Cal seeks bowl eligibility when it visits UCLA

Field Level Media

November 23, 2023 at 12:47 am.

Cal seeks a road win on Saturday in Pasadena, Calif., to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2019, while host UCLA pursues its third straight season of eight or more wins.

UCLA (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) comes into its regular-season finale off of a dominant 38-20 win over rival Southern California last Saturday. The Bruins led by 25 points in the late fourth quarter en route to both their second straight road win at USC, and a victory that pulled them out of a two-game skid.

UCLA overwhelmed the Trojans rushing offense, limiting USC to just three net yards on 22 attempts. This week, the Bruins face a stiff test trying to replicate that dominance against a Cal offense ranked No. 25 nationally with 186.5 rushing yards per game.

“When you’re playing Cal, they’re a really balanced football team, and Jaydn Ott is a really outstanding running back,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said during his Monday media availability.

Ott leads the Pac-12 with 1,180 rushing yards on 208 carries, and his 11 touchdowns on the ground are tied with Washington’s Dillon Johnson and USC’s Caleb Williams for most in the league.

Cal (5-6, 3-5) comes into Rose Bowl Stadium on Saturday riding a two-game winning streak. The Golden Bears lost four straight before a 42-39 defeat of Washington State on Nov. 11 and a 27-15 win over rival Stanford last Saturday has them in the hunt for a bowl game.

Although Cal rushed for fewer yards than its season average in each of the last three games, including the defeats of Washington State and Stanford, the Golden Bears are going for 229.8 yards on the ground in wins vs. 150.3 in losses.

They will try to establish a consistent rush against a UCLA defense that leads the nation with just 64.6 yards allowed on the ground a contest and is tied for second by giving up just three rushing touchdowns.

“At this point in the season, the stats bear it out,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said in his Tuesday media availability. “They’re very good up front … Laiatu Latu is an elite football player. He plays on the edge for them, but he’ll get down. He makes plays for them in the run game, in the pass game. Very difficult to block.”

Latu leads the conference in both sacks with 13 and tackles for loss with 20.5 (best in FBS), contributing to UCLA’s miniscule rushing yield.

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