Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to Bruins Nation's Pregame Guesses. Before you carve into that juicy Thanksgiving turkey, dig into this week's PGGs!
Coming off a loss in a winnable game against the Southern Cal Trojans in their rivalry week game, the UCLA Bruin football team (5-6, 3-5 PAC 12) faces the UC Berkeley Golden Bears (5-6, 2-6 PAC 12) tomorrow night at the Rose Bowl. Bowl eligibility is on the line for both teams. The Golden Bears are also coming off a 17-14 loss, falling to their rivals, the Stanford Cardinal, in The Big Game.
The winner gets the chance to play in The Las Vegas Bowl, or perhaps The Cactus Bowl. Not exactly glittering prizes. Even with the lowest tier bowl games, the party line in the past has been that the team at least gets a few more weeks of practice. In the case of the 2017 Bruins, however, there is an argument that additional practice in a system that is likely going to be replaced with the ushering in of a new coaching regime is not super beneficial. Of course, there remains a possibility that the UCLA brass might not land the coaching prospects they desire, and Interim Head Coach Jedd Fisch could return without the interim tag next season.
But I digress. There has been and will be plenty of articles (and maybe a bonus guess) about UCLA's head coaching search. Let's talk about the game.
After starting the season strong with an undefeated non-conference slate, including wins over North Carolina on the road and Mississippi at home, the Golden Bears have had a very uneven conference schedule. UC Berkeley crushed Washington State in Strawberry Canyon, 37-3, handing the #14 Cougars one of their two losses on the season. But the Golden Bears' only other conference win was against Oregon State at home two weeks ago. Importantly, UC Berkeley has not won a conference game on the road.
On the other hand, despite all of its problems this season--and there have been many--the UCLA Bruins are undefeated a home, sporting a 5-0 record in the Arroyo Seco. Josh Rosen is coming off an outstanding game in a losing effort against the Trojans, reestablishing himself as the #3 passer in the nation, and leading the #6 passing offense. The Bruins rushing offense has also improved in the second half of the season and, although it is still only #109 in the nation, averaging 125 yards per game. The Bruins have been able to successfully rush the football in the past few weeks to take the pressure of Rosen.
There have been many bands that have come out of Berkeley. I featured one of them last week, Green Day, much to the consternation of Bruins Nation's resident celebrity, gbruin, who likes his music a little more on the hard rock side. To that I say "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
And if you recognize that legendary quote from a quintessential L.A. movie, you might be able to predict the band I will be selecting for this week's PGG. That's because the character who said that quote has a favorite band, and that favorite band also happens to be from the Bay Area. Here is Credence Clearwater Revival with "Lookin' Out My Back Door."
And that song has zero connection to this week's game, other than it being from a Bay Area band. And I happen to write the PGGs and love "The Big Lebowski." So there.
But enough of that. Onto the guesses . . .
I've already mentioned the respective rushing "attacks" of both teams. Both are near the bottom of college football, but the Bruins have improved in recent weeks. As pointed out by AnteatersandBruins in her offensive preview, UC Berkeley's offensive line has improved greatly over the season from an inexperienced and injury-riddled unit. UCLA does not have a featured back as UCLA's Bolu Olorunfunmi has carried the rock 102 times for 540 yards and Soso Jamabo has rushed 84 times for 424 yards. Olorunfunmi and Jamabo have similar averages, 5.3 and 5.0 yards per carry, respectively. Berkeley, on the other hand, splits carries between two backs, but one is much better than the other. Patrick Laird has carried the ball 159 times for 949 yards, a 6.0 average. There is a drop off when Laird needs a break, though, as Vic Enwere has carried the ball 98 times for only 352 yards, a 3.6 yard per carry average. Which team will rush the ball better? PGG #1 is a two-parter. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 1: Predict the total rushing yards for each team's running backs? Which back will lead the game in rushing?
Statistically speaking, Berkeley's passing defense (#106, giving up 254.3 yards per game) is about on par with Southern Cal's (#103, giving up 251 yards per game). And we all saw what Josh Rosen did against Southern Cal. I think Rosen is going to have another big game in what figures to be his last game in gthe Rose Bowl. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 2: Predict Josh Rosen's passing yards and touchdown passes against Berkeley.
One area in which Berkely is demonstrably better than UCLA is in fumble recoveries and interceptions. It is safe to say that the Bruins will not be implementing their version of Miami's "turnover chain" in the near future, with only 11 takeaways (4 fumbles recovered, 7 picks), an average of only one per game. The Golden Bears are much, much better, having forced 23 turnovers (9 fumbles recovered, 14 picks), more than two per game. Turnovers, of course, could be a huge factor tomorrow. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: Break down each team's total number of turnovers tomorrow, between fumbles and picks.
BONUS GUESS: Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl tomorrow. Pros: Rosen's last game. UCLA fighting for bowl eligibility. Fans who were protesting Mora could return. Cons: The. Day. After. Thanksgving.
BONUS GUESS PART 2: Chip Kelly. Chip Kelly. Chip Kelly. Will he decide before kickoff tomorrow? And if so, will his decision be to come to UCLA or Florida?
Put a bow on it! The final regular season PGG has come to a close. And it might be the final PGG of the 2017 UCLA football season. I hope not. I'd rather have a toilet bowl than no bowl.
Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving Bruins!!! (And don't forget to give us your guesses (or any comments you have) in the comment section below).