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Friday, October 5, 2012
Five things to watch: UCLA at California

By Peter Yoon

The UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will play at California (1-4, 0-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks. It will be the 83rd meeting between the teams and though UCLA holds a 50-31-1 record in the long-standing rivalry, the Bruins are looking to end a losing streak more than a decade long in Berkeley. Here are a few keys to the game:

1. Pomp and circumstance

California’s Memorial Stadium got a makeover last season and no team in the conference is happier than UCLA to see the old place go. The Bruins have not won there since 1998, a string of six consecutive losses. However, the Golden Bears have conveniently scheduled a ceremony for Saturday during which the stadium will be rededicated to Californians who have lost their lives in war. Cal also will conduct a special card stunt for the fans, and this also happens to be homecoming weekend in Berkeley. Put it all together and this will be by far the most difficult road environment the Bruins have faced all season; they will have to block out all of the distractions in order to succeed.

2. Sack exchange

UCLA’s sack masters, Anthony Barr, Damien Holmes and Datone Jones, could be in for a big day against a California team that has given up 25 sacks, more than any other team in the nation. Barr has six sacks this season, Holmes has four and Jones has two among his team-leading nine tackles for a loss. Holmes had three of his sacks last week after switching to outside linebacker and will again start outside Saturday, so it could be a big day of pass rushing for the Bruins, who are tied for sixth in the nation with 17 sacks.

3. Picking their spots

UCLA enters the game tied for second in the nation with nine interceptions. Sheldon Price is tied for the national lead with four interceptions and Stan McKay has had one in each of the past two games. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard is susceptible to bad passing stretches. He has had five passes intercepted this season and is ninth in the conference and No. 94 in the nation with a 121.82 passer rating. UCLA safety Tevin McDonald will be licking his chops. McDonald had a school-record three interceptions last season against Maynard, who had four passes intercepted in the 31-14 UCLA victory last season.

4. The long run

UCLA enters the game No. 4 in the nation in total offense with 558.4 yards per game and No. 13 in rushing offense with 243.4. That bodes well for Johnathan Franklin and the UCLA rushing attack, which will go up against a California defense that is giving up 174.8 yards per game on the ground to rank last in the Pac-12. Franklin is third in the nation with 697 yards rushing. The Golden Bears have been particularly vulnerable to big gains, having given up 28 runs of 10 yards or more this season. That list includes runs of 62, 55, 49 and 33 yards.

5. They’ve got skills

Despite California’s 1-4 record, the Golden Bears are loaded at the skill positions on offense. Receiver Keenan Allen, an all-Pac-12 selection last season, is among the best in the country at his position and also returns punts and has a 39-yard run for a touchdown on a reverse. Fellow receiver Bryce Treggs was one of the top receiver recruits in the nation last season. Running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson pack a one-two punch on the ground and are averaging 5.46 yards per carry. Sophomore speedster Brendan Bigelow has not been used much (only 10 carries), but he showed what he can do with touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards against Ohio State, so he is someone to watch.