Dueling 2-4 Pac-12 teams doesn't exactly scream must-see TV, but there are a few interesting storylines here. Both California and Washington State need to finish this season winning four of their last six games to become bowl eligible.
That is a fairly significant run for the second half of the season, and if either of them are going to get hot it needs to start here.
Cal is coming off a 43-17 upset win over rival UCLA. The Bruins were ranked No. 25 at the time, and it was clearly the biggest win of the season for Cal.
The Cougars aren't coming off a pleasant weekend. They dropped their third straight game when they lost 19-6 to Oregon State. In the Cougars defense, two of the three losses came to ranked opponents.
From a distance, Cal looks like the better team, but at the end of the day, they are both just 2-4. If either teams is serious about playing in December, they need to win this game.
Here is a closer look:
When: Saturday, October 13, 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington
TV: Pac-12 Network
Live Stream: Pac-12 Now
Radio: KGO 810 AM in Berkeley, IMG College Sports Network in Pullman
Odds: Per Oddsshark.com Golden Bears are favorites (-7)
Injury Report: Per Oddshark.com
California Golden Bears
Jason Gibson - LB - Out Indefinitely (foot)
David Wilkerson - LB - Out For Season (ankle)
Washington State Cougars
No Injuries to report.
What's at Stake?
It is pretty simple for both of these teams, if they lose they can all but kiss a chance at playing in a bowl game goodbye. Washington State is used to futility. They are a combined 8-22 over the past two-and-a-half seasons.
Many had hoped this season would be different, but thus far it has been more of the same. Mike Leach's Air Raid offense has been grounded more times that it has taken flight. They have only cracked the 30-point mark twice this season, which isn't very Raid-ish.
They need to show the ability to score points at the clip the coaching staff expects.
What They're Saying
Leach is attempting to challenge his team with this comment from a Fox News article. When speaking on his team's ability to respond to adversity, Leach said:
We've improved as a team, but we've had a lot of missed opportunities. If we were a more mature, mentally tougher team, we could have capitalized on them.
Right now we are a team that if we face any adversity, we get discouraged
Players have to take these words to heart and it has to start with the leaders of the team. Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel must take more of a leadership role to help this team deal with adversity.
On the Golden Bears side, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said this of quarterback Zach Maynard on Cal's website, after the senior was 25-of-30 for 295 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the win over UCLA:
I don't know what his stats were; he didn't incomplete very many. He managed the game really well. When he had pressure he didn't force it. That guy made a great play on the interception.
One of the touchdowns to C.J. (Anderson), he saw the blitz coming and made an adjustment on the slant. He really managed the game well and was on target with a few big throws.
You can't play much better than Maynard did on Saturday. If he can produce that way against the Cougars, it'll be a long day for Washington State.
California's Player to Watch - Zach Maynard
He is on pace to eclipse the numbers he put up in 2011. Through six games, Maynard has tossed nine touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He has also raised his completion percentage from 57 percent last season to 61.9 percent this year.
That efficiency is what Cal needs to win this game. The Cougars need to force turnovers to pull the slight upset. Maynard has to take care of the ball. If he does that, his playmakers at receiver will do the rest.
Washington State's Player to Watch - Daniel Simmons
The senior cornerback figures to draw the very tough assignment of checking Cal's star receiver, Keenan Allen. Simmons will be giving up about five inches and 30 pounds to Allen.
His ability to contain Allen could be key in the Cougars' efforts to slow the Cal attack. The Cougars need a strong game from Simmons against a top-notch receiver to better their chances at coming away victorious.
Key Matchup - Cal Pass Rush vs. Washington State Offensive Line
The Cougars' Air Raid hasn't been very effective, and the lack of pass protection has been part of the problem. Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday have been sacked 21 times in six games.
If the Cal pass rush can get to the quarterback consistently, it will be a major factor in this game. Senior linebacker J.P. Hurrell leads Cal with 2.5 sacks, but they have four players with at least two this season.
This will be a decent test for the Cougars' offensive front. If they pass, we may see some glimpses of the high-powered offense Leach led at Texas Tech.
The Cougars are at home, and expect them to come out confident and motivated by Leach's comments. However, Cal is a better team than their record would indicate. I can't say the same for the Cougars.
Cal will win this game 32-20.
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