KEY MATCHUPS - UCLA v CALIFORNIA1. Cal tackles Andrew Cameron, Mike Gibson and Mike Tepper vs. UCLA defensive ends Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman: This is the matchup of the game. UCLA - like most teams, actually - is successful on defense when their ends can generate pressure from the basic four-man rush. Davis and Hickman are quick and strong and will be the biggest challenge this side of M'Kristo Bruce for Cal's OL. If the Bears can shut them down and force UCLA into blitz packages, it should open up the middle of the field for Longshore.
2. Pat Cowan v. Cal's Linebackers: OC Jim Svoboda is fond of short and intermediate routes; Cal's athletic LBs, led by Desmond Bishop and Mickey Pimentel, have prevented opponents from breaking these plays into big gainers. Additionally, Cal's cover packages have lured opposing QBs into 18 interceptions - against Washington LBs Bishop, Follett and Williams each had a pick. If Cowan throws a couple of picks in bad field position situations, UCLA will have a hard time keeping the score down.
3. Mike Dunbar v. DeWayne Walker: Bruins DC Walker has had two really bad games: last week's meltdown against Wazzu's big receiving corps, and an earlier loss to Oregon. Oregon's the game that interests me here, because the Bruins looked a bit lost against Gary Crowton's spread offense. Could Tedford and Dunbar have installed more of the spread during the bye week, and will we see it on Saturday? If so, has Walker learned how to attack the spread offense?
4. Rodney Van v. Robert Jordan/Lavelle Hawkins: Van is the junior corner who benched himself after getting repeatedly torched in last week's loss to Wazzu. I'm guessing he won't be assigned to DJax (a former teammate at LB Poly), and will instead tangle with our 'possession' receiver. It will be tough for UCLA to zone Cal given Longshore's efficiency in distributing the football. Is Van up to the task in man coverage, or will he volunteer once again for pine time?
5. Karl Dorrell v. Himself. Has the embattled Bruins' coach lost the ability to rally his team to what would be an improbable upset? Dorrell needs to coach a desperate game this Saturday for his Bruins to outscore the Bears. Vertical routes, trick plays, new formations - Dorrell will need all this and more unless Davis and Hickman can control the game through a superior pass rush.