Bowl eligibility is on the line for the visitor, while the host team is looking to boost their standing in a big way.
UCLA football (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will play Cal (4-6, 3-4) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Bruins have won six of the last eight head-to-head matchups, owning an all-time advantage of 55-34-1 over the Bruins since 1933. UCLA enters this year's game as a 6.5-point favorite.
All Bruins is making its picks for who will win, what the score will be and how the game will play out, courtesy of Managing Editor Sam Connon, contributing writer Benjamin Royer and special guest predictor, Jake Curtis from our sister site Cal Sports Report.
Sam Connon, Managing Editor
Prediction: UCLA 27, Cal 23
The USC hangover is real, as much as Chip Kelly would like to ignore it.
The Bruins are 1-6 in conference games the week after playing the Trojans since 2011, and Kelly himself is 0-3 in such contests. The only time UCLA has beaten Stanford or Cal coming off a game versus USC was when they beat the Golden Bears in the 2017 regular season finale, and that was with interim coach Jedd Fisch and backup quarterback Devon Modster.
Basically, when a Bruin team tries to regroup after playing the Trojans – win or loss – things don't typically go to well for them against the Cardinal or Golden Bears the following week.
So while I think that trend may come into play Saturday, I don't think it will be enough to cost UCLA the win in the Rose Bowl.
There's simply too much at stake – Kelly proving his signature win against USC wasn't a fluke or flash in the pan with his job still up in the air, finishing the regular season on a three-game winning streak to vastly improve bowl prospects and the massive exodus of veterans who could be honored on a program-defining Senior Night.
Cal came to the Rose Bowl and beat UCLA in the 2019 season finale, which was the Senior Night for Joshua Kelly, Krys Barnes, Josh Woods and several other key, emotional leaders on that team. The mood in the entire stadium that night was just completely lethargic, and it was difficult to sit through Woods and Kelley's postgame press conference after the 28-18 loss.
Kelly surely doesn't want to recreate that environment this fall, even if he won't admit it. The USC hangover, being so set in stone at this point, should act as more of a motivator than a curse at this point, and guys like quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, striker Qwuantrezz Knight and tight end Greg Dulcich will surely want to end their Rose Bowl careers in a much higher note than those who came before them.
Cal is not the cupcake they were earlier in the season, so motivation and attitude alone won't win UCLA this game, but a slight change in mindset will help them narrowly outplay Chase Garbers and company under the lights in Pasadena.
Benjamin Royer, contributing writer
Prediction: UCLA 37, Cal 24
UCLA is coming off of two victories, with the most recent being a record-breaking win against USC. Momentum is high, Thompson-Robinson seems raring to go for his possible final game at the Rose Bowl and the Bruins will ultimately find themselves returning to Westwood riding some more late-night success.
Despite their record, Cal actually matches up pretty well against UCLA. The Golden Bears only allow 125.4 rushing yards per game, which is slightly better than the Bruins’ mark. The rushing game could be a make-or-break factor on Saturday, but I believe that either way, Thompson-Robinson will carry the load for a post-Victory Bell victory.
Duclich is due for a strong showing. His ability to get by defenders as he crosses midfield for a big gain is unlike any other guy in the Pac-12. This may also be his last game in the Rose Bowl and it is possible that he shows out one final time.
Most importantly, a win Saturday would bring the Bruins’ record to 8-4. This would give them a shot at becoming a late top 25 addition while also improving the profile of the bowl game they could get selected for.
A big victory to end the season would give UCLA a lot to celebrate, regardless of coaching noise.
Jake Curtis, Cal Sports Report Owner
Prediction: Cal 30, UCLA 28
Saturday night’s Cal-UCLA game looks like a clash of two dynamic quarterbacks.
You can make a pretty good case that Thompson-Robinson and Garbers, along with Utah’s Cameron Rising, have been the three best quarterbacks in the conference over the second half of the season. The one who has the better day in Pasadena on Saturday night is likely to come away the winner, particularly since Cal’s and UCLA’s defenses are considerably better against the run than the pass.
I expect it to be a rather high scoring game with the winner needing to score at least 30 points. I expect both quarterbacks to cause problems with their legs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Garbers and Thompson-Robinson both end up with more than 50 yards rushing.
Cal has a little more incentive, since it needs to win this game and next week’s game against USC to become bowl-eligible, but that is canceled out by the Bruins playing at home. The team that can pose enough of a run-game threat to make its passing game effective will be the winner.
I expect a close game, with Cal pulling out a 30-28 win.