The California Bears are a not a good football team at the moment. The numbers do not lie.
The Bears' defense ranks near the bottom nationally in nearly every significant category. Offensively, California is 106th out 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing yards, averaging 113 per game, and 118th in sacks allowed, 3.6 per game.
What the Bears do better than almost anyone is throw the football — not effectively always, but a lot.
With freshman quarterback Jared Goff at the controls, Cal averages 55.2 passes per game. Only Southern Methodist (58.4) and Washington State (55.3) average more.
"They do a great job of using different personnel and having their best assets in the best spots," UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said. "They have speed everywhere. Against this offense, you have to be simple because they are a fast-tempo team and they do a great job of substituting and lining up between plays."
That puts pressure on the defense, particularly the linebackers.
UCLA's will be up to the task, according to one of them, Eric Kendricks.
"Anthony Barr, Myles Jack and Jordan Zumwalt can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time," Kendricks said. "It's fun to watch those guys fly around."
The Bears' best hope is to outscore opponents, although the math hasn't added up through five games. Cal averages 27.8 points per game but is giving up 45
And throwing a lot of passes doesn't mean you're throwing them well. The Bears rank 76th in passing efficiency at 127.3. UCLA, with quarterback Brett Hundley, ranks 16th at 160.2.
As usual, UCLA Coach Jim Mora is taking nothing for granted. "What they do a really good job of, especially early in games, is getting the ball out quickly," he said. "They want to give that young quarterback a chance to get comfortable, so we have to be ready to react."
The advantage for the Bruins is their own built-for-speed offense that they see each practice.
"We're used to it," Mora said. "We know how to communicate non-verbally. We have our hand signals. We're used to getting lined up quickly."
Raising the Barr
UCLA linebacker Barr, a preseason All-American, has been on the mind of Cal offensive linemen this week. Tackle Freddie Tagaloa, who will be opposite Barr much of the game, got special preparation.
"We had some of the running backs rushing off the edge to get me used to how fast he is," Tagaloa said. "I've got to respect his speed. I hear he runs a 4.4 and is very lengthy. I've seen on films how he gets by defenders and dips his shoulder real low. A guy my size, 330, can move, but a guy like Anthony Barr is so quick. It's all about footwork."
"I'm confident," he said.
Ellis McCarthy, UCLA's starting left defensive end, returned to practice Thursday but was limited to working out on the side. Mora said it was doubtful that McCarthy would play against Cal. McCarthy suffered a head injury against Utah on Oct. 3.