UCLA (1-5) has finally knocked the monkey off of its back.
Previously winless, Chip Kelly’s Bruins embarrassed Cal 37-7 in front of a homecoming crowd, snapping a 12-game losing streak on the road. With that win and a matchup against Arizona on Saturday, the Bruins may be able to string together two in a row during what’s likely their easiest stretch of the season.
Perhaps the brightest spot for UCLA is that running back Joshua Kelley has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past three games.
Outside linebacker Keisean Lucier-South has been a force on the defensive side for the Bruins; against Cal he had 3.5 tackles for loss, an interception, a scoop-and-score fumble recovery and another forced fumble. Named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, Lucier-South represents a major concern for the Arizona offense.
Speaking of the Arizona offense, the Wildcats have an even bigger concern going into Saturday’s matchup — playing without quarterback Khalil Tate. The speedy signal-caller has been hampered all season by an unhealthy ankle, and it inevitably gave way after a first-quarter sack in the Wildcats’ recent loss against Utah.
Backup quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, son of former head coach Rich Rodriguez, filled in the remaining three quarters against the Utes and has been named starter against the young Bruins, whose roster is composed of nearly all underclassmen.
After gifting UCLA its first win of the season, Cal (3-3) faces a must-win against Oregon State, having dropped three straight games since the start of conference play. Though the Beavers have lost 12 straight conference games, the Bears have not won a Pac-12 game on the road since Sept. 26, 2015, and are currently trending downward.
Cal needs to find an answer to its quarterback woes fast, especially against an Oregon State team that tends to engage in shootouts with its opponents.
No. 12 Oregon (5-1) will be gearing up for its second challenging contest in two weeks after beating Washington in overtime during Week 7. The Ducks travel to Pullman to face No. 25 Washington State (5-1), and the fireworks that this matchup guarantees have attracted College GameDay, which would make this the Ducks’ second appearance on the show in 2018.
Oregon needs to prepare for Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, who leads the nation in passing with 2,422 yards through the air. The Cougars have proven themselves throughout the season, with a victory over a tough Utah team and a strong showing on the road against USC. But the Cougars were down to the Beavers last week 30-28 in the third quarter before scoring 28 straight points — a sign that there’s still work to be done in Pullman.
When the Cougars and Ducks face off, fans can expect a high-scoring affair, but what’s truly unproven is how the Ducks will perform on the road under the attention of a College GameDay audience — which didn’t go so well last time against Stanford.