UCLA hasn't won in Berkeley since 1998, which was before there were people living in trees outside Memorial Stadium. Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at the issues and key matchups in today's game:
The Bears are still talking about contending for the Pacific 10 Conference title. The Bruins are talking about becoming bowl eligible. Someone walks away from this one talking about something else.
California has played two bad quarters this season, but it cost the Bears games against Maryland and Arizona. Cal blew a 24-14 lead against Arizona last week, giving up 28 third-quarter points in a 42-27 loss. A defeat at home to the Bruins could fuel another collapse, like last season's 2-6 finish.
UCLA's bowl-game dreams are real -- at least for now. The Bruins need three more victories to become bowl eligible.
A loss today would leave them needing to finish 3-1 against Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State and USC.
The Bruins have huge concerns about the Bears' speed, particularly running back Jahvid Best.
Best's availability is unknown, though. He sustained a dislocated elbow Sept. 27 but returned last Saturday against Arizona. However, he left that game after three quarters, holding his elbow.
Bears Coach Jeff Tedford said that Best would play, and a coach would never hide an injury . . . would he?
If Best can't go, or is limited, the Bears will turn to Shane Vereen, who has 395 yards rushing and averages 6.0 yards a carry.
"Everyone on that team is fast and shifty," UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "It's going to be a challenge to stay in front of the ball and make tackles. One thing about football, you can be the fastest person in the world, but if that one person is working by himself and we're working as a team, we can negate that speed."
A tip for the Bears: have more than a touchdown lead with two minutes left.
When the Bruins shift their offense into hurry-up mode, quarterback Kevin Craft plays like Joe Montana.
The rest of the time he has resembled Joe the Plumber.
Craft has guided the Bruins to scores six times while running their two-minute offense, which is the difference between their 3-4 record and being 1-6.
In the trenches
California's offensive line is big and talented, anchored by center Alex Mack. That, and a couple of running backs who have sprinter's speed and shifty moves, make for a dangerous running game.
UCLA's defensive front is in a sling, more or less. The Bruins will play without ends Tom Blake and Reginald Stokes, tackle Chase Moline and linebacker Kyle Bosworth.
Freshman end Datone Jones will have to take the training wheels off.
UCLA has intercepted four passes this season. Two were by defensive linemen -- Brian Price and Jess Ward.
Oddsmakers have California as an 18-point favorite. The Washington State line is as follows:
California 66, Washington State 3.
UCLA 28, Washington State 3.
That makes the Bears plus-38.
By the numbers
*--* UCLA CATEGORY CAL 20.4 Scoring 37.3 29.1 Points given up 22.0 216.9 Passing off. 245.0 90.0 Rushing off. 168.3 307.7 Total offense 413.8 175.4 Passing def. 200.5 182.6 Rushing def. 109.0 358.0 Total defense 309.5 *--*
UCLA VS. CAL
Today at Memorial Stadium
12:30 p.m., Channel 7
UCLA and California have postseason hopes, some more grand than others. Cal is two bad quarters shy of being unbeaten. UCLA is two comebacks from being 1-6. Some issues surrounding today's game:
Ramifications: Cal is still talking Rose Bowl; UCLA is talking of becoming bowl eligible. The loser needs to find something else to talk about.
Fast company? If Cal's injured running back Jahvid Best is anywhere near full speed, it could spell trouble for UCLA.
Craftiness: Watch out for UCLA's quarterback in the last two minutes of each half. But what about the other 56 minutes?
In the trenches: Depleted Bruins defense must deal with a Bears center who hits like a truck.
Hands up: UCLA has four interceptions -- half from an unlikely place.
Cougars index: We've given those hapless Washington State Cougars their own index, and it helps us (or not) rate the betting line.