California and UCLA will wrap up the regular season on Saturday night in Los Angeles a week after both teams faced their biggest rival. The Golden Bears (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) snapped a nine-game losing streak to Stanford in the Big Game while the Bruins (4-7, 4-4) lost to USC 52-35 last week.
As big a win as that was for Cal (second year in a row head coach Justin Wilcox broke a long losing streak; last year beating USC for the first time since 2003), the loss was even more devastating for UCLA, as it ended any chance of becoming bowl eligible on its own merits.
The Bears have beaten the Bruins just once in their last six meetings (2016) with UCLA winning big (37-7) last year in Berkeley. A win for Cal would give Wilcox back-to-back seven-win seasons with a chance at eight in the bowl game. A victory for UCLA would give Chip Kelly and company some much-needed momentum heading into what is shaping up to be a critical offseason.
Cal at UCLA
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread: UCLA -1
When UCLA Has the Ball
This game really rests on the shoulders of Dorian Thompson-Robinson. If he is healthy enough to play, the Bruins really do have too much firepower for Cal to keep up. This Golden Bears defense simply hasn't been as stout as it was last year. Robinson is coming off of a solid all-around game (367 passing yards, 64 rushing, 4 total TDs, INT) against USC. If he can replicate that production against Cal, it will be difficult for the Bears' offense to match.
UCLA also has Joshua Kelley, the Pac-12's No. 2 rusher to throw at Cal's defense. Kelley needs just 16 more yards to reach 1,000 to go with his 11 rushing touchdowns. The Bears have done a decent job against the run this season but have had some issues with certain teams. Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington all finished with at least 177 yards on the ground against Cal.
When California Has the Ball
This side of the ball has been a struggle all season for the Golden Bears. They are last in the Pac-12 in total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense. Cal is averaging fewer than 20 points per game and has gone over that mark on just four occasions, including last week in the 24-20 victory over Stanford.
Injuries have not helped, especially the one to quarterback Chase Garbers, who finished with 285 passing yards, 72 rushing and two touchdowns against the Cardinal. However, for the season Garbers has thrown for 1,270 yards with nine touchdowns in seven games.
The Bears need more from their running game, which is led by Christopher Brown Jr., but he's averaging four yards per carry and 62 rushing yards per game. The good news is that UCLA's defense is plenty suspect, but the Bruins have had more issues against the pass than the run, which doesn't exactly play to Cal's strengths.
On paper, UCLA appears to have the edge on California in almost every meaningful category. The Bruins score more, have been more productive running and throwing the ball, and have fared better in terms of time of possession, yards per play, and even number of plays. The issue for the Bears is that their offense has been so bad they rank in the 100s nationally in every category mentioned, save for time of possession. And for that, they are just 96th. Cal will do what it can to give UCLA a fight, but ultimately the Bruins have too much.
Prediction: UCLA 32, California 17
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.