Week 7 Game Matchup: Cal Bears VS. UCLA Bruins

By Dave Consolazio and Sam Saig, October 15, 2009 6:20 pm

Cal Bears (3-2) vs. UCLA Bruins (3-2)
Saturday, October 17, 12:30 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Cal -3.5

Sam’s Take (28 – 13):

This is a must win game for both the Bruins and Bears, as the loser will put a little pressure on Washington State for cellar dweller of the Pac-10 (although the Cougs are still firmly in control of that title).

A Cal loss could mean a nightmarish repeat scenario of the 2007 season in which a #2 national ranking disintegrated and the Bears went on to lose six of their next seven. For UCLA, a loss would be devastating considering the difficulty of the upcoming schedule (@UA, @OSU, vs. UW). The Bruins could be looking at 0-6 in the conference if they do not build some momentum in Pasadena on Saturday.

There are two main reasons that I believe Cal will win this game. First, the normally sturdy UCLA defensive front seven allowed both Stanford and Oregon to run the ball very effectively. Isn’t Jahvid Best way overdue for another big game? Second, the Bears constantly moving 3-4 defense will confuse QB Kevin Prince, as Prince has been struggling to find his rhythm and Cal ranks second in the Pac-10 with 15 sacks. UCLA has shown no big play ability on offense this season, and I don’t expect that to change this week.

This is an important game for Cal QB Kevin Riley. I will be interested to see how Riley handles the ball-hawking UCLA secondary considering he has only completed 37% of his passes over the last two weeks. If the offensive line gives Riley time, this may be the week that Cal finds balance on offense again.

I look for Cal to win comfortably in the Rose Bowl by relying on an active defense and a rejuvenated offense.

Prediction: Cal 30 – UCLA 17

Cal Player to Keep an Eye On: WR Nyan Boateng – Whether Costa or Masoli plays Saturday; #83 should be a feature part of the passing game.

UCLA Player to Keep an Eye On: WR/PR Terrence Austin - Some Bruins fans have been frustrated with Austin’s route-running and he will have to improve against the talented Cal DBs. He should have a big impact in the return game.

Dave’s Take (31 – 10):

Cal has had a full two weeks to mull over their disastrous showdowns with both Oregon and USC, and now they finally get to return to the football field. Do they throw in the towel on the season or finish the second half strong?

We’ll see how they come out of the gate this week against UCLA. Jahvid Best has to be licking his chops; he’s been totally shutdown since his 5-touchdown effort against Minnesota, and UCLA has given up two straight huge days on the ground to Toby Gerhart and LaMichael James. Best has become somewhat of an afterthought among Pac-10 rushers this season, and he’s due for a huge game to get his name back in the mix.

UCLA has plenty to prove as well; they haven’t been embarrassed in conference play but they haven’t really inspired much confidence either. With the defense not playing at the elite level the Bruins are accustomed to, there is even more pressure on Kevin Prince and the offense to be effective. Prince has been solid this season, but he looked like a freshman against the stingy Oregon Ducks defense last week.

It’s hard to get Cal’s last two games out of my head, but it’s even harder to get all of the research we did on this team out of my head; the Bears are just so stacked from top to bottom that I’m still not quite ready to give up on them. And all due respect to UCLA, they are no Oregon or USC, and maybe Cal can get back to what they were doing in the first three games of the season this week.

Both teams need this win badly, and I could easily see it going either way. But I think Cal shows up and gets the job done this week with an improved and inspired effort on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Cal 27 – UCLA 17

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