PULLMAN – We could fill a 500-page binder with reasons why Washington State’s offense figures to have its way with California’s defense on Saturday afternoon.
The Golden Bears, losers of four straight, have yielded 50-plus points in three of their past four games and four of their past six. They rank last in Pro Football Focus’ Pac-12 run defense grades, and second to last in overall run defense. They allow an average of 282.8 passing yards per game, which ranks seventh to last in all of FBS.
The point is that WSU’s offense should have an easy time scoring on Cal’s defense this weekend. But guess what? Last week, Washington State could have said the same things about Stanford’s defense, and the Cougars put up just seven points in that loss.
Until Washington State proves it can beat a coverage-heavy scheme, until it proves it actually can shred porous defenses, the Cougars don’t get the benefit of the doubt.
“There’s a toughness aspect to playing this game and running the ball that is missing,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said. “And we physically have to get our pads down. We gotta run our feet on contact and we gotta want to move people.”
WSU has not generated anything resembling a consistent running game, a trend best exemplified last week, when the Cougars managed just 4 rushing yards against Stanford, which had permitted 40-plus points in each of its past four games. Some of that had to do with quarterback Cameron Ward taking three costly sacks, but no proud football program puts up single-digit rushing games.
What happens if the Golden Bears show the Cougars the defense they haven’t been able to stop? Until they show they can find a way around it, the Cougars won’t get treated like a team that can.
The pick: Cal 28, Washington State 17