Expecting the unexpected when Cougars face Cal as heavy favorites
The last time Washington State and Cal played in Pullman, the Golden Bears won 60-59 after Quentin Breshears missed a 19-yard field goal in the final seconds. One of my kids burst into tears when that kick sailed right of the uprights. On the same night, it seemed like Cal returned every one of our kickoffs for a touchdown. Mike Leach fired his special-teams coach the next day.
All in all, it was a weird night, losing a game when you score 59 points. Then last year, the Cougars lost to Jared Goff and the Bears 34-28 in a game at Berkeley that featured Cal getting a first down with a running play on third-and-36.
So I’m expecting a strange one again Saturday night at Martin Stadium. It will be a long one, too, certain to go four hours and maybe even end around midnight if it goes overtime. ESPN will start its day with “College GameDay” at Red Square on the University of Washington campus and end it in Pullman with a Pac-12 shootout.
I’m not surprised that the Cougars are favored by 14.5 points. We haven’t lost since early September to Boise State. With all of this Husky national championship chatter, did you realize the Cougars are only six points from being in that conversation, too? They lost by three points to Eastern Washington and three points to Boise State.
I’m hoping that Lee Corso will put on Tommy Trojan’s head instead of Harry the Husky’s on “College GameDay.” Rece Davis told us Thursday that Corso is 21-0 in his picks with games involving USC. The Trojans have won all 16 times when he picked them to win, and they’ve lost all five times he’s picked them to lose.
Cal concerns me. I know I shouldn’t be concerned, but I am. The Bears’ defense is the worst in the country, allowing 44.4 points a game. They’ve allowed an average of 50.2 points in the last four games, including a 66-27 loss to UW last Saturday. The Huskies piled up 704 yards in that one.
Our defense is much better than theirs, but their offense matches up pretty well yards-wise with ours. Our running game is better; Cal’s is non-existent.
Cal quarterback Davis Webb could have a big night and keep the Golden Bears within reach down the stretch. Luke Falk is more accurate and just as prolific with equally gaudy passing stats. It helps to know that Cal has a weak pass-rush.
If the Cougars beat Cal, it sets up an unusual game against Colorado in Boulder next week. It wouldn’t matter if they beat the Buffaloes or lost to them as it relates to the Pac-12 North championship. Even if they lose to Colorado, they can win the Pac-12 North if they beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup. And if they were to beat Colorado and lose to UW, they would not win the Pac-12 North.
That’s the likely scenario anyway. If the Huskies lose to USC, that could change things, with emphasis on “could.” Fact is, even that wouldn’t impact the Apple Cup. Losses to the Trojans and the Sun Devils next week would, but the Dawgs probably won’t lose to Todd Graham’s hapless team.
Whatever happens in the Palouse Saturday night, odds-makers expect it to be a high-scoring affair with an over-under of 83.5. I think the Cougs will win, but there will be some anxious moments in the fourth quarter.
Line: Cougars by 14.5
Prediction: Washington State 45, Cal 38
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.