This game will be closer than the 12-point spread — and with a break or two, the Bears could win it outright.
UW’s defense won’t drop off that much from last year, but Cal’s offense — even with last week’s shaky first half performance last week — is very much improved.
Look for UW’s D to add disguised coverages to their arsenal, taking a page out of the Cal D playbook (like TCU did in the bowl game). But look for the Cal D to mix thing up a bit — maybe play straight up & let Eason build some false confidence before they mess with him & lull him into making a careless throw. Look for HC Justin Wilcox and DC Tim DeRuyter to stay one move ahead of the UW OC in their game of chess.
I think Cal will be able to run on UW. Chris Brown won’t be fast enough to get the edge, but he’ll be able to get enough yards to open up the passing game for Garbers.
It was good that Cal had their 4 turnovers against UC Davis. I’m sure that they paid the price in practice this week! I’m expecting better ball security for Cal, but not sure that Garbers has developed the discipline to consistently throw the ball away to avoid a sack. While backup QB Devon Modster is still ineligible, Garbers has to severely limit his running, and that’s been an important part of Cal’s offense. He may be on a somewhat longer leash against UW, but not that much longer than UCD.
Big relief for Cal: OG Valentino Daltoso (Jr*, #61) is apparently OK & playing today. He was injured near the end of the UCD game, and there was much concern. Cal’s OL is good, but thin beyond the top 5 or 6.
The biggest difference between the UCD game and today for Cal is the offense. The UCD playbook was very limited. Today, there’ll be a lot that UW hasn’t seen. Cal doesn’t have that much speed at the skill positions, but they have way more than they had last year. There’ll be another drop or two, but expect the Bears to take some deep shots, and keep UW honest — something that the Bears were simply not capable of last year. [Note: Garbers’ arm was torched last year, and he couldn’t throw the ball more than 30 yds. He’s back to full strength now. Last week, he was aiming too much. In the 2nd half, he was lettin’ it rip, and his throws were much better.] Garbers’ ability to make good decisions is still developing, so tonight’s game will be a good test.
Cal’s offense won’t be at full potential, though, until backup QB Devon Modster (transferred from UCLA) becomes eligible. When Modster is on board, Garbers will be able to run with abandon.
Look for RBs Marcel Dancy and DeShawn Collins to have impact. They provide the outside speed that could help Cal get some bigger gains on the ground. Also look for Cal to target their TEs downfield. Bottom line: Nearly every phase of Cal’s offense is significantly improved over last year. If defenses focus too much on one weapon, the Bears can move the ball with the others.
If Cal’s offense can improve enough to be in the middle 1/3 of the Pac-12, the Bears stand an excellent chance of winning 8 games, despite a very challenging Pac-12 North schedule.
For today, look for the Bears to beat the spread, but not the Huskies. Playing at Husky Stadium, with a loud crowd seeking vengeance, will be the difference.
UW 24, Cal 21 [It was a toss-up between 17 or 21 for Cal….]
Note: If UW’s All-American C Nick Harris doesn’t start, this game could be a completely different story. They struggled to run last week, and they if they can’t run against Cal, things could get ugly in a hurry for UW. It could be an outright win for Cal….