1 Win the turnover battle. Only the Cougars have a worse turnover margin than the Golden Bears, and today’s battle could come down to which team can best take care of the football. WSU has nine takeaways this season, and will need to pad that number to walk out of Berkeley with a victory. The pressure will be on Cal’s freshman quarterback Jared Goff to keep the ball out of the waiting paws of Cougars defenders.
2 Get after the quarterback. The Bears’ young signal-caller has been baptized by fire early in the 2013 season, and the Cougars should look to continue the trend. Cal ranks last in the conference with 15 sacks allowed for an average of 3.5 per game. WSU ranks 11th in the Pac-12 with just 1.40 sacks per game, but will have an opportunity to see that number rise this weekend.
3 Cut out the distractions. While Washington State already has one road victory this year – beating USC in Los Angeles – the Cougars have not traveled well the past few years. WSU has won just two conference road games since the start of 2011. The Berkeley road trip could be especially difficult for Mike Leach’s squad, as a number of players hail from Northern California. For the Cougars to win, those players will need to stay focused while returning home to play in front of their family and friends.
4 Control the ground game. There has been a significant uptick in the number of yards WSU has gained via a handoff this year. The Cougars average 60.6 rushing yards per game, more than double last year’s average of 29.1. Still, if WSU holds to its season average of just 18 rushes per game then it will fail to take advantage of a porous Cal run defense. The Golden Bears have given up 262.50 yards per game on the ground, the worst mark in the conference by about 70 yards.