California (5-1, 2-1) at UCLA (4-2, 1-2)
When: Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The California Golden Bears are one win away from becoming Bowl eligible and they’re hitting Pasadena at the right time. UCLA’s defense is plagued with injuries with the loss of tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Fabian Moreau to season-ending injuries. UCLA has lost two-straight games after starting 4-0 and if they’re going to avoid their first three-game regular-season losing streak since 2010, the Bruins will likely need freshman quarterback Josh Rosen to keep pace with Jared Goff and the high-powered California offense. Rosen has thrown for 889 yards and 7 touchdowns in his last three games, but he will likely be without starting left tackle Conor McDermott, who is listed as questionable due to a sprained knee. Paul Perkins, who leads UCLA with 681 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns, could receive a heavy workload against a California defense that was dominated by Utah’s ground game. Run defense has been a major concern for UCLA also, allowing 285 rushing yards per game in Pac-12 play after Stanford ran for 310 in last Thursday’s 56-35 win over the Bruins.
The Golden Bears have been off since October 10th, when Goff’s Heisman Trophy campaign derailed as he threw 5 interceptions in a 30-24 loss at Utah. Goff is tied for 8th nationally in touchdown passes with 17 and is 12th in passing yards with 1,970 despite playing behind an offensive line that has allowed 11 sacks in the past three games. Cal ranks 12th in FBS averaging 40.2 points per game. Defensive end Kyle Kragen who has 35 tackles and 5 sacks heads a unit that ranks number 1 in the nation with 21 turnovers forced but failed to contain Utah’s Devontae Booker, who rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Cal will certainly become Bowl eligible soon, but they’re thinking bigger things, like the Pac-12 North title. They’ll need to keep winning to keep pace with Stanford before they meet on November 21st.
UCLA shouldn’t be favored over anyone right now the way their defense is playing. Cal’s defense isn’t much better, but I think they finally get the better of the Bruins tonight. I’ll take the points.
Pick: California +3.5