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Wednesday, April 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

WSU at Cal

Time: 1:30 p.m. (PDT) Saturday TV: None

The records: WSU (1-5, 0-5 in Pac-10); Cal (4-2; 1-2)

Last week: Cal defeated UCLA, 45-26

WSU had a bye; lost to ASU 27-14 on Oct. 10

Last time: Cal defeated WSU 66-3 in Pullman last season.

The line: Cal by 36

What it means for WSU

Last season the Cougars used their bye week to get healthy, iron out a few problems and push to the end of the season, highlighted by an Apple Cup victory. This season, they hope to do the same, though they don’t have as far to go – WSU was outscored by an average of 31.1 points per game last season; this year that’s down to 20.2 – though there have been more injuries to one unit: the offensive line. If that group can go into Berkeley somewhat healthy, WSU might be able to move the ball enough to keep the game close. And that would be a huge improvement over last season, when the Bears’ Jahvid Best went 80 yards on the first play, it was 42-3 at the half and Cal’s second string played most of the final 30 minutes.

What it means for Cal

Which Bear team will show up? The dominating group that has pounded four mismatched opponents or the confused collection that lost to USC and Oregon almost as badly as WSU did? Cal took advantage of a bye week to re-establish its bona fides with last week’s demolition of the Bruins in Pasadena. But in a season that saw the Bears ranked as high as sixth in the nation, they must keep winning, and winning big, to wash the sour taste of their two defeats from their fans’ mouths.

Key matchup

WSU safety Xavier Hicks vs. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley.

The Bears have possibly the best running back in the nation in Best. They have a sound backup in Shane Verren, a decent offensive line and adequate receivers. But their offense is only as good as the play of Riley, whose entire career has been the definition of up-and-down. In the Bears’ four wins, Riley, a 6-foot-2 junior, has completed 60 of 94 (64 percent) passes for 903 yards and eight touchdowns. In the two losses, he’s 27 of 71 (38 percent) for 322 yards, no touchdowns and his lone interception. It’s Hicks’ job to make sure the Cougars are in the right coverage and that they disguise those coverages enough to force turnovers, something the Bears have not yielded often this season (less than one a game).

- By Vince Grippi

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