Cal quarterback Jared Goff tries to escape the pressure from Washington… (Dan Honda / McClatchy-Tribune )
UCLA is a week away from playing No. 5 Stanford. First, though, a 1-4 California team visits the Rose Bowl. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines.
The junior rivalry
UCLA has USC. California has Stanford.
But the Bruins-Bears rivalry has some juice as well. Just ask any Cal band member, who will go on and on about UCLA stealing their fight song.
UCLA dominated for a time, winning 18 consecutive games from 1972 to '89. Since 2000, the series has had clear boundaries. California has won the last seven games in Berkeley, and UCLA has won five of the last six at the Rose Bowl.
A year ago, the Bruins went north to play a Bears team that finished with a 3-9 record and fired Coach Jeff Tedford. Still, Cal hammered UCLA, 43-17.
Quarterback Brett Hundley was harassed in that game. He was sacked six times and had four passes intercepted.
"There were opportunities for Brett to handle some adversity and grow from it," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said of last season. "The important thing is that he does grow from it, and the impressive thing is that he did grow from it. I think you saw it on display last week against Utah."
Hundley overcame a fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown to lead the Bruins to a 34-27 victory over the Utes.
Cal's offense moves fast. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff takes to the air so much he could rate frequent-flier miles. He has a couple of top-notch receivers in Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper.
The Bears are likely to move up and down the field. That's fine with Mora, as long as it's between the 20s.
"When you throw the ball as much as they throw the ball, you're going to get some yards," Mora said. "That's just the way it is. As long as they are empty yards, not meaningful yards. By empty yards I mean that they don't result in touchdowns or long drives that result in scores."
UCLA is a 25-point favorite. The Bruins average 48 points per game. The Bears give up 45 per game.
Legging it out
The Bruins will be without running back Jordon James, who was the nation's fifth-leading rusher before suffering an ankle injury against Utah last week.
As talented as James in, there should be no drop-off.
Paul Perkins, a redshirt freshman, stepped in and ran well against the Utes. Steven Manfro and Malcolm Jones have had bright moments. And there will be more work for Damien Thigpen, who played for the first time this season -- one play against Utah -- after returning from a knee injury.
The right side of UCLA's offensive line is worth a look. Left tackle Torian White sustained a broken bone and a torn ligament in his right leg against Utah. Simon Goines has moved from right tackle to left tackle, and Caleb Benenoch was inserted at right tackle.
That left the Bruins with freshmen Benenoch and guard Alex Redmond playing side by side on the right side.
California's training room is filling up.
The Bears have lost two starting offensive linemen and have given up 18 sacks in five games. They have lost three cornerbacks and give up 304 yards passing per game.
The words "Stanford" and "Oregon" were verboten around UCLA's Spaulding Field this week.
Mora has a rigid policy of one week, one game.
Still, the Bruins face Stanford next week and No. 2 Oregon on Oct. 26. Those can be program-defining moments -- but not if UCLA stumbles into Palo Alto with an embarrassing loss to California on its resume.
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
Bruins 4-0, 1-0 Pac-12
Bears 1-4, 0-2 Pac-12
*--* PER GAME UCLA Cal Points scored 48.0 27.8 Points allowed 20.2 45.0 Passing offense 302.0 402.6 Rushing offense 259.8 113.0 Passing defense 204.8 304.2 Rushing defense 157.5 219.8 *--*