California wants to kick-start head coach Justin Wilcox's tenure by reaching a bowl game in his first season.
UCLA wants to close out the Jim Mora era, which unceremoniously ended with the sixth-year head coach being fired on his birthday Sunday, by reaching a bowl game.
Only one team will be able to accomplish its goal when the Golden Bears and Bruins meet at the Rose Bowl on Friday night.
"This is the first week of playoff football for us," Cal wide receiver Vic Wharton III said. "That's where we're at right now. This is playoff football. We're both sitting at 5-6. It will be a good game with UCLA having the same mindset as us, win or go home."
Despite a 17-14 loss at No. 20 Stanford in the Big Game last Saturday, Cal (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) has already exceeded all external expectations in Wilcox's first season. Wilcox can become the second coach in school history to take Cal to a bowl game in his first season. Steve Mariucci's only season in charge in 1996 ended with a trip to the Aloha Bowl.
UCLA (5-6, 3-5), on the other hand, was expected to be back in the mix for a division title. But Mora was fired less than a day after a 28-23 loss at No. 11 Southern California that left UCLA winless on the road, with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch now serving as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Senior linebacker Kenny Young was disappointed Mora would not be there for his final home game.
"He's one of the reasons why I came 1,800 miles away from Louisiana to come and be a part of this organization," Young said. "He's a real mentor. He's a great guy, a great guy at the end of the day, and I wish I could have shook his hand and hugged him for my last game. But, you know, things happen."
It could also be the Rose Bowl finale for UCLA star quarterback Josh Rosen.
Rosen, who has thrown for 3,515 yards and 24 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior, said he has not yet made a decision whether to declare for the 2018 NFL draft.
"I haven't really started to form the equation yet. Maybe a few more weeks until I give you a good answer," said Rosen, who needs 226 yards passing to set the school single-season record.