Week 8 Game Matchup: Washington State Cougars VS. Cal Bears

By Dave Consolazio and Sam Saig, October 24, 2009 4:04 am

Washington State Cougars (1-5) vs. Cal Bears (4-2)
Saturday, October 24, 1:30 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Cal -35.5

Sam’s Take (31 – 14):

This one could get ugly early, as Cal is starting to find its stride and the already struggling Cougars continue to be decimated by injuries (particularly on defense). Washington State simply doesn’t have the personnel on either side of the ball to compete against the Bears and I fear this game may turn out much like last year’s (a 66-3 drubbing in Pullman).

Jeff Tedford’s squad should be able to fine-tune some things this week, and I expect to see QB Kevin Riley play well for the second straight game, as he is coming off a solid performance against UCLA. WSU has the nation’s second worst pass defense while also ranking 108th nationally in rush defense, so the most interesting part of this game may end up being how Tedford decides to divvy up the scoring among his players (maybe get Best back into the Doak Walker discussion?). Defensively, I don’t expect Cal to have much trouble stopping a Wazzu offense that lacks explosion, consistency, depth, and confidence (am I missing anything?).

Paul Wulff’s squad actually performed respectably against ASU, but the Cougs were still a long way from winning. WSU fans must continue to be patient during a difficult time, and the rallying cry for the Cal game should be about competing and improving. The whole team is banged up, so reserve players need to be ready to step up.

I expect Cal to pour it on early, and then we should get a look at QB Brock Mansion later in the game.

Prediction: Cal 52 – Washington State 14

Washington State Player to Keep an Eye On: RB Carl Winston - I like Winston’s skill set but the running lanes just haven’t been there for him. Hopefully, he gets a few holes this week.

Cal Player to Keep an Eye On: TE Anthony Miller - Miller is a solid receiving tight end but he disappears at times. He should be able to take advantage of this week’s opponent.

Dave’s Take (35 – 10):

Last week, the Cal Bears came out of their bye week with an impressive effort in blowing out the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. Have the Bears recovered from the woes of their back-to-back losses to USC and Oregon, or was the Bruins beat-down just the result of a UCLA meltdown?

Unfortunately, we won’t get any answers this week. It doesn’t matter whether the 3-0 dominant version of the Bears or the 0-2, outscored 72-6 version shows up; both are more than capable of handling the Cougars.

While it is important for the Bears that Kevin Riley has another nice day, the most important player in this game in my opinion is Jahvid Best. Best was completely contained against Oregon and USC, and if you take away the huge 93-yard touchdown run and the 51-yard touchdown catch, he was largely contained against UCLA too with just nine yards on his other 18 touches. For Cal to have a big second half, they are going to need Best to get back to top form; and what better team to regain the confidence against than Washington State?

For the Cougars, the objective here is to try to play mistake free football. This game is the first of a three game road trip against three extremely high powered offenses (Cal, Notre Dame, and Arizona), and even if everything goes the Cougars way, it’s hard to see them keeping up in any of these games. The more time the offense can spend on the field without coughing the ball up, the better. Gaining valuable experience and learning good habits regardless of the score could go a long way in the rebuilding process.

Prediction: Cal 56 – Washington State 13

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