BYU (7-4) at California (5-6) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (73,347) -- Berkeley, California. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: BYU 4-2, California 2-4. Away Record: BYU 3-2, California 3-2. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, California 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, California 3-6. Series Record: BYU leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Needing a win in the final game of the 2014 season in order to become bowl eligible, the California Golden Bears close out the campaign by hosting the BYU Cougars on Saturday afternoon.
Despite losing their quarterback just a few weeks into the season, the Cougars have fought hard to make themselves bowl eligible with seven wins in 11 opportunities. The squad has rattled off three wins in a row after losing three straight, the most recent victory being a lopsided 64-0 triumph over Savannah State last weekend.
BYU scored 51 points in the first half versus Savannah State, the most since it delivered 54 versus Western State back in 1951, while the shutout victory was the largest since a 65-0 romp over New Mexico in 1988.
As for the Golden Bears, they started out the campaign well enough with four wins in five tries, but since then have fallen on hard times with just a single victory in six opportunities. Last weekend, the squad was thumped by Stanford at home by a score of 38-17.
The Cougars have won two of the previous three meetings between the teams, although California was victorious in the most recent clash, a 35-28 final in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl.
For BYU, the outing against Savannah State was an ugly one, as the visitors generated a meager 63 yards of offense and the Cougars ran all over them because the defense was so overwhelmed. Quarterback Christian Stewart threw for 196 yards and four touchdowns, adding a pair on the ground before heading to the bench.
Mitch Mathews registered 110 yards and two TDs on four receptions, while Nate Carter carried the load on the ground with his game-high 116 yards and a score on 20 attempts.
Defensively, the Cougars notched two sacks and only five tackles for loss, but still the message was clear that the hosts would not be allowing much movement and that was not something new for BYU when you consider the team ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards allowed (112.5 ypg).
Through the air, the Cougars have been a bit more liberal with 255.2 ypg allowed, but still the unit checks in this week as the 44th-best defense in the FBS with 367.6 ypg surrendered.
Standing in for Taysom Hill, Stewart has thrived to the point where he has thrown 17 TDs and just five INTs and has also stepped up with another four scores on the ground. Further down the field making an impact is Mathews with 63 catches for 801 yards and eight scores, all of which lead the BYU receiving corps.
Meanwhile, Cal came up with 410 yards of offense against Stanford, just eight fewer than the Cardinal, yet the Bears were still crushed at home last week. Quarterback Jared Goff and Luke Rubenzer combined to hit 21-of-40 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown, but each of them was picked off twice and sacked once in the disappointing effort. Daniel Lasco tried to make an impact with a game-high 103 yards and a score on 18 carries but it was not nearly enough to keep California out of the loss column yet again.
Outside of an interception by Darius White and a single tackle for loss courtesy of Devante Downs, there was little notable effort put forth by the Cal defense.
Through 11 games, of which he started all but one, Michael Barton is the leading tackler for the Bears with 75 stops, his 6.5 TFL also tops on the list. When it came to coverage further down the field, safety Griffin Piatt was the best ball hawk the Cal defense had with his three interceptions, but he appeared in just six games before a knee injury put him on the shelf for the remainder of the campaign.
Goff has been fantastic at quarterback for the Bears, outside of last week's effort, having tossed 31 TDs and just six picks as he converted 61.8 percent of his attempts, leading to 325.5 ypg for a unit that ranks fifth in the country in passing offense with 341.7 ypg.
The beauty of the California offense is that there are so many weapons available, particularly at receiver with five players having caught at least 30 passes and nine different players who have registered at least one receiving touchdown heading into the season finale.
The Cougars need to step up their game this week against a desperate California group that needs to win at all costs. With the hometown crowd behind them and a strong passing attack in front of them, the Golden Bears should be able to pull this one off.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: California 31, BYU 28Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 29, 4:30 p.m. (ET).