Otto Greule Jr
Coming off a much needed upset of Oregon State, Washington now looks to build some late-season momentum with a win at Cal on Friday night.
Washington's schedule seems to be on a perfect downward slope since the Oregon game with each game getting a little bit less difficult than the one before it. The Huskies appear to be a ways down the hill now as they face off with a 3-6 Cal team that will be the first FBS team they have played in 2012 that doesn't have a winning record. After a brutal opening eight games, the Huskies now face four teams with losing records that are very beatable, but the Bears look to be the biggest challenge of those four teams.
The Bears may have gotten destroyed by a below average Utah team last week, but with them now one loss away from being eliminated from bowl eligibility and with Jeff Tedford hanging by a thread, there is a good chance that the they will come out desperate at home on Friday. It is a distinct possibility that the Bears may have already packed it in for the season, but the last time the Bears had their backs against the wall at home they responded by blowing out a good UCLA team. With this in mind, it will be imperative that the Huskies don't come out slow on the road as they have in every road game this season.
What Husky fans should be confident about
- Bear down - Cal has had a reputation for fading late in the season under Tedford and they appear to be mailing it in even earlier than usual this season. The Bears looked hopeless against a very beatable Stanford team two weeks ago and then fell behind 42-6 last week to Utah who was 2-5 coming into the game.
- Pro-style - The Huskies defense has been shredded by hurry-up and spread offenses, but has been very tough against the standard Pac-12 pro-style offenses which Cal runs. Cal likes to run between the tackles, take their time and swing it out to a limited amount of receivers, and the Huskies have been good at stopping that for the most part this season against teams that are better than Cal.
- Run the ball - It appears that Steve Sarkisian may have heard the Husky fans cries about wanting him to run the ball more as the Huskies rushed the ball 33 times against one of the best run defenses in the country. The Husky offensive line appears to be much better at run blocking than pass blocking and the run heavy game plan limits the amount of passes that Keith Price has to throw. A healthy running game could go a long way in allowing the Huskies to control the game against Cal.
What Husky fans should be worried about
- It's on the road - Cal is far and away the weakest team that the Huskies have played on the road this season, but if the Huskies play like they have in every other road game this season, it's unlikely that they will be able to beat even a struggling team like the Bears.
- Desperation - Just ask Oregon State and Stanford how tough it is to beat a desperate team that really needs a win at home. The Bears are a talented team and have shown that they can be very tough if they play as well as they are capable of. They should also be very hungry to beat the Huskies after losing three-straight now to Washington.
- Lack of scoring - The Huskies haven't scored more than 21 points this season against a FBS opponent. The Bears don't have a prolific offense, but the Huskies can't count on having their defense completely shut down their scoring and creating numerous turnovers to cover for their inability to put points on the board.
Players on the spot
- Desmond Trufant - Trufant will be facing off with one of the most talented receivers in the country in Keenan Allen who it seems like the Bears try to get the ball to almost every play. Trufant will get tested early and often and he can really limit Cal on offense if he can go toe-to-toe with Allen.
- Bishop Sankey - Sankey got a Chris Polk sized work load against Oregon State with 25 carries and it looks like he might be counted on to shoulder a similar load for the rest of the season. With no real backup running back on the Husky roster that is healthy right now, Sankey will need to be strong and take beatings for the rest of the season.
- Keith Price - Price didn't necessarily have a good game against Oregon State, but he didn't have a bad one either and that's all that they really needed him to do. However, if the Huskies want to be able to win a game against a team like Cal on the road, Price will need to start having more responsibility and produce more.
I would expect the Huskies to roll if this game was in CenturyLink Field, but the Huskies have played so poorly on the road this season, that it is hard to predict them to beat anyone right now outside of Seattle. There will be absolutely no excuse for the Huskies not at least making it a very tight game with a Cal team that is spiraling downwards right now.
I don't think this will be an easy game for the Huskies, but I think they can pull it out much in the way that they did against Oregon State. The defensive backfield will get after Allen, forcing Cal to primarily run the ball and the will get an interception or two from Zach Maynard that will set up the Husky offense. It won't be pretty, but the Huskies will win another low-scoring slugfest.
Washington 21 Cal 20