The UCLA Bruins will visit California Saturday for a 7 p.m. game to be televised by the Pac-12 Network and the Bruins will be looking to do something they haven’t done in 14 years: Win in Berkeley.
Memorial Stadium has been UCLA’s house of horrors with six consecutive losses there by a combined score of 222-129, including a 35-7 debacle the last time the Bruins visited Cal in 2010.
If UCLA is to end that streak and win at Cal for the first time since 1998, this appears to be as good a year as any to do so. UCLA (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) is back in the top 25 rankings and is 2-0 on the road this season while Cal (1-4, 0-2) appears to be a team on the verge of falling apart.
It’s not quite that simple, however, as the Golden Bears remain a worrisome foe. Their record doesn’t look that great, but they took No. 12 Ohio State to the wire in Columbus, Ohio, stayed close to No. 13 USC for three quarters and were within a field goal of Arizona State with less than 10 minutes to play last week before losing, 27-17.
“They are a team that is very dangerous,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “They do a lot of things offensively that give you problems -- a lot of different things that you have to prepare for. They’ve always played good defense because they’ve always had a good defensive line.”
On offense, California has plenty of weapons. Receiver Keenan Allen, an all-conference selection last year, is the best of the bunch. Allen leads the team with 33 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns receiving. At 6-3, 210 pounds, he has the size to create problems even for UCLA’s big cornerbacks and has hands good enough to have him closing in on Cal’s school record for career receptions.
Allen also has good chemistry with quarterback Zack Maynard, who happens to be his half brother. Maynard has been plagued by inconsistency, but can be very good as evidenced by his 2,990 yards passing last season. He also has the ability to run which is something the UCLA defense will certainly be aware of after giving up long touchdown runs to quarterbacks twice already this season.
Maynard had a 39-yard run last year against UCLA. Running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson split most of the running load. Sofele is shifty and strong and has 333 yards rushing so far this season after logging 1,322 last season. Anderson is more of a power back who has 243 yards rushing.
“A lot of times when you face a team like Cal that gives you a lot of different looks, it’s really important that you go back to basics on defense and take care of your own shop,” Mora said. “Sometimes you can get into trouble when you try to find an answer for every single thing that they do. Sometimes when you do that you come up with no answers so you have to be guarded against doing that.”
Cal’s vulnerability this season has come on defense. The Golden Bears are giving up 174.8 yards rushing per game this season, which is last among Pac-12 teams. The fact that three of the four leading tacklers for Cal are defensive backs indicates that things are amiss in the front seven of Cal’s 3-4 scheme and UCLA should look to exploit that with Johnathan Franklin, the nation’s third leading rusher with 697 yards.
Cal has given up at least 27 points in every game this season and is 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense having allowed 30.2 points per game. That bodes well for a UCLA team that is third in the conference in scoring with 36.8 points per game and leads the conference in total offense with 558.4 yards per game.