BERKELEY, California – Washington State and Cal seemed to have swapped the traits that usually define them.
The often offense-minded Cougars’ offense has become unreliable, and a complete liability at times.
Cal’s typically stout defense is oddly middle of the road.
The Bears haven’t had an enviable offense in recent history, but now that’s where their strength lies.
Above all else, the Cougs hung their hat on the Air Raid in their past seven meetings with the Bears.
Now, as the run-and-shoot stumbles early in coach Nick Rolovich’s second year, they’re banking on an experienced defense that has so far done more good than harm.
Although Saturday’s Pac-12 matchup at Memorial Stadium will differ in its themes, a couple of trends will persist: The Bears win at home and – as has come to be expected in the Cal/WSU series – the game is filled with strange moments.
The chains won’t move much for either side. But give the advantage to Cal because a) it is playing on its turf, b) its three losses – by five, two and seven points – have been closer than the Cougs’ and c) its defense appears to be a little more sound than WSU’s offense, which has been lethargic for long stretches this season.
Backfield pressure, erratic quarterback appearances and a recurring inability to get drives going late have been major factors in WSU’s poor start to the year.
And it’s uncertain whether the Cougars’ standout quarterback and running back – Jayden de Laura and Max Borghi – will play at full health, or play at all.
Similar to Washington State’s loss at Utah last weekend, the Bears will put the finishing touches on this one midway through the fourth quarter with a defensive highlight, earning their first FBS win of 2021 and denying the Cougs theirs.
The pick: Cal 23, Washington State 16
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