Prediction: Cal 23, UCLA 14
The Bruins’ losing streak has to come to end at some point, but it won’t be on Saturday.
Although UCLA matches up well with Cal and I expect the game to be competitive, the Bears possess the the Bruins’ kryptonite – mobile quarterbacks.
Brandon McIlwain leads Cal with 359 rushing yards and has done so while splitting time with Chase Garbers, who can also run, at the quarterback spot. Cal is getting a combined 101.8 yards per game on the ground from their quarterbacks this season.
UCLA has not done a good job of containing the opposing team’s signal-caller in any of its five games this season, and that trend is unlikely to change this week.
However, if freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson can put together another solid week and redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley stays hot, then the Bruins have a legit chance at earning their first win of the season.
The defense just needs to hold up.
Football beat reporter
Prediction: Cal 31, UCLA 20
While last week’s 7-point loss to Washington was a shot of optimism, this weekend will be the hangover.
UCLA hasn’t won a conference road game in almost three years, and the Bruins haven’t convinced me that they have the consistency to build on their best game this season.
Especially Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will play his first game under the scrutiny and anticipation of being the best quarterback on either team.
I expect Cal to load the box to stop UCLA’s running attack, so can Thompson-Robinson pass effectively to set up the run?
If he can complete 70 percent of his passes for more than 10 yards per completion – like he did against Washington – the Bruins will be in position to win.
On the other side of the ball, this is the perfect game for senior defensive back Nate Meadors to bounce back and temper all the social media negativity against him. I think Meadors has simply been unlucky on some of the catches he’s given up, but there’s no doubt he’s due for a couple of passes broken up and an interception.
Cal’s quarterbacks have combined for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, and expected starter Brandon McIlwain has two touchdowns and five picks.
That’s not good, so it could be a war of attrition when the Bears are on offense.
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 31, Cal 24
The Bruins have to win eventually, right?
In all seriousness, though, I saw enough progress against Washington last weekend to hop back on the Chip Kelly bandwagon. The offense was moving on the ground and through the air, the first time all season UCLA has done that.
Cal is a faltering squad that has been seriously stumbling after a loss to Oregon two weeks ago. The Bears have a running quarterback threat – something that gave the Bruins trouble last week – but outside of that, I don’t see the Cal offense doing too much on Saturday.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson made significant progress last week, posting career highs across the board. I expect him to take another step forward against a Bears defense that is not as prestigious as the Huskies’ highly ranked unit.
However, Cal limited preseason Heisman contender Khalil Tate to 141 yards with one touchdown and one interception last week, so Kelly could still fall back on Joshua Kelley and the ground game if things go awry through the air.
It’s been a historically tough stretch for UCLA, but all losing streaks come to an end eventually. It’ll be difficult to end it on the road, but I’m feeling just optimistic enough to give the Bruins the edge.