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To close out the regular season, the Bruins will be playing host to a brand new Golden Bears squad.

UCLA football (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will play Cal (4-6, 3-4) on Saturday, having won two in a row against Pac-12 foes. Justin Wilcox will be on the opposite sideline with his fifth season in Berkeley coming to a close, trying to win out and lead the Golden Bears to their third bowl appearance in four years.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave joined Wilcox's staff for the 2020 season after spending 20 years in the NFL as a coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon was promoted from within last year, having been the Golden Bears' inside linebackers coach the prior few seasons and Mississippi State and Louisville's defensive coordinator before that.

So with the 2021 season and those coaches' histories in mind, here's a quick rundown of what Cal might look like come Saturday night.

Cal Offense vs. UCLA Defense

Cal Passing Yards/Game: 235.7 yards
Cal Rushing Yards/Game: 179.7 yards
UCLA Passing Yards Allowed/Game: 272.5 yards
UCLA Rushing Yards Allowed/Game: 130.0 yards

The Golden Bears' offense has flipped a switch since the midpoint of the conference season after opening the year as one of the least potent units in the Pac-12.

Cal averaged 18.3 points per game with a 1-3 record in its first four games against conference opponents. It was averaging 392.3 yards per game on 5.4 yards per play in that span, which aren't awful numbers, but they were comfortably in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in both categories at the time.

Ever since that sub-.500 start to conference play, the Golden Bears have suddenly become one of the most reliable offenses out west. To be frank, the sample size isn't incredibly large, since we're tossing out the 10-3 loss to Arizona in which Cal was down 26 players and coaches due to COVID-19, and their game against USC was postponed due to those same health protocols.

Still, the jump in numbers is certainly notable, and it has affected both the run and pass game. In its two most recent wins over Oregon State and Stanford, Cal averaged 40 points and 578 yards per game on 8.6 yards per play.

Quarterback Chase Garbers has been the leading force behind the midseason turnaround. Across his first four appearances against FBS opponents, Garbers completed 62.5% of his passes for 7.0 yards per attempt and a 127.9 passer rating with five touchdowns and four interceptions. In his last four outings, having missed the Arizona game, Garbers is completing 65.3% of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt and a 154.0 passer rating with nine touchdowns and one interception.

Whether he's been camping out in the pocket or rolling out on bootlegs, Garbers has been playing as good as he ever has during this most recent stretch.

Garbers has sneakily morphed into one of the best dual-threats in the Pac-12 over the course of his four years as a starter as well, and he's having his best season on the ground yet.

Only 81 yards separate Garbers from Cal's leading rusher, and his 5.4 yards per carry are right up there with the rest of the impressive ball-carriers on the Golden Bears' sideline. Garbers' three touchdowns have also been key, and he is now Cal's all-time leading quarterback rusher in terms of yards and scoring.

It is worth noting, though, that Garbers has struggled mightily in his two career starts against UCLA and defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. Garbers is completing 56.5% of his passes against the Bruins with a negative touchdown-to-interception ratio, leading to a 103.0 passer rating. And even though he found the end zone with his legs in both the 2019 and 2020 outings, Garbers is averaging just 2.4 yards per carry against UCLA. 

Through the air, Garbers will be looking towards 6-foot-4 wideout Trevon Clark early and often, as he leads Cal with 604 yards, 20.8 yards per reception and four touchdowns on the season. Clark has the size and strength to go up and get 50/50 balls better than most corners, but he has surprisingly good speed for someone his height as well.

The other receivers who will be sure to make an impact Saturday are Kekoa Crawford and Jeremiah Hunter, who average a combined 93 yards and six catches per game, despite having only found the end zone once all year between them. Tight end Jake Tonges has been a reliable target as well, with 221 yards and four touchdowns on 19 catches this season.

The two leading men in the backfield are running backs Damien Moore and Christopher Brooks, two of the very few skill position players who have played and contributed in all 10 games this season. Moore only has nine more carries than Brooks on the season, so they are a true 1A-1B tandem, and they are almost equally as efficient as well.

Brooks has more big-play potential, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per reception.

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Brooks has 613 yards and four touchdowns on 105 touches from scrimmage this year, while Moore has 601 yards and seven touchdowns on 112 touches. Moore is the better finisher, with six rushing touchdowns to Brooks' one, while Brooks is used slightly better in the passing game.

Paving the way for the two-man wrecking crew, and protecting Garbers, is an offensive line made up of a physical group of consistent offensive linemen. From left to right, Cal is starting Bryaden Rohme, Ben Coleman, Matthew Cindric, McKade Mettauer and Valentino Daltoso.

The Golden Bears' run game is right up there with the Bruins' at 5.3 yards per carry, but ranks in the bottom four in the Pac-12 in rushing touchdowns. Musgrave likes to keep the ball in Garbers' hands down in the red zone, whether he's working with a read option, a designed run, a bootleg or a fade.

Garbers, even with the recent success of Cal's run game, is the focal point of the offense, and shutting him down for the third year in a row would make a path to victory much more clear for UCLA.

Cal Defense vs. UCLA Offense

UCLA Passing Yards/Game: 233.9 yards
UCLA Rushing Yards/Game: 214.0 yards
Cal Passing Yards Allowed/Game: 233.3 yards
Cal Rushing Yards Allowed/Game: 164.2 yards

Sirmon comes from a linebacker background, and that's where the Golden Bears stand out the most at this point in the season.

Kuony Deng was supposed to be the keystone guy in the linebacking corps, but he has missed almost the entire season with a leg injury. Super senior outside linebacker Cameron Goode is instead the leader in the unit this year, and he too was a preseason watch list darling, now leading the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

Muela Iosefa and Marquez Bimage are two of the other lead linebackers, and they've combined for 12.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Frehsman Nate Rutchena is other other starter on the inside, next to Iosefa, and he thrives in coverage with three interceptions and two passes defended. Evan Tattersall and Trey Paster have also contributed in lesser capacities this season.

Up front is a bit of a different story, with less consistent talent across the line than that second level. Seventh-year defensive lineman Luc Bequette doesn't have elite size, but his 35 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks are among best in the position group.

John Henry Tevis starts at defensive end, and he has 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack so far this season. The opposite defensive defender, Ethan Saunders, is the only other lineman with any kind of significant production with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Mostly thanks to the linebackers, Cal has managed to cobble together a solid run defense this year, allowing 125.4 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry, which rank No. 1 and No. 3 in the Pac-12, respectively.

When it comes to the secondary, it's a very aggressive group with the ball in the air.

The safeties are definitely the group with the most production on the entire defense, with of seven of Cal's 13 interceptions coming from that position. Daniel Scott and Elijah Hicks have three interceptions each, while also leading the Golden Bears with 60 and 56 tackles.

Nickel Colin Gamble has an interception as well, to go along with five passes defended.

Between the entire Cal defense, breaking up passes has been huge this year. Cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns leads the way with eight passes defended, while fellow corners Josh Drayden and Isaiah Young have five and four, respectively. 

As a defense that likes to tip balls, pick off passes and shut down the run, Cal stands as an imperfect storm of a matchup for a UCLA offense that relies on running the ball, getting in a rhythm throwing the ball and taking the top off the defense.

One of the keys to the game for the Bruins is going to be creating space and spreading things out, relying on superior blocking up front and receivers beating guys in 1-on-1 situations. When things get compact and crowded up front, the Golden Bears have the personnel to slow things down, and the crossing routes that got the Trojans so mixed up a week ago might not work as well against a disciplined secondary that also has a nose for the ball.

If UCLA can stay moderately efficient on the ground and not turn the ball over through the air, it should come away victory.

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