The (8-3) UCLA Bruins will travel to Berkeley, CA, for a Pac-12 matchup against the (4-7) Cal Golden Bears on Friday. The two schools have met annually since 1933, but are playing for one of the last times as conference rivals, as UCLA is set to join the Big Ten in 2024. It is the second-longest uninterrupted rivalry game in college football. The Golden Bears are 10.5-point spread underdogs at home, and the game total is 60.5 points.
The Crosstown Showdown behind them, Bruins aim to finish season on high noteUCLA endured its toughest loss of the 2022 season last week vs. crosstown rival USC, falling 48-45. The Bruins led 14-0, but the Trojans rallied, racking up a season-high 648 yards of total offense. Although it was just its first win over a ranked opponent, USC is headed to the Pac-12 title game with an opportunity to make a better impression on the College Football Playoff committee. The Bruins will now have to make a concerted effort not to come out with a deflated performance against California in their regular season finale.
In the loss to SC, Trojans QB Caleb Williams (503 total yards, 3 TDs, and one INT) outdueled Bruins QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (390 total yards, 6 TDs, and four turnovers) in the first matchup between two Black quarterbacks in the history of the Crosstown Showdown. It was a historic rivalry game, but one that UCLA will have to put behind it immediately to salvage what has been a fine season.
The Bruins are top ten in points scored (40.0), rushing yards (236.8), and total yards per game (504.9), with the 34th-ranked passing attack (268.1 yards per game). Thompson-Robinson has been electric (3,238 total yards and 33 total TDs), and the running game has dominated, with Zach Charbonnet leading the way (1,240 rush yards and 13 TDs). It's been especially exciting for Big Ten football fans, who will now welcome not one but two stellar programs to the conference in two seasons.
With the Axe in hand, Cal will take a swing at the BruinsThe Bears are feeling pretty golden after defeating Stanford 27-20 last week and will look to keep their momentum at home versus their Southern California rival UCLA. Cal had lost six straight and seven of its past eight games, using a fumble return TD to rally from 14 points down to beat the Cardinal. The Golden Bears trailed 17-6 in the fourth quarter, but after a one-yard touchdown pass from QB Jack Plummer, a wild play with two fumbles turned into a fortunate scoop-and-score opportunity. Stanford had three more drives but couldn't mount a comeback, as Cal forced two punts and recorded an interception with roughly two minutes remaining that led to a Bears TD. It was their first home win in the rivalry since 2008.
"It means a lot," said senior safety Daniel Scott, who recorded the INT. "I think for us, we wanted to keep the Axe here. It deserves to be here. We put in a lot of hard work. To get that win not only for the team but the whole Cal community was huge."
This year has been a tough one for California, with a long losing streak and just one conference victory prior to last week's comeback win. The Golden Bears have been unwatchable for most of it, scoring just 23.5 points (98th nationally) with one of the worst running games in the FBS (99.2 rush yards per game, 121st nationally). The defense has also surrendered too many yards, especially through the air (287.7 per game, 127th nationally). It might not be a bowl game, but a win over UCLA could give fans, alumni, and the program some satisfaction heading into the long offseason. It would be extra sweet, too, with the Bruins ditching their Pac-12 peers for a new home in the Big Ten in two seasons.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
UCLA boasts an elite offense capable of scoring in bunches, which USC quickly discovered last week. While the Trojans were able to mount a comeback, could California do the same? I don't envision this game being close for too long, with Thompson-Robinson leading the Bruins on several first-half scoring drives. The Bears are not good at anything and will look as coordinated as their mascot would in a pair of ice skates. I don't envision the momentum Cal created by beating Stanford carrying over against UCLA. Confidence is essential, but it can only get a team so far.
The Bruins are 11-1 ATS vs. a team with a losing record, and the Golden Bears are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win. It's UCLA's game to win, and its game to lose. I'll bet that the visitors enact some revenge on the Golden Bears after suffering a tough loss to the Trojans.
My bet: Bruins -10.5
Full-Game Total Pick
There's enough talent on this UCLA offense to push the total over, whether or not the Golden Bears offense participates. Thompson-Robinson has made strides as a passer and has a serious running mate in Charbonnet. The duo combined for 1,784 rush yards and 22 rushing touchdowns this season. The Golden Bears will likely be playing from behind nearly all game, but their passing game isn't terrible (265.7 yards per game). It won't be the back-and-forth scoring match that will excite the fans in the seats, but the Bruins faithful should have an enjoyable post-holiday watch party.
The over is 7-1 in the Bruins' last eight road games versus a team with a losing home record and 4-0 in the Golden Bears' last four conference games. I'll bet that those trends continue on Friday at California Memorial Stadium.
My bet: Over 60.5 points.