Breaking down the on-field matchups for UCLA (4-7, 4-4) vs. California (6-5, 3-5) on Saturday at the Rose Bowl at 7:30 p.m. (TV: Fox Sports 1; Radio: 570).
UCLA’s offensive line vs. Cal linebacker Evan Weaver: The growth of UCLA’s offensive line, which has a pair of freshmen starting on the left side in tackle Sean Rhyan and guard Duke Clemens, keyed a resurgent running game that has averaged 188.8 yards during conference games after averaging just 78 yards in the first three games of the season. If there is a player who could upset an offense on his own, it would be Cal’s dynamic linebacker. Weaver leads the nation in tackles with 14.9 per game. The next closest player averages 12.
UCLA (406.1 ypg/27.5 ppg): Joshua Kelley is 16 yards away from becoming the eighth running back in UCLA history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Ranked second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game at 98.4, Kelley is trying to make a late push for the top spot with Utah’s Zack Moss leading the conference with 115.8 yards per game. Kelley would be the third UCLA running back to lead the conference in rushing since the 1990s, joining DeShaun Foster (2001), who is now the Bruins’ running backs coach, and Paul Perkins (2014).
California (314.9 ypg/19.4 ppg): Cal is the lowest-scoring team in the Pac-12. During the four games starting quarterback Chase Garbers missed because of a shoulder injury, the Bears averaged only 262.3 yards per game compared with 345.3 in games the redshirt sophomore from Corona del Mar started. Garbers is coming off a rivalry game victory against Stanford last week in which he threw for 285 yards, his second-best total of the season, on 20-for-30 passing.
UCLA (460.3 ypg/35.4 ppg): After giving up a school-record 515 passing yards to USC last week, UCLA slipped to 129th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing yards allowed with a 318.1-yard average. The only team worse is New Mexico at 335.
California (384.1 ypg/22.5 ppg): The Bears’ growth under third-year coach Justin Wilcox started on the defensive end as Wilcox took a Cal defense that allowed 518.3 yards per game in former coach Sonny Dykes’ final season to this year’s unit that ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense. Cal has held nine of 11 opponents below their season average in yardage, with Utah and USC the exceptions.
UCLA leads the Pac-12 in punt returns with 22.5 yards per return and trails only Alabama (24.7) nationally. Redshirt freshman punt returner Kyle Philips’ average is the highest for the Bruins since Maurice Jones-Drew led the conference with 28.5 yards per return in 2005. Philips, who has returned only eight punts in 12 games, is not eligible for the individual NCAA leaderboard because he does not average the required 1.2 returns per game.
Dating to the 1950 season, UCLA is 6-11 in regular-season games after its rivalry game against USC. One of the victories came in 2017 when UCLA secured bowl eligibility with a game-winning field goal from J.J. Molson at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA might be down two key inside linebackers as seniors Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toailoa are recovering from knee and leg injuries, respectively, sustained in last week’s loss to USC.