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Sports >  WSU football

First look: Cal at Washington State

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 8, 2020

California quarterback Chase Garbers is ready to lead the Golden Bears against Washington State after missing last season’s game with an injury.  (Associated Press)
California quarterback Chase Garbers is ready to lead the Golden Bears against Washington State after missing last season’s game with an injury. (Associated Press)

What is it? Washington State (1-2) returns home for the first time since Nov. 14 to face California (1-3).

Where is it? Martin Stadium.

When is it? Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where can I watch it? Fox Sports 1 will carry the broadcast.

Who is favored? The Golden Bears opened as 2½-point favorites.

How did they fare last week? The Golden Bears surprised Oregon in Berkeley, picking up their first win, 21-17, over the preseason Pac-12 North favorite Ducks. The Cougars trailed by as many as five touchdowns but made Sunday’s 38-13 loss to USC look more respectable by outscoring the Trojans 13-10 after the first quarter.

Why Cal will win: Coming off Saturday’s win over Oregon, this may be as good as a Cal team has felt since winning the 2019 Redbox Bowl against Illinois. The Golden Bears, who may also feel they should have defeated Stanford the game prior, have outscored opponents 44-41 in their last two games, while the Cougars have been outscored 81-42. While Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense should offer some wrinkles the Golden Bears haven’t seen before, it’s no secret that Cal, to a greater extent than any other team in the conference, had developed a formula for stopping WSU’s offense since Justin Wilcox took over in 2017. The Cougars have scored just 36 points in the past three meetings. While Cal’s offense hasn’t shown much promise through four games – including the Oregon win – the sight of WSU’s defense may be what the Golden Bears need. The Cougars will presumably be without edge Willie Taylor III, who could be out for the season, according to Cougfan.com, and they were down five players in the secondary at USC.

Why WSU will win: Despite Cal’s recent success against the Cougars, the Golden Bears aren’t the stout defensive unit they’ve been in the past, allowing 26.5 points per game – which ranks fifth in the Pac-12. WSU is hoping its new scheme and relatively balanced play-calling approach can cause headaches for Cal. The Cougars may be getting their best offensive player back for Saturday’s contest. Running back Max Borghi returned to practice early last week but didn’t travel with the team to Los Angeles. With two full weeks of practice under his belt, it would seem Borghi has a stronger chance of playing against the Golden Bears and offering some relief to current starter Deon McIntosh, who was held under 90 rushing yards for the first time this season at USC. While Cal may be licking its chops after watching film of WSU’s defense, Jake Dickert’s group may have the same reaction watching the Golden Bears on offense. Arizona State, which has played two fewer games, is the only other team in the Pac-12 that’s yet to score 30 points, and Cal’s mark of 319.6 yards per game ranks last in the conference.

What happened last time: Led by dual-threat backup quarterback Devon Modster, the Golden Bears won 33-20 and dropped the Cougars to 1-5 in Pac-12 play, winning their third consecutive game against WSU at Memorial Stadium. Modster, who replaced injured starter Chase Garbers, won the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week after going 16-of-24 passing for 230 yards and three touchdowns and rushing seven times for 43 yards and another touchdown. WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon threw an interception on the Cougars’ first drive. Despite another 400-yard passing game and 45 completions, Gordon only had two touchdowns in the game.

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