First off let me start with the fact that CAL having an extra week to prepare for a team is SO overrated. Look how teams play after a bye week, they are slow, out of sync, this is because they are out of rhythm. The players HATE bye weeks. What bye weeks mean to players is a full week of practice with no game to look forward to. In three words - Bye Weeks Suck. CAL is a reeling team that got embarrassed by Nevada and then lost a game they should have won against Arizona. I am not sure how much confidence this team will have going into this game.
Getting into the details, CAL's strengths will not help them much against UCLA. First off, their Defensive strength is their DBs. But, as UCLA's passing attack goes, this should not be much of a difference maker for them. Defensive Line, they are good pass rushers but not overly strong against the run. Lastly the linebackers are average at best. I would not expect to much flash out of UCLA come Saturday. It will be run, run, run. This CAL team is not the team we will need to massively open up our passing game on. If we execute we should be able to run the ball consistently.
Offensively, Cal still has lots of questions but their is no question that Shane Vereen is a legit runner. UCLA will see a lot of him. Vereen will be the best RB UCLA has seen to date. The front seven needs to play big and be ready to hit. I am hoping to see a big big week out of Patrick Larimore. If UCLA can keep CAL's running game in check, UCLA has a great chance in this game. QB Kevin Riley is very human. He has had back to back mediocre games and is very human. But, if UCLA gets no pressure on him he could look like Drew Brees. Rushing four against the CAL OL will not be enough, they are a good unit, we will need to pressure Riley into mistakes. His main target Marvin Jones is the big WR weapon and he could be a factor if Riley has time to throw.
No matter what anyone had hoped, UCLA did play without intensity Saturday. Luckily they did enough to win, so we move on. This team seems to play better with their backs against the wall. I see the same attitude going into this game. Also, as a team, we, for some reason, have been a much more intense team on the road then at home. I expect the same Saturday. This will be the true week to see where UCLA is as a program. There are no "looking ahead" or "let down" games going into this game. Both teams have about the same record. Both teams really need this win and both will be fighting for their life. The Wash St game did UCLA a favor, we need to play our best game weekly or we have a real good chance of losing and losing big.
offensively, UCLA will go back to basics. Run, Run, Run, with play action roll out passes and short passes. UCLA will need to spread the field a bit, but I am not sure this secondary is the best unit to begin becoming a deep passing team. I think UCLA plays smash mouth all game. Stop us if you can, and you will see the passing game open up after the bye week. CAL, in the back of their mind, knows they have a hard time against this offense, and the UCLA OL is much bigger and stronger than Nevada.
Defensively, this will be a legitimate test. Cal is balanced and Tedford knows how to move an offense. I would like to see UCLA put this game on the back Riley. If we have to sit Ayers all week at practice, please do it, because UCLA needs him at 100%. Ayers must be 100% for UCLA defense to function the way it needs to. Look for UCLA to run blitz all day. I still see UCLA coming out pretty vanilla on pass downs to see if Ayers and the D front can put pressure on Riley rushing four, even though I do not see it happening. My hope is if UCLA can't put pressure, we blitz til we are blue in the face and put this game on Dye and Moore to keep us safe in the secondary.
I know our offense will be ready for a smash mouth game come Saturday. Saturday, we will see if UCLA defense can also play smash mouth football. If we come out hitting, playing to stop the run and making sure every throw Riley ends on his back, on can live with us getting beat one-on one in the secondary here and there. But the hiitng will takes it toll on Cal. Just ask Houston...