BERKELEY, CA - The Washington State Cougars are preparing to take on the California Golden Bears on the road this Saturday. The Golden Bears have given the Cougs trouble in recent years. Washington State is 3-6 in Berkeley over the last nine years. Cal handed the Cougs one of its most painful losses in recent memory when they dismantled the #8 Cougars 37-3. WSU was 6-0 going into that game. Despite the poor performances in recent years, there's reason to hope that this years' matchup will end in the Coug's favor. Both Cal and the Cougs are coming into this game 4-4, the Golden Bears have a talented defense, but the match up to watch is the struggling Cal offense vs WSU's struggling defense. The game can potentially be won or lost depending how the Cougars perform on defense.
When WSU has the ball:
Cal's defense employs the "Bend but don't break" mentality. They'll give up yards, but once the opposing team gets inside its 40-yard line, they are 12th in the country in limiting TDs on scoring opportunities. The Golden Bears are 97th in rushing success rate and 91st in stuff rate — opening up the door for Max Borghi to have a solid day on the ground. Anthony Gordon has had success throwing the ball for most of the year - this Cal defense isn't that strong. So, the Cougs should be able to move the ball.
When Cal gas the ball:
Cal's offense has had its struggles this season, so has the Cougars defense Whoever wins this match up likely wins the game. Cal's offense averages less than four yards per play while playing inside the Pac-12. Meanwhile for Washington State, its best performance on defense in yards per play was vs Colorado (4.5). Cal is going to need to establish a running game once its inside WSU territory. The Golden Bears run the ball 66% of the time once inside the 40, which leads every team in the Pac-12. Cal also struggles to finish drives. They're 91st in the nation in scoring. The Cougs have done a decent job at stopping opponents from scoring TDs they've just given up too many big plays, which has been its kryptonite. If WSU can at least keep Cal's offense in front of them, they will likely be able to stop Cal on defense
So who wins?
WSU has the slight edge in this one. The Cougs have been playing better recently, losing a close one to Arizona State, beating Colorado in dominating fashion, and going toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks before losing on a last second field goal. The defense has also improved, making some big plays in the past few games. Cal meanwhile is coming into this game on a four-game losing skid, after starting its season 4-0. Its most recent loss came against Oregon State. Cal will be hungry for a win, but can the Golden Bears keep up with the Cougars air raid offense?