What a difference one game makes.
Ten days ago, the California Golden Bears were coming off a wretched 30-9 "home" loss to USC. Though Cal's defense played reasonably well against the Trojans, worries about the offense abounded. And thoughts of Cal missing yet another bowl season were at the forefront of many a Golden Bear fan's mind as the sputtering Cal offense got ready to face a tough Utah Utes' defense last Saturday.
Meanwhile, in Westwood ten days ago, the UCLA Bruins had some positive things going for them. They were coming off a gritty 28-25 comeback win over Washington State and had won two of their first three Pac-12 games. On top of that, they were headed to Tucson for what Bruins' fans had to feel was a winnable Thursday night ESPN game against the struggling (and then-winless in the Pac-12) Arizona Wildcats, which was playing their first game since firing head coach Mike Stoops.
Ten days later and one game later for each team, is it possible that the teams' respective fortunes (at least in the estimation of their respective fan bases) have done a complete 180 degree turn? Cal (4-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) dismantled Utah last week 34-10 for the Bears' first Pac-12 win, showing a dominating defense and improved quarterback play from Zach Maynard. Meanwhile, UCLA (3-4 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) was shellacked 48-12 by Arizona on national television. And to add insult to injury (or is it injury to insult?), six UCLA players were suspended for today's game for their parts in an on-field fight that happened near the end of the first half of the Arizona game.
This afternoon, Cal takes on UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Bears hope to take advantage of the Bruin suspensions and keep momentum going both ways -- that is, continue the positive momentum the Bears created in last week's win against Utah and keep UCLA on track toward the increasingly inevitable end to the Rick Neuheisel era.
This post is your official pregame open thread. Talk about the Cal-UCLA game here and watch for the link to the first quarter thread as the opening kickoff draws near.
CLICK HERE FOR ONLINE STREAM OF THE GAME
(Password: gobears) -- HT to prd74
2011 CALIFORNIA FOOTBALL
Saturday, Oct. 29, 4:00 p.m. (PT)
Cal (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) at UCLA (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12)
The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
TV: Prime Ticket - Bill McDonald (Play-by-Play), J.J. Stokes (Analyst), Chris McGee (Sideline Reporter)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-By-Play), Troy Taylor (Analyst, Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Pregame Show, Sideline), Lee Grosscup (Postgame Show), Kate Scott (Postgame Show) P*Postgame at the Paragon, Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KPRZ 1210 AM (San Diego), KMZT 1260 AM (Los Angeles), KTKZ 1380 AM (Sacramento), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno).
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast feed of the game can be heard on the Internet thorugh the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page.
Cal Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM (Berkeley) - KALX 90.7 FM (Berkeley) - Danny Freisinger (Play-By-Play), Elliott Schwimmer (Analyst)
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: The home team's commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-UCLA game can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio. The UCLA home feed of the contest is available on Channel 85 on both Sirius and XM.
CalBears.com: Visit CalBears.com for complete coverage of Cal football, including a live play-by-play update via Gametracker.
Last week against Utah, the Cal offense played well against one of the tougher defenses in the Pac-12. Ca we expect more of the same today against UCLA? norcalnick previewed the UCLA defense and thinks that Cal fans should have optimism today.
Stats of Dubious Predictive Value
9 total turnovers forced (4 fumbles, 5 interceptions), 92nd in the nation
Not so great.
55.96% conversion rate allowed, 118th in the nation
Nearly worst in the nation.
64.52% touchdowns allowed, 93.55% scoring allowed (86th and 116th in the nation, respectively)
Not so great. Are we all sensing a pattern here?
All of the component stats add up to a defense that offers very little to recommend itself. This is a unit that, on the whole, ranks in the bottom 20 in the nation. Stanford, Arizona, Texas, and Houston have all been able to do essentially whatever they want on offense. Washington State and Oregon State both moved the ball effectively but were done in by extreme red zone profligacy and turnovers, respectively.
So: If the same offense that you saw in the 2nd and 3rd quarters against Utah shows up Cal should have no problems at all moving the ball and scoring points. But if Maynard starts throwing interceptions like he’s playing that other team from L.A., or if the entire team gets the yips inside the 20 again, it’s possible Cal won’t maximize their chances to score points.
Okay, so what about when UCLA has the ball? Can the Cal defense have a repeat performance of its impressive showing against an offensively-challenged Utah team? ManBearCal took a look at the UCLA offense and what we might expect to see today. In particular, in light of the suspensions -- which hit UCLA's wide receiver corps more than any other position -- ManBearCal looks at who the Bruins have left to catch the ball:
Nelson Rosario, Senior - 6'5, 218 lbs
Taylor Embree, Junior - 6', 201 lbsSUSPENDED
Shaq Evans, Junior - 6'1, 196 lbsSUSPENDED
Randall Carroll, Junior - 5'10, 186 lbsSUSPENDED
Ricky Marvray, Junior - 5'11, 188 lbsSUSPENDED
Josh Smith, Senior - 6'1, 213 lbs
Jerry Rice Jr, Junior - 5'10, 182 lbs
Yeesh. Without re-hashing too much of the whole fight and suspensions mess, let me just point out that between the 4 wide receivers not playing this week, there was a TOTAL of 30 receptions for 360 yards and 2 TDs. They weren't utilized much, they didn't contribute much, and they likely weren't gonna make much of a difference anyway. So let's just look at whose left for UCLA, since that won't take long. Rosario is the Bruins' leading receiver with 30 catches for 558 yards. He has yet to catch a touchdown. Considering he should be a supreme red-zone weapon at 6'5 and almost 220 pounds, that is pathetic. He doesn't have very good hands and his heart has been openly questioned by UCLA beat writers. Burn. Jerry Rice Jr will likely see the first action of his college career on Saturday. He's a walk-on, and he's not his dad. At all. Josh Smith is fast and possesses big-play ability. He's only got 6 catches on the year, but they go for an average of 26.3 yards. He's also got a rushing touchdown on the year and returns kicks for the Bruins. He might get a lot of work on at least the special teams side of things this Saturday. Junior Jerry Johnson should be back after missing a big chunk of time due to a broken ankle. He's a big body, but how effective can he be in his first game back? Well, he sure seems to think he'll be okay. I guess 5 career receptions is a good indicator of domination potential. Unless Neuheisel burns the redshirt of freshman Devin Lucien, that's pretty much it for UCLA's receivers. Expect frosh running back Jordon James and F-Back Anthony Barr to possibly be split out wide as well though.
So, there you go, Cal fans. Two of CGB's football writers have let you know that we should have optimism that the Bears can make it two wins in a row and four in a row against the Bruins. So, naturally, I know you're now feeling EXTREMELY nervous about this one. But put that nervousness aside, think good thoughts, and GO BEARS!
And if that doesn't work, here's something to watch to make you happy.