Week 14 Game Matchup: Cal Bears VS. Washington Huskies
Cal Bears (8-3) vs. Washington Huskies (4-7)
Saturday, December 5, 3:30 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Cal -7.0
Sam’s Take (53 – 19):
Although expectations were sky high for the 2009 Cal Bears, the season can still be a mild success. Cal’s losses have come to three ranked opponents (Oregon, OSU, USC) and a 10-win season is still very achievable.
But I’m sure Jeff Tedford doesn’t need to be reminded about how tough Husky Stadium can be for visiting teams. A four win Washington squad defeated USC and Arizona in Seattle, and the Dawgs are looking to end the year with another high quality win. Steve Sarkisian would love to finish his first season at U-Dub with positive momentum and a win over Cal could pay dividends on the recruiting trail.
Cal will be without Jahvid Best in the season finale, but the offense hasn’t missed a beat because of the brilliant running of Shane Vereen. Vereen has accumulated 352 rushing yards and four TDs in his last two games, and that could be especially bad news for a Husky defense that ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense (76th nationally). I expect Vereen to have a big day, which should also open up the offense for QB Kevin Riley and the passing game.
Will this be QB Jake Locker’s last game in Seattle? There has been plenty of speculation about his future, and I’m sure he will want to put together a memorable performance Saturday just in case. I think Locker could be in for a huge day through the air, as the Bears rank 108th nationally in pass defense. There is plenty of talent in the UW receiving corps and the unit seems to elevate its play at Husky Stadium. I also expect the Pac-10’s most underrated player (RB Chris Polk) to have another productive game. Polk has quietly rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season, and he is good enough to challenge the Bears 23rd ranked (nationally) run defense.
The Huskies are extremely difficult to beat at home, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them pull the upset. Nevertheless, I believe the Bears have found a brand new identity since the injury to Best. Vereen is playing inspired football, and I think he will set the tone again on Saturday.
Cal edges Washington in an entertaining finale.
Prediction: Cal 34 – Washington 28
Cal Player to Keep an Eye On: OL Mike Tepper – Tepper is the anchor of the Cal rushing attack and I expect the senior to play big in his final Pac-10 game.
Washington Player to Keep an Eye On: DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – Te’o-Nesheim is also a senior, and this will be the last game of his career. The ultra-productive defensive end will be looking to exit U-Dub with a bang.
Dave’s Take (54 – 18):
Emotions will be running high this Saturday in Washington. Cal will be looking to end an overall disappointing regular season on a high note, and Washington will be looking to add one more huge win to their resume.
It’s hard to pick against Washington at home where they are 4-2 with losses only to LSU and Oregon. They clearly play at another level on both sides of the ball at home, and if indeed this is Jake Locker’s last game in a Husky uniform as many have speculated, he’ll be even more revved up to make a statement.
Even taking all that into consideration, though, I can’t pick against Cal here. They’ve been playing excellent football and coming up with some huge plays on both sides of the ball since losing Jahvid Best. Shane Vereen has been electric, and Cal has knocked off two straight ranked opponents in Arizona and Stanford.
Assuming both teams bring their best, which I expect them to, Cal has the edge in talent at this point and should pick up the win.
Prediction: Cal 35 – Washington 27