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The pick: Why Washington State will beat Cal

BERKELEY, Calif. – The last time Washington State visited Cal, an animal rights activist meandered onto the field midgame, carrying a stuffed pig in her arms before plopping in the end zone and sitting there for a good 10 seconds until security dragged her off the field.

WSU’s Renard Bell returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, until he didn’t because the Cougars were flagged for holding.

The home quarterback, Ross Bowers, pulled off a full-fledged flip to get into the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

A team that was pegged to lose by 14 1/2 points wound up winning by 34.

All of it happening on Friday the 13th, no less.

The outright weird and the flat-out bizarre seem to take place in Berkeley whenever the Cougars pay the Bears a visit. Two trips ago, WSU flubbed a fake punt and Cal returned Zach Charme’s fumble 45 yards for a touchdown.

Even when the Pac-12 North foes meet in Pullman, the games have been far from conventional. Many WSU fans still wear emotional scars from a 60-59 defeat in 2014, in which quarterbacks Jared Goff and Connor Halliday combined for 1,261 yards and the Cougars lost on a missed 19-yard field goal.

Those same teams, four years removed from putting up 119 points, combined for just 32 last season in a somewhat refreshing return to normalcy.

While I anticipate we’ll witness something out of the ordinary in the next chapter of Wazzu-Cal, I suspect the game will mirror last year’s contest more than the others. As in, there won’t be too many surprises and there probably won’t be one on the scoreboard when the clock hits zero.

With just one exception – a rainy game in Utah when WSU’s offense was without Brandon Arconado – the Cougars have scored at least 30 points in every game this season. Even if they don’t get there against linebacker Evan Weaver-led Cal, a mere 21 or 24 points could be plenty. Remember, it’s been five games since the Golden Bears have put up 20 points, and in the three they’ve played without Chase Garbers, the offense has managed only 24.

So, assuming Berkeley doesn’t throw us any strange plot twists, the Cougars should return home with their fifth win.

The pick: Washington State 27, Cal 13.

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