Monday, October 30, 2006


There is really only one set of numbers that explains the difference between UCLA and California this year.

UCLA has been to the red zone 29 times on the season. In those 29 trips, they have scored only 12 touchdowns, a truly pitiful result. Their offensive struggles have likely made Justin Medlock an All-America selection, but settling for field goals doesn't cut it in the high-scoring Pac 10. Cal, by contrast, has reached the end zone 19 times out of 23 trips inside the twenty.

This Saturday, UCLA is facing the best red zone defense in the Pac: Cal has only allowed 9 touchdowns in 21 red zone possessions by the opposition. This fact, paired with Cal's +10 turnover margin, explains how a team that ranks 8th in Total Defense can be regarded as having a pretty good defense.

What explains this glaring disparity? I haven't seen every UCLA game, but I've seen enough to make a reasonable judgment. The first problem is the man wearing the headset. Dorrell and his OC Jim Svoboda have been fairly unimaginative inside the twenty. This might be driven by the limitations of QB Pat Cowan, who has thrown three picks in those 29 trips, but it results in lots of predictable runs off tackle or flare passes that don't go anywhere.

The second, and much bigger problem, is the dearth of playmakers on the UCLA side. Last year the Bruins had one of their all-time greatest scoring machines in Maurice Drew, and this year they have...what? Chris Markey is a fine back, but he's not going to create a lot of big plays on his own - to wit, he's scored exactly one touchdown this year. Moline is more of a tank suitable for short-yardage duties. The receivers are OK, but they need a reliable arm to deliver the football - and Cowan hasn't been up to the task.

Compare that with Cal's situation. Tedford can choose from three wideouts who have at least thirty catches each, a reliable if under-utilized tight end, the best back in the conference (Lynch), or his very capable understudy (Forsett) - both of whom are excellent receivers. Oh, and his QB is leading the conference in TD passes.

UCLA has an outstanding run defense, and given these facts, they will need it on Saturday. If they can hold Cal to less than 30 points, they've got a reasonable shot at the upset. If not, then the Rose Bowl Express moves further down the track.


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