3:30 PM ET, October 20, 2007
Rose Bowl, PASADENA, CA
The 10th-ranked Bears are coming off a 31-28 loss to Oregon State in which their quarterback's failure to stop the clock in the waning seconds may have cost them the No. 1 ranking. It did cost them the No. 2 spot, their highest since 1951.
The once-10th-ranked Bruins had a bye last week, but they weren't exactly on in their most recent game -- a 20-6 loss to hapless Notre Dame.
"It's been a crazy college football season," UCLA linebacker Christian Taylor said. "There are so many good teams out there, especially if you look at this conference across the board.
"The last-place team (Stanford) a couple of weeks ago beat the first-place team (Southern California). It can happen any day."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford isn't surprised by the string of upsets, which has seen 11 teams in the Top 10 lose to unranked opponents.
"It is very hard to win. It's very hard week in and week out, with all the parity," he said. "It's such a game of winning certain situations -- turnover battles, the way the ball bounces. There are no easy weeks."
Quarterback injuries have been factors for both Cal and UCLA.
Odds on Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl generally weren't being offered because of each team's quarterback situation. Cal's Nate Longshore sat out the last game with a sprained ankle, and a knee injury in the first quarter knocked the Bruins' Ben Olson out against Notre Dame.
The Bears (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10) will go with either Longshore or redshirt freshman Kevin Riley, who led a late comeback against the Beavers. But his ill-advised scramble at the end allowed time to run out and cost his team a chance to attempt a tying field goal.
Patrick Cowan, returning from a knee injury, is slated to be at the controls for the Bruins (4-2, 3-0). The redshirt junior has started in place of Olson before, including the victory over Washington on Sept. 22 when Olson was sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.
Last year, Cowan took over and finished out the season after Olson was sidelined by a knee injury in the fifth game.
The backup against the Bears is McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown after replacing Olson against Notre Dame.
That defeat was only the most recent low in the Bruins' roller-coaster season. After opening with a lopsided win over Stanford and beating BYU, they were ambushed 44-6 by Utah. Then they roared back to overpower Washington (44-31) and Oregon State (40-14) before the flop against Notre Dame.
Unlike Cal, the Bruins are perfect in league play, with their three conference wins giving them a Pac-10 high six in a row dating back to last season.
"We're excited about this particular week, given where we are in this conference," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "In this conference, each and every week is going to be an event, and each and every week is going to have a lot of excitement.
"Our players are rejuvenated."
The Bears also expect to bounce back.
"It was a tough loss to take, but not to recover from," Cal safety Bernard Hicks said of last weekend's game. "We don't need to walk around with our heads down. It's over and we have to come out and be prepared and be ready to go against UCLA."
But for the blip against the Beavers, Cal has been consistent, with a 5-0 start including impressive victories over Tennessee and Oregon.
The Bears have one of the most versatile offenses in the country, with wide receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson (32 catches, 317 yards) and tailback Justin Forsett (136 carries, 5.4 average, 10 TDs) threats every time they touch the ball.
Longshore has completed 63.8 percent of his throws for 1,137 yards and seven touchdowns, with only two interceptions. Riley, whose start last weekend was his first, threw for two scores and ran for another, going 20-of-34 for 294 yards with one interception.
The Bruins' offense is led by Kahlil Bell (averaging 5.1 yards a carry) and wide receiver Brandon Breazell (27 catches, 465 yards). Tailback Chris Markey, their top rusher and receiver last year, has been out with a toe injury, but may play.
Cowan went 17-of-30 with one interception and one TD against Washington, his only game this year.
The Rose Bowl is sold out for the game, and home-field advantage has been significant in recent years: the home team has won seven straight dating to Cal's 17-0 win at the Rose Bowl in 1999.
Top 25 Overview
Hard to believe, considering it lost to Notre Dame, but UCLA is ahead of Cal in the Pac-10 standings. The Golden Bears are looking to rebound after suffering their first loss of the season, while UCLA hopes to start the second half of its season on the right foot.
|Avg Points Allowed||26.1||23.4|