Washington must beat high-scoring Cal at its own game on the road
Washington (4-1) vs. Cal (4-1)
Where: California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley
Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday
TV: Pac-12 Network
Line: Golden Bears by 3.5
At a glance: The Huskies return from their lone bye of 2014 at full strength and eager to erase the bad taste in their mouths from their first loss of the year, a 20-13 defeat at home to Stanford on Sept. 27. The Bears are riding high after edging Washington State 60-59 in Pullman last week, having scored 45 points or more in four straight contests.
Matchup to watch: Cal’s high-scoring offense vs. Washington’s stout defense. It will be one of those “something’s gotta give” type games. The Bears rank second in the entire FBS at 50 points per game behind a Jared Goff-led passing attack that is third in the nation (398.2 yards per game). Goff has been impressive, throwing for 1,875 yards, 22 touchdowns and just three turnovers, but he’s only faced one truly good defense – Northwestern held Cal to 31 points, though the Bears still emerged with a seven-point victory in that contest. They’ve needed all that scoring, too, as their defense has allowed at least 49 points in each of their conference games.
On the other hand, Washington has kept opponents to 20 points or fewer in four of its five games, and its secondary has come along nicely in recent games to complement the already strong defensive line and linebacker corps.
Key for Washington: Score over 35 points. It’s very likely the winner will be the team that best plays to their opponent’s strength, and if that’s the case, the Huskies will need to score more than their average of 35.6 points per game. That’s something they’re capable of, though, having topped 40 points three times this year.
That’s not to say Washington has everything figured out when it has possession. Quarterback Cyler Miles has yet to eclipse the 200-yard threshold though the air this season, and even though the Huskies have only one turnover in 2014, that carefulness has come at the expense of explosiveness. This game would be as good a time as any for Washington to have a breakout performance or two. Against Cal’s sub-par defense, Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington both have a shot to establish themselves as the Huskies’ top running back. Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens has had his moments this season but could make a more emphatic statement, and senior wideout Kasen Williams has been very quiet (six catches, 47 yards) in his return from a traumatic leg injury in 2013 and frankly is due for a big game.
Prediction: The Huskies may be dealing with offensive issues, but they’ve been able to work around them before this season, and their extra week of practice should help straighten some things out. In the end, that gives UW a better chance of outscoring Cal’s offense than the Bears defense has of outslugging Washington. Washington 42, Cal 38.