While a pair of key injuries threaten to slow one of the nation's top offenses, No. 11 UCLA might not need its full lineup against one of the country's worst defenses.
California's Jared Goff, meanwhile, looks to keep putting up historic numbers in his first season.
The banged-up Bruins are hoping to extend their best start in eight years in their Pac-12 home opener Saturday night when they try to hand Goff and the Golden Bears a fourth straight defeat.
UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) continued its strong start by pulling out a 34-27 victory at Utah on Oct. 3. However, the win proved costly when left tackle Torian White and star running back Jordon James went down with ankle injuries.
"Everybody wants it to be easy and pretty all the time," coach Jim Mora said. "I don't. I want us to build character along the way, because I think that will serve us over time."
According to Mora, White will miss the remainder of the season and James is expected to be out against the Bears (1-4, 0-2).
White suffered a broken bone near his ankle and a slight ligament tear against the Utes, but Mora hasn't decided how UCLA will replace him. Sophomore Simon Goines shifted from right tackle to left tackle after White was hurt, and Caleb Benenoch took over at right tackle alongside fellow freshman Alex Redmond at guard.
White and James have played a major role in a dangerous rushing attack that ranks 14th in the nation at 259.8 yards per game. James, who replaced school rushing leader Johnathan Franklin as UCLA's starter this season, has run for 115.8 yards per game -- 16th in the country -- and five touchdowns.
Although X-rays were negative, James has been wearing a walking boot as a preventative measure.
"He's in a boot to take pressure off it," Mora said. "I'd say he's doubtful, but I wouldn't rule him out."
With a deep, talented backfield, Mora has several options if James can't go. Paul Perkins has rushed for 192 yards on 31 carries, and Damien Thigpen played briefly at Utah in his first game back after sustaining a knee injury last November.
UCLA, though, still has quarterback Brett Hundley as it looks to continue the program's best start since winning its first eight games in 2005. Against Utah, Hundley completed 17 of 27 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception, ran for 85 yards and a score and added a seven-yard touchdown reception.
The sophomore has averaged 327.0 yards of total offense thus far.
"He's a tremendous player and an awesome leader," said Perkins, who added 92 yards on 16 carries in relief of James.
Hundley certainly won't have good memories of his lone experience against Cal, however. He threw a career-high four interceptions in the Bruins' 43-17 loss at Berkeley last season -- three to cornerback Kameron Jackson.
Jackson has been one of four Bears starters out due to injuries, but he's returned to practice and could play Saturday. Cal's defense has allowed the nation's second-most points (45.0) and third-most total yards (524.0) per game following Saturday's 44-22 loss to Washington State.
Behind Goff, the Bears' up-tempo attack could provide a tough test for the Bruins' defense. The freshman set California's single-game record with 504 passing yards Saturday and became the second quarterback in Pac-12 history to throw for 450 yards in three games.
He ranks third in the nation with 364.2 yards per game for the Bears, who are 17th in total offense (515.6 ypg).
"Right now our goal is to beat UCLA," Goff said. "We need to keep getting better, fix the things we're not very good at and continue to do the things we are good at."
Sophomore Chris Harper has emerged as Goff's top target. He finished with 14 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown against the Cougars.
They'll go up against a UCLA team that intercepted Utah's Travis Wilson six times -- its most since 1987.
The Bruins have won five of the last six home meetings with the Bears, who have dropped seven straight conference games overall.
Top 25 Overview
The Bruins escaped Salt Lake City with a win last week and are looking to avenge a 43-17 loss last year at Cal. The Bears have been decimated by injuries -- especially on defense -- and have lost nine straight games to FBS opponents. The Bruins likely will be without running back Jordon James, who is doubtful after suffering an ankle injury in the win at Utah.