This week marks the 80th anniversary of the Cal-UCLA rivalry, one that started on November 4, 1933 and has been played every year since (twice a year from 1943-45, in fact). The two schools don't play for a trophy, which is sort of a shame—they're the premier state institutions in California, one northern and one southern, they can't play for a bronze medical marijuana joint or something?—but they do play for pride and history, and that's more than enough.
The Cal-UCLA matchup this year should be explosive (if perhaps not close—more on that in a second), with two offenses that average more than 500 yards a game squaring off against each other. UCLA QB Brett Hundley is one of the best young talents in the game as a sophomore, and Cal freshman Jared Goff has the potential to be one of the most prolific passers in Pac-12 history if he gets to start all four years for Sonny Dykes.
Starting UCLA defensive end Ellis McCarthy is questionable with a concussion.
Rankings and records: UCLA is ranked No. 11 and has cruised to a 4-0 (1-0) record on the season, while Cal sits at 1-4 (0-2) thus far. UCLA holds the advantage in the historical rivalry, 50-32-1, though Cal has a 14-9 edge since the start of the 1990s.
Vegas: UCLA is a 24.5 point favorite, per OddsShark.com, and the over-under is 73 points, one of the highest numbers of the weekend. Essentially, Vegas is setting the baselines for wagering on this game at 49-24, Bruins. That's a far cry from the 43-17 whipping Cal put on UCLA last year, to say the least.
Weather: The weather will be awful hahaha no it won't this is Los Angeles. Mid-60s and clear at kickoff.
Three names to know
Jim L. Mora is only in his second season at the helm of UCLA, and already he has it on a higher trajectory than any coach since Bob Toledo, who led the Bruins to consecutive 10-win seasons in the late '90s, nearly getting the Bruins into the BCS Championship Game in 1998. Mora's expectations aren't that high yet—they rarely are in Year 2 of a new coaching regime after the previous one was fired—but his goals should be that high.
With Hundley at QB, UCLA passes for over 300 yards a game, but it also runs for over 250 per, and it can thank both Hundley and breakout RB Jordon James (463 yards, 5 TDs this year) for that ground resurgence. James is questionable (per ESPN) to doubtful (per USA Today) for this week's game after sustaining an ankle injury last week, however, so freshman Paul Perkins is likely to get the rock if James can't go. Perkins rushed 16 times for 92 yards in relief of James against Utah last week, so freshman or no, he's got skills.
Two things at stake
For a rebuilding team like Cal, every win matters, and every win over a big-time opponent helps legitimize the program under its new regime. And while coaches won't admit it, even close losses to big-time foes help push momentum in the right direction. So if Cal can show it can go into UCLA's house and even hang close, it's a step in the right direction.
As for UCLA, it still has the bulk of its harrowing Pac-12 North schedule to go, but at 4-0 and No. 11 in the nation, it's every bit as much in the Rose Bowl race as anyone else (so far). If it can somehow split its road dates with Stanford and Oregon (implausible but not impossible) and then take out Washington in a home game, that leaves the door open for a division title and a Top-10 rank. The Bruins need to take care of business first, and a game like this counts as business.
How to witness
TV: These two teams square off at 10:30 ET (7:30 local) on ESPN2. Mark Jones and Brock Huard are in the booth.