No. 11 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. Cal (1-4, 0-2)
Location: Rose Bowl, Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)
Last meeting: Cal upset No. 25 UCLA, 43-17, in what was the Bruins’ worst outing of 2012. The Bears picked off Brett Hundley four times and sacked him five times.
2012 records: Bruins (9-5, 6-3); Bears (3-9, 2-7)
Key storylines: UCLA won’t likely peek forward to next weekend’s Stanford trip. No, most of the team is still seething over last year’s 43-17 upset loss to Cal.
“You can tell on all their faces,” said true freshman linebacker Myles Jack. “They have a bitter feeling about that game. Coach Mora, he’s still sour about that game. I’m just feeding off that energy.”
Jack and the rest of the team shouldn’t have much trouble exacting revenge. The Bruins are a better squad than they were last year, and the Bears are significantly worse.
Led by first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, Cal is limping through its rebuilding season. Linebackers David Wilkerson and Chris McCain have transferred out and been dismissed, respectively — the latest exodus from what was a vaunted 2010 recruiting class. (The haul was rated No. 11 in the country by Rivals.com. Of the 19 signees, nine have left the team without either exhausting their eligibility or leaving for the NFL.)
The Bears defensive backfield has taken the biggest hits, finishing with just three healthy bodies after a 44-22 loss to Washington State. Starting safety Avery Sebastian was lost to a torn Achilles in early September, while starting cornerback Stefan McClure had season-ending knee surgery this week. Junior cornerback Kameron Jackson is expected to play, but Cal tried playing its star receivers both ways just in case. Center Chris Adcock is also done for the years, and numerous injuries have hit the defensive front seven.
Although there’s little hope for anything beyond a two- or three-win season, true freshman quarterback Jared Goff looks like the real deal.
Key players: The Bears haven’t found a star quarterback since Aaron Rodgers, so Goff’s 360.2 passing yards per game (third in the country) provide hope at the position. He only has nine touchdowns and is completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes, but has fit well into Dykes’ “Bear Raid” offense.
“His poise for his age and his experience (stand out),” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. “His ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly and throw accurately. His decision-making. I think he’s a really good football player.”
Goff has weapons in receivers Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, both of whom are on the Biletnikoff watch list. Both rank top-10 in the Pac-12 in total receiving yards, combining for 928 and five touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said the duo will be “by far” the best UCLA has seen this season.
The Bruins’ offense shouldn’t have a tough time against Cal’s defense, which ranks 123rd in the nation with 524.0 yards allowed and 124th with 45.0 points allowed. Even so, it’s worth watching how Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch look at right guard and right tackle, respectively. If the two true freshman don’t perform well next to each other, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm could shift players around.
Running back Jordon James (ankle) is doubtful to play Saturday, so redshirt freshman Paul Perkins will make his first career start. Perkins isn’t as shifty, but is better at lowering his shoulder and bowling through a defender. After rushing for 92 yards at Utah, he could carve a larger role for himself in the offense with another strong showing. If James’ injury lingers, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Perkins seizes the No. 1 spot permanently.
Did you know?: Cal coach Sonny Dykes last visited the Rose Bowl for U2′s 2009 concert, played before a sold-out crowd of 97,014 and turned into a 2010 film. “It was pretty awesome,” he told the Daily Californian. “Hopefully, this trip is as fun as the last one.”