Football: Cal-Utah game preview

Cal coach Jeff Tedford isn’t fooled by Utah’s 0-4 start to the Pac-12 season.

He expects Utes fans — especially on a “blackout” night with all of them decked out in black —  to make the Bears feel entirely unwelcome.

“This’ll be a different place than Washington State was. Washington State is always hostile. This place, it doesn’t matter what their record is, doesn’t matter anything,” Tedford said. “They are passionate about what they do.

“You watch game tape and you see the fans bouncing up and down in the stands. It’s very, very loud and they’re very into it. And they never stop. Some places go up and down. This stays at a high pitch.”

Here’s my game preview story, focusing on senior RB Isi Sofele’s return to his roots in Salt Lake City.


RECORDS: Cal 3-5, 2-3 in Pac-12; Utah 2-5, 0-4

KICKOFF: 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City

TV: Pac-12 Bay Area


SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 5-3. Cal won 34-10 last year, but Utah won the two previous meetings, including the most recent matchup at Salt Lake City in 2003, when Alex Smith and the Utes topped Aaron Rodgers and the Bears 31-24.

STORYLINES: This is virtually a bowl elimination game. Cal needs to win three of its final four games to become bowl eligible while the Utes must take four of five to do so. . . . The Bears’ two Pac-12 victories came over UCLA and Washington State in night games. Utah has designated this its annual “blackout” game, with players donning black uniforms and helmets and fans asked to wear black. . . . Cal’s defense, which has held three straight opponents to 21 points or fewer, hopes to exploit a Utah team that has lost four straight for the first time in coach Kyle Whittingham’s eight seasons and features true freshman Travis Wilson at quarterback.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal — LB Brennan Scarlett (broken hand) and DL Viliami Moala (ankle) are questionable. LB Chris McCain (ankle) is doubtful. LB Jalen Jefferson (concussion) is out. Utah — Saf Quade Chappuis (shoulder), OG Jeremiah Toaeone (undisclosed injury) and OL Latu Heimuli (undisclosed injury) are out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Once again, the focus is on Cal’s erratic offensive line, which was overwhelmed last week by Stanford and now faces a Utah defensive front led by elite NFL draft prospect Star Lotulelei (6-4, 320) at DT. The Utes rank second in the Pac-12, allowing just 333 yards per game. Cal has absorbed an NCAA-worst 67 tackles for loss, including 33 sacks. Senior OG Dominic Galas, who missed the first seven games after surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, may start.

STATS THAT MATTER: Junior WR Keenan Allen, with 200 career receptions, needs just three to pass Geoff McArthur as Cal’s all-time leader . . . Despite rushing for just 3 yards last week vs. Stanford, the Bears still rank fifth in the Pac-12 in the category at 171.0 yards per game . . . Utah, which led the Pac-12 in interceptions with 19 last season, has picked off just two passes this fall . . . The Utes also are last in the conference in total offense (303.3 yards per game), field goals (3) and first downs (17.0 per game).


Jeff Faraudo