CGB Pre-Season: UCLA Roundtable

TwistNHook:  The Baby Bruins come to town.  Can Cal beat them?  I sure hope so. 

Avinash:  Of course Cal can beat them. Are you saying we should forfeit the game?

TwistNHook:  That is exactly what I am saying.  It's almost like you are me.

Yellow Fever:  Just what I'd expect from a closet Harbaugh lover.

TwistNHook:  Wouldn't you expect a closet Harbaugh lover to be embarrassingly bombastic with a penchant to stick their foot in their mou................oh, I get it!

Kodiak:  A quote from Pac-10 media day, "Neuheisel says "sweat equity" and recruiting classes gives UCLA right to talk about conference titles."

Um.  Okay.  I can work-out and talk about Olivia Wilde, but the best-case scenario for meeting her still ends in a restraining order.  I suppose they didn't have any over the wall shenanigans this year...maybe that's why he's so bullish on their sweat.  Join us after the jump to take a closer look at UCLA


Special teams is clearly one of their strengths.  They have a good punter and their jedi-sounding kicker is the best in the nation.(Kai Forbath)

They only have five returning starters on defense, but two of them are really good players. Ayers(OLB) and Moore(FS) are both dangerous ball-hawks.  Although their defense was one of the best in the league last year, it's hard for me to see them being the same or better having lost monster tackle Brian Price and two other starters from the line.  I suspect that their stud D-line made everyone else look a lot better the last couple of years.  They were able to count on their front 4 to stuff the run and provide pressure without overly committing other players.   It remains to be seen if their touted young talent is ready to step-up.  




On offense, much was made of their off-season adaptation of Nevada's pistol offense.  This is a bit perplexing to me.  You have two soph QB's working with a proven OC and QB-coach(Norm Chow).  Why not let Chow play to his strengths and just develop his guys?  Instead, they all have to learn a new scheme, Chow included.  As an opposing fan, I like it.  Having faced Nevada earlier in the year, I think we'll be well-prepared for whatever variant of the pistol, revolver, or water gun they come up with.  I don't think either of their QB's, (Prince or Brehaut) are supposed to be running QB's (recruited as pro-style, I had thought)...In fact, Prince missed some time last year after getting clobbered on a run at Tennessee.  Both of them have potential if given enough time to throw. - Prince had one of his better games against us last year.  There are solid players at RB and WR, but they lost their top two TE's.  The real question for them is whether their o-line will be improved.

So what do you do when your little sibling comes into your house talking smack?  It's beat-down time.  Their defense is going to take a step back from last year, and they still don't have enough experienced talent on offense.  After playing at Nevada and at Arizona, we're either going to be riding high with well-deserved confidence or in must-win mode.  Either way, we'll be ready for this one.  Cal wins, 38-19.  They score 4 FG's and one late TD in garbage time to make it look respectable.  Vereen goes for 150 and his backup goes over 100 yards.  Riley throws for an efficient 200+ yards.

 

NorCalNick:  Does UCLA have a functional QB, RB and offensive line yet?  Is Kevin Craft still around?  I really liked that guy.  And as a side note, I'd like to thank UCLA for beating Cal in every battle for a potential recruit that will either send tweets with ethnic slurs, steal purses, or quit the team for unclear reasons.

Yellow Fever:  Are you sure we didn't beat them out for a recruit who will quit the team for unclear reasons?

TwistNHook:  The Curse Of Stan Hasiak? 

Hey, does anybody have that Best video?  Oh ya, that's right, it's here:




After a difficult game against Arizona, hopefully Cal get some quality home cooking against UCLA.  Sandwiched in between that Arizona game and a trip to the Coliseum, if Cal loses this game, it could mean a three game losing streak (at least).  UCLA is an improving team, but still one that a 2010 Cal team needs to defeat to have a hope of going to a decent bowl game. 

The NY Times sports blog "The Quad" took a look at UCLA recently (ranking them at 40th in the nation, it appears) and pointed to one reason for Bruins' optimism:

The offensive line returns four starters, with the lone lost starter, left tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo, departing for his Mormon mission one year after a strong true freshman campaign. His departure leaves a hole on the blind side, one U.C.L.A. hopes will be filled by redshirt freshman Nik Abele. Fifth-year senior Micah Kia is also an option at left tackle, where he’s started in the past. Kia, however, must prove he’s back at full health after missing all of last season with a knee injury. The rest of the line remains intact. The Bruins will be solid at center and right tackle, where juniors Kai Maiava and Mike Harris started 12 and 13 games last season, respectively. Former JUCO transfer Eddie Williams, a senior, will serve at right guard, where he started the first six games of 2009 before being sidelined with a fractured ankle. Junior Jeff Baca, whose 21 career starts leads all U.C.L.A. linemen, returns at left guard. The hope is this: after two years in the system, this still-young group is ready to take a step forward. The ability is there.

 



With youth at a lot of skill positions, it is great news for Bruins' fans to hear that their offensive line has a goodly amount of experience  When you read that there are many juniors and seniors who started many, many games playing at key OLine positions, it will certain make many Bruins fans happy.

And me sad! 

 

NorCalNick: Well, it's not like last year's Bruin line was awesome, though they were highly touted as recruits, so it's possible this year could be their breakout year.


The eternal  question for the Bruins seems to be: "Will their frequently excellent recruiting classes finally lead to on-field success?  Neuheisel has certainly brought in talent, but outside of some solid defense and a great kicker the Bruins haven't realized that talent.  And despite that goofy first place vote it doesn't look like the media is expecting them to do so this year either.  I think the general consensus is that even if the offensive line takes a big step forward, UCLA doesn't have the skill players to take full advantage.


I'm hoping that Cal's home field advantage will be enough to emerge victorious regardless of the amount of progress UCLA may have made.

TwistNHook:  Anybody wanna see that Best video again?  I KNOW I DO!


Yellow Fever:  I'm still waiting for the football monopoly in LA to be over.

 

Berkelium97: This is their sixth game of the season, so Kevin Prince will be out with over 9000 injuries already.  Maybe Kevin Craft will return to Memorial to break his record of 4 interceptions in one game.

Without Brian Price or Alterraun Verner, the UCLA defense isn't nearly as tough as it was last year.  Price terrorized the O-line and Best whenever he was on the field.

Field position should be important in this one, as Kai Forbath can kick a field goal from pretty much anywhere inside the 50.  If special teams and the offense take care of business, this should be one of the easier victories of the season.

 

Avinash:  There's a lot of ways you can go with this UCLA squad offensively. They have the potential to be good. They have the potential to be pretty average. They also have the potential to suck, if all the things that happened last year happen this year.

Kevin Prince definitely has the ability to turn it around. There were a few things to like last year (Prince has a great arm and a pretty good scrambler, as does his backup Richard Brehaut), but it's hard to get a read on him because his offensive line was battered by injury and roughed up by health issues.

TwistNHook:  Here's a video of me cooking pasta, no wait, I'm just kidding, it's Jahvid Best!


Avinash:  You sure do love that video don't you?

The good thing for him is that he should have stability on his offensive line. Stan Hasiak distractions aside, four starters return from last year's squad, so they should be able to perform better as a unit and give Prince protection and the running backs space. Three seniors who were hurt by injury last season (Micah Kia, Darius Savage, Ryan Taylor) will vie for their own spots on the team. The big question will be left tackle, where RS freshman Nik Abele will start. Will Cameron Jordan and/or Trevor Guyton be able to push him back on his heels and collapse the pocket?

At the running back and wide receiver positions. Jonathan Franklin, Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree all return, with plenty of talent lurking behind them. So all the funny business aside, UCLA returns nine starters on their offense. That usually spells improvement.

(Guys, Kevin Craft graduated.)

We'll get an early read on this team's offensive abilities when they play Texas. If they put up a fight, I suspect our game with them a few weeks later will be a little bit harder than people expect.

 

HydroTech:  UCLA an offensive threat?  Maybe.  Kevin Prince only completed 56.2% of his passes last year (perhaps Cal fans shouldn't be ones to gloat as since he still had a better completion percentage than Riley's 54.7%), only had 8 touchdowns, and a pedestrian 6.66 yards per attempt.  That's not much to fear statistically, at least. 

As for their running game, both of their top two returning rushers Johnathan Franklin, and Derrick Coleman, both only averaged 4.5 yards per rush.  Solid, but nothing spectacular for a college RB. 

 

Avinash:  It should be noted Prince and Franklin played their first seasons last year, along with most of the offensive line and some of the receivers. So you'd have to think they'd improve on their efforts from last season and haven't plateaued, especially when that O-line in front of them were pretty young themselves.

You have to figure with all these powerhouse recruiting classes UCLA has compiled the last three years, the talent starts playing up to its expected level sooner rather than later.

TwistNHook:  What's that, you all want to see that Jahvid Best video?  WELL, I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR YOU ALL!


OhioBear: During the Tedford era, this is the series that has probably given me the most heartburn.  Why?  Well, with the exception of the 2002 game (won by Cal 17-12 in a game that can only be described as weird), I am of the opinion that Cal has gone into the Ucla game as clearly the better team.  Yet, Ucla has beaten us three times in those seven meetings (2003, 2005, 2007).  Thankfully, Cal managed to get the "Tedford hasn't won in L.A." monkey off the program's back last year, which was a relief. 

 
I would like to say that we will have no trouble with this game.  But with this series, I just can't get too comfortable -- notwithstanding the fact that Ucla has not won in Berkeley since 1998.  I keep waiting for Ucla to turn the corner and start to click with Norm Chow's offense.  Will this be the year?  Who knows.  One thing I am expecting with Ucla is that they will be pretty good on defense, as they have been the last couple of years.  Though we moved the ball easily at times against Ucla's talented defense last year (shockingly so), my assumption will be that Ucla's defense will at least keep them in this game.  And if the Ucla defense can win some field position battles with our offense, the Ucla offense does not even have to play that well in order to get points.  If Ucla can get the ball at midfield, for example, they only need to get one first down, basically, before they are in Kai Forbath's FG range.  (Why can't WE ever get a guy like that?!?) 
 
As with the game in Berkeley two years ago, which Ucla kept close for three quarters in spite of its largely inept offense, Cal will likely have to make plays in the 4th quarter in order to win.  It won't be easy, but I think Cal will win this one.  The home field has meant a lot in this series in recent years; last year was an exception to that rule, but this year will not be.  
 
Prediction: Cal 28, Ucla 16


Berkelium97:  Cal 38, UCLA 22 (Forbath hits 5 field goals).


NorCalNick:  Hmm, I like Berkelium's prediction.  I'll go with Cal 38, UCLA 21 (Forbath hits 7 field goals).


CBKWit:  I think the loss of Brian Price is hard to overstate.  To my eyes, he was by far the most dominant, and perhaps the best player in the Pac-10 last year (maybe Jahvid excepted?).  He made that ucla defense - when he was on the sideline against Cal, we were able to move the ball at will.  When he was in the lineup (again, one spectacular Jahvid run excepted), ucla shut Cal down.

Without him around to dominate what should be an improved Cal offensive line, I think we'll put up plenty of points to win relatively comfortably.

TwistNHook:  Has anybody seen that video of Jahvid Best's 93 yard rush against UCLA last year?  Oh wait, it's right here AND EVERYWHERE:




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