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UCLA football: Bruins' bowl chances may hinge on victory over Cal

October 12, 2009 |  2:51 pm

Scenarios have started to form for UCLA, as the Bruins' quest for a bowl game has reached a critical point five games into the season.

The Bruins face California this week in a game that could significantly affect their postseason plans.

UCLA-logo UCLA is just three victories shy of being bowl eligible, with a 3-2 record after back-to-back losses to open Pacific 10 Conference play. A loss to the Bears on Saturday would mean that getting to six victories would not necessarily allow the Bruins to go to a bowl.

A 6-6 finish would make the Bruins bowl eligible, but they would be 3-6 in conference play. It would almost certainly mean they would finish too low in the standings to snag one of the conference’s bowl slots.

 “I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a chance to get better. After being 3-0 and taking it on the chin a couple weeks, the only way I know to think about it is ‘Let’s go play this game play our best and see if we can get our fourth win.’ ”

In other UCLA news:

-- Cornerback Sheldon Price, a first-year freshman, may have trouble holding on to his starting spot this week. He and sophomore Courtney Viney are both listed No. 1 on the depth chart.

Price had a few rough moments in the 24-10 loss to Oregon, most noticeably on a third-quarter touchdown pass. Oregon’s Jeff Maehl caught a slant and then easily brushed aside the 160-pound Price on his way to a 20-yard touchdown.

“Sheldon did some really good things,” Neuheisel said. “I know he wishes he could have gotten the guy down. He was certainly in position get him down. But he’s getting better.”

Neuheisel added, “He and Courtney Viney will have a nice competition.”

Both, though, are merely keeping the spot warm for Aaron Hester, who has been out with a fractured fibula since the season opener. Neuheisel said Hester would probably not be ready for the California game, but expected him to be back for the game against Arizona on Oct. 24.

-- Neuheisel said tailback Johnathan Franklin (ankle) should return to practice Tuesday. If Franklin is unable to play, Neuheisel said Derrick Coleman and Christian Ramirez would be his replacement, but he added that freshman Damien Thigpen would “remain in the rotation.” Milton Knox, who sat out with the flu against Oregon, may also be available.

-- An MRI revealed that linebacker LB Reggie Carter had suffered a “mild” sprain to his left knee, Neuheisel said. Carter's status will be known later in the week. Defensive end Korey Bosworth (bruised ribs) is also day-to-day.

-- Chris Foster

Chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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