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First look: Washington State at Cal

California Golden Bears quarterback Devon Modster (6) carries the ball against the Oregon State Beavers in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, October 19, 2019. Oregon St. won 21-17. (John Hefti / AP)
California Golden Bears quarterback Devon Modster (6) carries the ball against the Oregon State Beavers in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, October 19, 2019. Oregon St. won 21-17. (John Hefti / AP)

What is it? Washington State (4-4, 1-4) will try to move one game closer to bowl eligibility and climb out of the Pac-12 North cellar when it faces a California (4-4, 1-4) team with an identical record.

Where is it? Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.

When is it? Kickoff is 4 p.m. Saturday.

Where can I watch it? The game will air on Pac-12 Networks.

Who is favored? The Cougars opened as 7½-point favorites.

How did they fare last week? Both teams were idle on Saturday. The week prior, Washington State nearly upset then 11th-ranked Oregon, losing 37-35 in Eugene, while Cal got blanked by Utah in Salt Lake City, 38-0.

Why WSU will win: Since starting quarterback Chase Garbers left a home loss to Arizona State with a shoulder injury, Cal’s offense has scored just 34 points in the 14 quarters it’s played without Garbers and the Golden Bears are scoring just 12.2 points per game in Pac-12 play. Garbers is out indefinitely, meaning some combination of Devon Modster – a UCLA transfer – and freshman Spencer Brasch will split quarterback duties against the Cougars. Together, those two have completed just 44-of-101 passes for 451 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Cal’s problems in the passing game should allow the Cougars to stack the box and focus more on the Golden Bear running backs, who combined for just 50 yards on the ground in a 38-0 loss to Utah two weeks ago.

Why Cal will win: With the exception of their last game, the Golden Bears have been stout on defense, holding seven other opponents to 24 points or less. And they’re one of two or three Pac-12 teams that have been able to keep the Cougars’ high-volume passing offense in check the last few years. Two seasons ago, Luke Falk was intercepted a career-high five times in a 38-3 loss to Cal in Berkeley and last year, the Golden Bears held the Cougars to their second-lowest point total (19) of the season. Cal’s defensive secondary is made up of three All-Pac-12 caliber players – safeties Ashtyn Davis and Jaylinn Hawkins, along with cornerback Cameron Bynum – and the Golden Bears are just one of two teams allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game in league play.

What happened last time: In a low-scoring game at Martin Stadium, Gardner Minshew and Easop Winston Jr. hooked up on a 10-yard fade route in the back right corner of the end zone to secure a 19-13 win with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Minshew connnected on 35-of-51 passes for 337 yards, one touchdown and one interception and Winston Jr. caught seven passes for 92 yards to lead the Cougars. Cal scored 10 points in the second quarter, but WSU’s defense held the Golden Bears to just three points in the second half. Willie Taylor III nearly returned an interception for a touchdown, but spilled the ball just short of the goal line, giving it back to the Golden Bears. The Cougars held Cal to just 291 yards of total offense, including only 179 through the air.

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