It’s a battle of Pac-12 programs on the gridiron up on the Palouse in the Pacific Northwest. The Cal Golden Bears are on the road as they make the trip up the west coast to face the Washington State Cougars Saturday afternoon. Cal comes in off a 49-31 home victory over Arizona in their most recent contest, covering the line as a 3.5-point favorite last Saturday. Washington State battled but fell 44-41 to Oregon at home last Saturday though they did manage to cover the line as a 6.5-point underdog. In the all-time series between the programs, the Golden Bears own a 48-29-5 advantage but it was the Cougars picking up a 21-6 road victory in the most recent matchup on October 2, 2021.
Cal Golden Bears Seek Surprising 4-1 StartCal bounced back from their seven-point defeat on the road in South Bend against Notre Dame as they opened conference play with an emphatic win over Arizona in their previous contest. The Golden Bears improved to 3-1 overall and stand 1-0 in Pac-12 play on the year. Against Arizona, Cal trailed 14-7 after the opening quarter and 24-21 at the half before taking control with 21 unanswered points to go up 42-24 just seven seconds into the final quarter. The Golden Bears never let the Wildcats closer than 11 after that en route to the win. Cal held a 599-536 edge in total offense, controlled the clock by a 33:14 to 26:46 margin and forced the game’s lone three turnovers to offset losing the first down competition by a 31-27 margin.
On the season, Cal is 74th in the nation in passing offense with 243.8 yards per game through the air and 56th in the nation in rushing offense with 176.3 yards per game on the ground. The Golden Bears are 75th in the FBS in scoring offense with an average of 30 points per game while they are 43rd in scoring defense by allowing 20.5 points per contest. Jack Plummer is 85 of 139 passing for 976 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions while adding eight yards plus a score on the ground. Jaydn Ott leads the team on the ground with 56 carries for 463 yards and four scores after exploding for 274 yards plus three scores against Arizona September 24. DeCarlos Brooks (33 carries, 132 yards, TD) and Damien Moore (14 carries, 63 yards) are also in the mix in the run game. When Cal goes to the air, Jeremiah Hunter leads the team with 21 receptions for 305 yards plus a pair of scores. J. Michael Sturdivant (17 grabs, 225 yards, two TD) and Mavin Anderson (11 catches, 98 yards, TD) are the only other players with double-digit receptions on the season. Dario Longhetto has connected on all 15 extra point attempts and five of seven field goal tries with a long of 41 this year.
Washington State Cougars Look to Shake Off Fourth-Quarter MeltdownWashington State had Oregon on the ropes in their previous contest but couldn’t close things out as they were blitzed in the final quarter to wind up with the loss. The Cougars fell to 3-1 on the season overall and are 0-1 in the Pac-12 with the defeat. Against Oregon, Washington State led 10-3 after one quarter, 17-9 at the half and 27-15 after three quarters. The Cougars led 34-22 with under four minutes to play before giving up three touchdowns in a 2:47 span to trail 44-34. They scored with one second left to cover the line but they couldn’t earn the victory on the scoreboard. Washington State was outgained 624-428 in total offense, allowed 28 first downs while recording 27 and turned the ball over twice (including a pick-six) while forcing only one takeaway. The poor showing in crunch time overshadowed a 31:02 to 28:58 advantage in time of possession.
The Cougars enter this game 42nd in the nation in passing offense as they average 275.5 yards per contest through the air while they are 118th in rushing offense with 96.8 yards per game on the ground. Washington State stands 78th in the FBS scoring offense as they average 30 points per game while they are 47th in scoring defense as they allow an average of 20.5 points per game for coach Jake Dickert. Cameron Ward is 104 of 151 passing for 1,102 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions on the year. He does have a rushing score on the season as well. Nakia Watson leads the team on the ground with 48 carries for 260 yards plus a pair of scores. Jaylen Jenkins (19 carries, 86 yards) and Kannon Katzer (six carries, 54 yards, TD) are the next guys up in the ground game. Donovan Ollie leads the team in receptions as he has hauled in 24 passes for 263 yards and a pair of scores on the year. De’Zhaun Stribling (19 grabs, 220 yards, four TD), Renard Bell (12 receptions, 167 yards, TD), Watson (12 catches, 141 yards, TD), Lincoln Victor (nine receptions, 114 yards) and Robert Ferrel (11 grabs, 114 yards, TD) have all exceeded the 100-yard mark in receiving yards this season. Dean Janikowski has connected on all 15 extra point attempts and five of seven field goal attempts with a long of 38 this season.
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This one is going to be a high-octane affair. We’re looking at a pair of teams that have put up some solid point totals and who each cracked the 40-point barrier in their respective conference openers last week. Cal has a bit more balance in their offense than Washington State, which is to be expected in the Air Raid system that has been in place for the Cougars since Mike Leach was with the program. Seeing how Washington State wilted with that bad three-minute stretch in the fourth quarter against Oregon, it could be a challenge to try and shake that off here. Cal played much better in the second half against Arizona as they took control of the game in that contest. Back the Golden Bears as they earn the victory to keep their surprising strong start going.