Know Your Opponent: UCLA vs California


UCLA has lost two games straight in embarrassing fashion and need a win to stay alive in the race for the Pac-12 South. California is much improved, but is also coming off a loss after a bye week. The teams will face off at the Rose Bowl this Thursday night at 6PM. Here is your UCLA vs California Preview!

UCLA holds a 52-31-1 series lead over Cal, and they have won 2 out of 3 over the Bears under Jim Mora (the only loss was to Jeff Tedford in 2012). The Bruins have not lost three games in a row since the end of 2012, and they have not lost three regular season games in a row under Mora. California comes into the game at 5-1 which is the their best start since 2007. That year the Bears also started at 5-0 before dropping three in a row and six out of eight to finish 7-6. Last year, the Bears started 4-1 under Sonny Dykes before dropping three in a row and losing six of their last seven games.

"Did You Know: The Bruins earned 10 penalties (good for 93 yards) in a game for the first time this year against Stanford! That marks the 15th time that UCLA has earned at least 10 flags in a game in the Mora Era, and the Bruins have averaged 8.4 penalties (-80 yards) a game during that time."

The Cal Offense

The Golden Bears are led by junior Jared Goff who after three years of running Dykes “Bear Raid” offenses has become one of the nations highest rated quarterbacks (67%, 1970 yards, 17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions). Goff distributes the ball to a cadre of veteran play-makers that have played together for years. Led by junior Kenny Lawler and senior Bryce Treggs, the Bears have six receivers that have caught at least 10 passes for at least 150 yards. Five of those receivers are seniors and the sixth (Lawler) is a junior. California’s passing game is a well oiled machine that leads the Pac-12 (10th in the nation) in passes of 20+ yards.

The Bruin pass defense is ranked #1 in the Pac-12 in completion percentage (52.8%), yards (1057), yards/attempt (5.5) and yards/game (176.2), but those stats are inflated by 2 games against non-throwing teams (Arizona without Anu Solomon and UNLV without Blake Decker) and also because the run defense has been so bad recently that teams haven’t felt the need to pass. With all the lineup shuffling in the secondary this year, the UCLA defensive backs and linebackers will have to come up with a supreme effort (and some luck) in order to hold California in check.

The Bruins would gladly give up a few more completions to opponents if it meant they could stop the run more effectively. With the plague of injuries suffered by UCLA this season, the run defense has become progressively worse. In fact, the Bruins are the worst defense in the Pac-12 in terms of yards allowed/game (216/game overall and 285/game in conference games) and they are giving up almost 5 yards per carry. Against Arizona and Arizona State the Bruins had problems stopping zone-read plays and against Stanford the Bruins were completely steamrolled.

California is sneakily committed to running the ball. Unlike the Washington State version of the Air Raid, Dykes Bear Raid incorporates a good deal more running. The Bears have been a true running back by committee as returning star Daniel Lasko has been hurt for a good portion of the season, but the Cal backs have made it easier for Goff to operate when they have turned in good performances. California started the season with three great 150+ yard running games, however they have not rushed for more than 140 yards in the conference schedule.

"Did You Know: Surprisingly, Cal actually averages more runs per game than UCLA does so far this season."

The Cal Defense

After having one of the worst defenses in the country in 2014, (124th in total yards -512 yards/game and 123rd in scoring defense – 40 points/game), the Golden Bears have improved drastically in 2015 (72nd in total yads – 395 yards/game and 56th in scoring defense – 24.5 points/game). Cal has a much more aggressive defense this year. Not only are the Bears +1 in turnover margin so far this year, but they are also 1st in the Pac-12 in forced turnovers (21 total turnovers). They have also managed to almost triple the sack output from last year, going from 1.33/game in 2014 to 3.17/game in 2015. Senior defensive linemen Kyle Kragen and Jonathan Johnson have combined for 7 sacks and 10 tackles for loss so far this season.

The Bruin offense has been spectacular in spurts so far this season, but they will have to be more consistent against California and in their remaining games. UCLA has left the defense out to dry for two games in a row now and its no coincidence that those were two blowout losses. Many have pointed to the tremendous amount of points and yards given up by the Bruins against ASU and Stanford, but very few have noted the terriblly lopsided time of possession in those games (22 minutes vs ASU and 26 minutes against Stanford).

The huge percentage of short and unproductive drives has also gone unnoticed; against ASU, the Bruin offense had 12 morale crushing non-scoring drives that were either too short (5 plays or less), took too little time (less than 2 minutes), yielded too little yardage (10 yards or less) or resulted in a turnover. Only 25% of their total drives scored or at least changed the field position for the defense. Against Stanford the Bruin offense put the defense in a 7 point hole with a pick 6 and had 8 soul crushing drives en route to a 56 – 20 deficit. For the entire game, the offense had 9 drives that averaged 8.7 total yards compared with only 6 good ones. If the Bruins want their defense to be better, they had better regain some offensive efficiency against Cal.

"Did You Know: The Bruins are last in the Pac-12 and 122nd nationally in Time of Possession at just under 26 minutes per game?"


The Bruins are playing at home and should be the more desperate team. Cal’s high powered offense presents problems for the Bruins, but it seems unlikely that the Bears running attack will be able to brutalize the Bruins like Arizona, ASU and Stanford did. If the Bruins can rediscover their identity on offense (running the ball in order to open up passing opportunities), then UCLA should be able to win the game. If they can’t keep the Cal offense off the field or can’t maintain a steady offensive attack, expect to be angry on your way out of the Rose Bowl. Here’s to optimism!

UCLA 30 Cal 27

Go Bruins

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Next: Go Joe Bruin Predicts The Game: Cal Golden Bears Vs UCLA Bruins

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