COLLEGE FOOTBALL GRADES
Result: Beat UCLA 43-17
Comment: Five weeks of frustration, unleashed. Bruins coach Jim Mora's description of the Bears as "maniacal" was spot on. ... Cal was far more physical than in the dreadful loss to Arizona State. The running backs and receivers broke tackles, the offensive linemen finished blocks, and the defense produced some punishing hits. ... The play-calling was aggressive and creative, resulting in a string of positive gains on first down that kept the Bears out of second/third-and-long situations. ... Tight end Richard Rodgers, finally healthy, produced seven catches for 129 yards and added a needed dimension to the passing game. ... Quarterback Zach Maynard started off with an interception but played exceptionally well the rest of the way: He was accurate (25 of 30) and made smart decisions with the ball.
Next up: at Washington State
The matchup: As a chance to build momentum, it doesn't get much better for the Bears. Washington State is struggling -- its only wins are against Eastern Washington and UNLV -- and the atmosphere in Martin Stadium can hardly be considered intimidating. ... But Cal cannot dawdle. It must take control early and keep the reeling Cougars from developing any confidence. The best means of accomplishing that goal: Avoid turnovers and run the ball effectively.
Result: Beat Arizona 54-48 (OT)
Comment: Sizzling offense, shoddy defense -- not exactly the script we expected. ... Don't read too much into the 54 points, 617 yards, 50 percent conversions on third down and red zone success: Arizona's defense is substandard. If the Cardinal puts up half that many points this week, then it might be time to declare the wobbly offense a thing of the past. ... Quarterback Josh Nunes was terrific Saturday (21 of 34, 360 yards) but rarely had to throw out of rhythm or into narrow windows. ... The past two opponents provided blueprints for future foes to attack the Cardinal: First, Washington stuffed the running game, then Arizona carved up Stanford's highly rated defense. But how many teams are capable of doing both? Oregon may be it.
Next up: at Notre Dame
The matchup: Stanford is a nine-point underdog, which should provide a sense for the challenge in South Bend. ... The Cardinal has won the past three matchups, but this is the best Irish team in that span, by far. ... Both teams play physical defense and prefer the ground-and-pound approach (albeit with different running schemes). It should be close and low scoring, with quarterback play being decisive. Nunes must be more efficient than he was in the loss at Washington.