It has been a long week, lamenting over a 1-4 start that is pretty much in the realm of Cal's worst-case scenario coming into the season. It seems like all we talked about this week on CGB was Coach Jeff Tedford and whether this will be his last year as Cal's head coach.
Regardless of what you might think about Coach Tedford's fate at this point in the season, the fact remains that there is still plenty of season left to play. When today's game is completed, Cal will have reached the halfway point of the 2012 regular season. So as dire as things might seem for the Bears after a 1-4 beginning to the season (0-2 in the Pac-12), there is still time (theoretically) for Cal to turn this thing around. But if the Bears are going to do that today, they will have to do it against a very good UCLA team that has started its season strongly under first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr. UCLA (4-1 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) has won four of its first five games, including a signature win against then-No. 17 Nebraska on September 8.
Cal would like nothing better than to right the ship tonight, on homecoming in the annual Joe Roth Memorial Game. But to do so, Cal will have to slow down a Bruins' offense that is ranked first in the conference and fourth nationally in total offense (560.4 yards per game) and third in the conference in scoring offense (36.8 points per game). Defensively, the Bruins lead the conference in interceptions with nine and are third in sacks (3.60 per game). On the positive side for Cal, the Bears have some bit of history on their side: Cal has won six straight games against UCLA at home and has not lost to the Bruins at Memorial Stadium since 1998. The Bears have won five straight in Berkeley against UCLA under Coach Tedford, including a 35-7 victory in 2010 the last time UCLA ventured to Memorial Stadium.
This is your official pregame thread. Get out your pregame jitters here in the comments. Watch for the official game stream as we get closer to kickoff. More game info after the jump.
Saturday, Oct. 6, 7:00 p.m. (PT)
Cal (1-4, 0-2) vs. UCLA (4-1, 1-1)
California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
TV: Pac-12 Networks - Ted Robinson (Play-by-Play), Glenn Parker (Analyst), Ryan Nece (Sideline Reporter)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst, *Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Sideline, *Pregame Show), Lee Grosscup (^Postgame Show), Matt Foley (^Postgame Show) *Pregame Show: Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza, Memorial Stadium;^Postgame Show: Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: *KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KGO 810 AM (San Francisco), +KLAA 830 AM (Los Angeles), KRAK 910 AM (Los Angeles), KAHI 950 AM (Sacramento), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno), XEPE 1700 AM (San Diego)
^Primary, *Secondary; +joined in progress after Notre Dame-Miami (FL) game on Saturday, Oct. 6
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast of the Golden Bears' game against UCLA can be heard on the Internet through the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page at CalBears.com.
Cal Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM, kalx.com (Berkeley) - Josh Toyofuku (Play-by-Play), Cliff Zimmerman (Analyst), Sam Gall (Analyst)
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Cal's commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-UCLA game can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio on channel 94 on Sirius and channel 193 on XM.
CalBears.com: Visit CalBears.com for complete coverage of Cal football, including a live play-by-play update via Gametracker.
Cal Coaches Corner: The one-hour program airs from 6-7 p.m. each Monday on KNEW Radio (910) and is broadcast live from the Paragon at the Claremont Hotel, Club and Spa in Berkeley.
Fans are welcome to listen in person at the Claremont (41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley), while those who want to submit questions to coach Tedford can do so by logging on at CalBears.com/fanquestion.
Under first-year coach Jim Mora Jr., the 25th-ranked Bruins have gotten off to a good start. UCLA is 4-1 (1-1 Pac-12), with the only loss coming two weeks ago at home to surprisingly undefeated Oregon State. Defensively, the Bears have their work cut out for them: the Pistol offense that UCLA ran under Rick Neuheisel might be a thing of the past, but the Bruin offense is still humming along at an impressive pace. Running back Johnathan Franklin is one of the Pac-12's best, averaging 139.4 yards per game (4th nationally) and rating third in the nation in rushing yards (697) after five games. As good as Franklin is, the real key to the UCLA offense is redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley. ManBearCal previewed the UCLA offense and had this to say about its field general:
After taking a redshirt season as a true freshman during the final death throes of Rick Neuheisel's tenure as Bruin head coach, Hundley won the starting job over both Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut. He's looked every bit the highly touted recruit he was pegged as back in 2011 too. Through 5 games, Hundley has completed 66% of his passes for 1480 yards, 11 touchdowns and just 3 picks. That comes out to just a shade under 300 yards per game through the air, and Hundley chucks the ball and average of 37 times every Saturday. He's pretty nifty with his feet as well, rushing 49 times for 165 yards and 4 more scores. He had his biggest days on the ground against Rice and Nebraska, but is still good for anywhere between 30 and 40 yards per game, depending on the opponent...UH OH! New Bruin offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has done a really nice job designing an offense that plays to Hundley's strengths, and the UCLA offense has been very good as a result. While there are still some elements of the Pistol in place, UCLA has been able to take advantage when opponents stack the box to stop the run thanks to Hundley's efficiency, vision and good arm.
As for the UCLA defense, that will be no picnic for Cal either. The Bears offense has struggled mightily the last two weeks, particularly in the area of pass protection. So facing a UCLA unit that has averaged 3.60 sacks per game is not exactly an ideal matchup for the beleaguered Cal offensive line. norcalnick previewed the UCLA defense earlier this week and wore his heart on his sleeve about what he thinks we should do today:
I'll go on record as saying that I think UCLA's defense isn't as good as the numbers indicate. UCLA is 35th in scoring defense but 65th in yards/play, and that's because the Bruins have been forcing turnovers and getting off the field on 3rd down. The general statistical wisdom suggests that the former is random luck and the latter could easily be the function of a small sample size. I do think that this UCLA defense has improved from last year's iteration, but not this much.
I won't go on record as saying that anything I just said matters in this individual game. UCLA's biggest strengths (pressuring the QB and forcing turnovers, if that is a skill) happen to mesh perfectly with Cal's weaknesses. But if UCLA's defense has a weakness that can be exploited, it's in the run game.
After the last two weeks, it's clear that potentially extreme tactics should be on the table. Run the ball on 1st down, run the ball on 2nd down, run the ball on 3rd down. Pitch it to Isi. Give is to Keenan on a reverse. Hand it off to C.J. Have Isi run the zone read with the option to hand off to Bigelow. I'm only kinda kidding here. I love our running backs, and I'd prefer to win or lose this game with the ball in their hands.
So there you go. The Bears could use a win today in the worst way, but it's not going to be an easy one to get against the little brother campus to the south. UCLA is simply a better football team right now than Cal. To beat them, the Bears will have to play better than they have played all season -- or at least as well as they played against Ohio State, but this time for four quarters.
Enjoy the game. But just in case today goes not-so-well, I leave you with highlights of a happier time against UCLA.