Cal enters defining stretch of the season vs. UCLA on Thursday night

Cal's schedule from here on out is incredibly difficult.
Casey Sapio/Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Cal's 5-0 start to the season was nothing short of spectacular. The Bears showed out offensively, forced huge turnovers on defense and manage to secure tight victories against Texas, Washington and Washington State.

While the strong start was a phenomenal boost to the program, the second half of the season will define how far along the Bears are in their rebuild. 

Cal's 30-24 loss in Salt Lake City against now third-ranked Utah wasn't exactly the type of statement the program wanted to make on a national stage. However, the Bears proved that they belonged in that game.

Now, with another nationally televised game against UCLA on Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Bears have a chance to prove that their rise is for real. 

If the Bears are able to beat UCLA, they'll move to 6-1 and become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. It is critically important for Cal to win against UCLA because the team's schedule moving forward is one of the toughest in the nation.

Cal's next five games after UCLA are USC, at Oregon, Oregon State, at Stanford and Arizona State.