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UCLA Football Oppo Preview: Opportunity to Exploit Berkeley's Defense

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After two straight poor offensive performances, can UCLA's offense take off against one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12?

Bob Stanton-US PRESSWIRE

After suffering through a historically bad defense last season, Berkeley made a switch at defensive coordinator, letting Andy Buh go and hiring Art Kaufman.  Thus far, the coaching change has not made much of a difference.

As is the case with teams that run fast paced offenses, the defensive numbers suffer because of the number of plays it has to face.  However, Berkeley is giving up 518 yards per game, nearly 6 yards per play, and opponents are averaging over 38 points per game.

On the bright side, the Bears are defending the run well, allowing opponents only 3.5 yards per carry.  They have quite a bit of talent on the line, with ends Brennan Scarlett (6'4, 260, Jr.) and Todd Barr (6'3, 250, Jr.) bookending tackles Mustafa Jalil (6'3, 295, Jr.) and Austin Clark (5'10, 270, Jr.).  Barr and Scarlett lead the team with two sacks each, and Barr also leads the team with 4 tackles for loss.

The linebacking corps is also a talented group consisting of Jalen Jefferson (6'2, 230, Jr.), Will Barton (6'0, 225, So.), and Jake Kearney (6'3, 220, So.), and sub Hardy Nickerson (6'0, 225, So.).  The group is undersized, but they are athletic and play well behind the defensive line.

Last year, UCLA managed only 78 yards rushing against a struggling Bears run defense.  At that time, the Bears were so depleted that they were using running backs at linebacker, yet they held us to 2.3 yards per carry.  UCLA is currently averaging roughly 4.4 yards per carry, and a good matchup to keep an eye on is whether our offensive line can get push against Berkeley's front four.

As good as Berkeley's front has played, they have been equally bad on in the secondary.  The Bears are allowing opponents 402 yards per game (last in NCAA), 7.4 yards per pass play (89th in NCAA), are giving up a 64% completion rate (107th in NCAA), and they have already allowed 24 passing touchdowns (last in NCAA).  As bad as UCLA ran against Berkeley last year, they gained over 400 yards through the air and Hundley completed 75% of his passes.

At safety, Cal starts Michael Lowe (5-11, 215, Sr.) and Griffin Piatt (6'3, 200, So.).  Lowe has plenty of experience as a three year starter, and Piatt leads the team in tackles from his safety spot and adds 3 interceptions.  The Bears really struggle at corner, where Cedric Dozier (5'10, 175, So.) and Cameron Walker (5'11, 180, So.) simply have not gotten the job done.  UCLA has a big size advantage on the outside (as was the case vs. Oregon), and I would expect Mazzone to test Berkeley's one on one tackling ability vs. Payton and Massington on Saturday.

That concludes the UC Berkeley preview. Fire away with any additional comments.