California (3-5) at Utah (2-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 9:45 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017) -- Salt Lake City, Utah.
Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Cal 2-3, Utah 2-1. Away Record: Cal
1-2, Utah 0-4. Neutral Record: Cal 0-0, Utah 0-0. Conference Record: Cal 2-3,
Utah 0-4. Series Record: California leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: Still in search of their first Pac-12 victory of the season, the
Utah Utes welcome the California Golden Bears to Rice-Eccles Stadium for a
Saturday night showdown.
The Utes are 0-4 in conference play for the second straight season and would
love to pull off a similar feat as last year, when they rebounded to win five
of their final six games, including a bowl victory. Utah, which is coming off
a 21-7 setback at seventh-ranked Oregon State last week, must win four of its
final five games to become bowl eligible for a 10th straight year.
Cal had a two-game win streak snapped in last week's 21-3 loss to No. 19
Stanford. The Golden Bears are also scrambling to become bowl eligible,
needing to win three of their final four games. That certainly won't be an
easy task with top-10 teams Oregon and Oregon State on the docket for the
final two games.
Cal holds a 5-3 lead in the all-time series with Utah, although this is the
Golden Bears' first trip to Salt Lake City since 2003.
The Bears' offense was completely shut down by Stanford last week, as they
managed only 12 first downs and 217 yards of total offense for the game. The
running game was nonexistent, managing a dismal three net yards on 28 team
carries. Cal also put the ball on the ground three times, losing two fumbles.
Zach Maynard completed 19-of-31 passes for 214 yards and was sacked four
times, while top target Keenan Allen was held to 43 yards on four catches. As
head coach Jeff Tedford pointed out after the game, Stanford won the line of
scrimmage battle, and did so rather easily. It was the fewest points the
Golden Bears scored against Stanford, their arch rival, since 1998. The
optimistic view would chalk it up to simply having a poor performance against
a better team, as Cal did manage 74 points over its previous two contests.
Then again, the Bears rank 71st nationally in total offense (391.6 ypg) and
78th in scoring (25.6 ppg).
Defensively, Cal has been solid but unspectacular. The team has held its last
five opponents to less than 28 points. Overall, the Golden Bears rank 61st
nationally in scoring defense (25.8 ppg) and 82nd in total defense (425.8
ypg). Last week, Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, and the Cardinal
switched to a more conservative, ball-control approach in the second half to
keep Cal at bay. The defense held Stanford's Josh Nunes to 214 yards on 16-
of-31 passing, as the Bears notched an interception and a fumble recovery late
in the fourth quarter to prevent a blowout. However, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor
ran for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown.
Utah head coach Kyle Wittingham has done quite a bit of quarterback shuffling.
Junior Jordan Wynn started the first two games, senior Jon Hays got the start
in the next three, and true freshman Travis Wilson has started each of the
last two contests. Wilson had his moments against a tough Oregon State
defense, though in the end he finished with only 172 yards on 15-of-28
passing. Wilson did toss an 18-yard touchdown to Jake Murphy midway through
the third quarter to make it a 14-7 game, but he was also intercepted twice
and lost a fumble. John White was bottled up for just 68 rushing yards on 20
carries (3.4 ypc), while sophomore tight end Jake Murphy caught a team-high
four passes for 42 yards and a TD. On the season, Murphy paces the Utes with
22 catches for 239 yards and figures to remain a security blanket for the
freshman Wilson. The last time a tight end led Utah in receiving in a season
was Dennis Smith back in 1989.
Utah's defense is a strength, as the team leads the nation with 13 forced
fumbles and is tied for the lead in fumbles returned for touchdowns with
three. In terms of total defense, the Utes rank second in the Pac-12 (332.9
ypg), while they rank fourth in the conference and 22nd nationally in run
defense (113.9 ypg). Last week, Utah held Oregon State to 52 yards rushing,
the second time this year that the Utes have held a team under 100 yards
rushing. OSU's first two touchdowns came on drives that started inside the red
zone following an interception and a touchdown. It's tough to point the finger
at the defense for allowing those scores, especially considering the Utes held
OSU to 15 first downs and only 226 yards of total offense for the game.
Both of these teams are fighting for their postseason lives, so despite their
respective records, this should be a hotly contested battle. Points figure to
be hard to come by, and Utah gets a slight edge playing at home with a fierce
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 19, California 13
10/24 10:32:49 ET