The saga that has been Jake Locker’s career at the University of Washington is nearing its end, with Locker taking his final snap in Husky stadium in an ugly win versus UCLA.
Going into the season, there was a positive vibe and general feeling that, by the 10th game of the year, Bowl eligibility would already be assured for both Washington and California by the time the two teams squared off in Strawberry Canyon.
Without a doubt, both the Golden Bears and Huskies felt that this season could have gone an entirely different route.
California has found the road particularly unfriendly, finding victory only in their visit to Pullman, Washington. Granted, the Bears did have some tough road games, facing ranked teams in Nevada, Arizona and USC. On the road, California only managed to put up 16.2 points a game, and gave up over 31.6.
At home, California has been a drastically different squad, averaging 36 points a game on offense, and only giving up 14.5. It is worth noting that the two toughest opponents, Oregon and Stanford, managed to hold the Bears at 14 points or under. Oregon found a stiff test at California, whereas Stanford rolled to a blow-out victory.
This California team is capable of playing with anyone, but has been inconsistent and unable to gain any momentum throughout the season.
Who wins this game?
Washington’s season has been disappointing, with the Huskies coming up 20 plus points short in three contests. Unlike California, who show a marked difference when on the road, the Huskies have been consistent.
At home, UW is averaging a paltry 23 points, but it doesn’t drop off too drastically on the road, at 19.75. The defense has been consistently poor, giving up over 30 points a game on the road as well as at home.
Washington has managed just one win on the road, and California is 4-2 while at home. Both teams need this game to become bowl eligible. Momentum wise, Washington might be in a slightly better position, coming off an ugly win over UCLA. Where as California got blown out by Stanford.
Not that Washington did any better against the Cardinal, but it is farther in the past for the Huskies.
The Huskies will need to get quality play out of Locker, while his health status may not be 100 percent; he needs to be effective against California to take the pressure off the running back combo of Polk and Callier.
Washington does not have a strong enough offensive line to just lean on the run an entire game, so an effective air assault will be important. Locker absolutely torched California last year at Husky Stadium, while it is hard to expect the same result, Cal has more to play for this year, Locker should have a good game against the Golden Bears.
It will be interesting to watch how the Husky defense plays against California, too. California has a more balanced offense than UCLA, but the way Washington was flying around during that Thursday night game was encouraging.
California is also going to want to lean on their running game, as it is the strength of their offense, but it might be who can effectively pass the ball that determines who wins this game. Both teams have been incredibly up and down this year, but you would expect both to come out with some fire.
This is a game that may come down to who wants it more, and with the Huskies current bowl drought, Washington should be beyond hungry for a taste of the postseason, and Sarkisian needs this victory more than Tedford.
Washington 24-Cal 21