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First Look: Washington State at Cal

Mon., Oct. 31, 2011, 6:30 p.m.

Time: 3:30 (PDT) Saturday, AT&T Park. TV: Root

Records: WSU (3-5, 1-5 in Pac-12); California (4-4, 1-4)

Last week: WSU lost at Oregon, 43-28.

California lost at UCLA, 31-14.

Last time: California defeated WSU, 20-13, in 2010

The line: California by 9.5.

What it means for WSU

The stretch run is here, with the Cougars needing three wins in the final four games to earn a bowl berth. Though six-win teams are not guaranteed the postseason, the Pac-12 needs seven bowl eligible teams to fulfill its obligations, so any six-win conference school will get that lucky 13th game. After playing well, but not well enough, in Eugene, WSU needs to play at least to that level against a team it can upset. That’s a perfect description of Cal this week.

What it means for California

The Bears are battling a recent trend. They’ve struggled in the second half of their last few seasons, including last year when they escaped Pullman with a seven-point win as part of four losses in the final five games. UCLA trampled Cal last week in the Rose Bowl, with quarterback Kevin Prince gaining 163 of the Bruins’ 294 rushing yards. But the Bears’ pass defense is still stout and leads the Pac-12, giving up less than 200 yards per game. If Cal, which has lost four of last five, is going to stay in the bowl hunt, it will have to keep WSU out of the end zone.

Key matchup

California’s quarterback vs. Washington State safeties Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer.

After season-long starter Zach Maynard threw his seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th interceptions of the year against UCLA, Cal coach Jeff Tedford announced Sunday he was undecided whether to start the left-handed junior or little-used redshirt sophomore Allan Bridgford, who has thrown 29 passes this season. Maynard, who has completed just 53.4 percent of his passes, is also a threat with his legs, something Bridgford isn’t known for. Whoever is under center, the Cougars’ safeties will have to shine in their coverage skills this week as the Bears have a deep and talented receiving corps.

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