the way you would have to believe the game is going to go is UCLA scores early and often, and UCLA's first-string defense more or less shuts out Cal's offense. But if this happens, UCLA's starters shouldn't play much beyond the middle of the third quarter. Cal's first string offense could then play most of the second half against the lower part of UCLA's depth chart. That could put Cal on the scoreboard. Far too little too late, but still it could get them some points. Is there a chance that UCLA is over-confident and looking ahead? This team, having been through the fire the last two seasons, is really intent on taking care of business each week. If there was a game that would be considered a letdown game that you'd like UCLA to have it would be Cal, since there is always a rivalry and now a revenge factor since UCLA has lost to Cal the last two seasons. Also, this team really wants to rack up a blow-out loss. And they're just plain hungry to want to beat the crud out of everyone.

UCLA 52

Cal 14


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