Cal and UCLA Engage in Win or Die Pac-12 NCAAF Betting Match
The UCLA Bruins are limping after losing their last two, which means that their midweek tilt against the California Golden Bears will either give them a quick dose of redemption or send them to a third setback in as many weeks. There are a lot of problems that UCLA has to overcome, while Cal is coming in after getting really close to knocking off what may be the very best team in the Pac-12, in the Utah Utes.
UCLA’s problems begin in the infirmary. Left tackle Conor McDermott remains “very questionable” because of his sprained knee, which means that Kolton Miller could get his very first start. He has been effective in practice and played well in the second half of last week’s game. Alex Redmond injured his hand in last week’s game, and Deon Hollins missed Sunday’s practice. Nate Starks had a head injury in Thursday’s game and has not practiced yet.
Outside the trainer’s room, the Bruins also have a big question mark at punter. Against Stanford, Matt Mengel only managed 37.8 yards per kick on six attempts. His longest was only 46 yards, and his efforts never managed to turn field position in the favor of the Bruins. This isn’t a new issue, either, as Mengel’s season average is only 38.0 yards. While some of his kicks have been into short fields, that average is low, which means that he is costing the Bruins in the field position battle. While the short punts are making long returns less of a risk, that’s not really what you want out of your punting game.
Cal brings a different sort of offense against UCLA than Stanford did, running the Bear Raid spread offense while Stanford runs out of a heavy pro style set. UCLA coach Jim Mora admitted that his defense “struggled a little bit” in what was an awful game against Stanford, and the most he could generate in his Sunday press conference was the old saw that “hopefully we’ll play better this week,” which is not the biggest confidence booster that came out of a coach’s mouth this weekend.
The Bruins have been on the short side from the officials, particularly with an awful targeting call (which led to a player ejection) and an equally awful offensive pass interference call from the Stanford game. To his credit, Mora didn’t blame the loss on those two calls, and there is that notion that good teams have to earn the benefit of the doubt from the officials, which the Bruins have not quite managed to do this year.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Payton was honest enough to say that “the penalties killed us” and that the team needs to show more discipline to avoid those yellow flags. His discussion of that execrable offensive pass interference call against him that brought the Bruins first drive to a halt was diplomatic enough to show his leadership ability. He talked about the importance of fixing mistakes. If the Bruins can’t do that, of course, expect the Golden Bears to roll right over them. Given the number of Bruins in the trainer’s room, I’m picking the Golden Bears to do just that.