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Huskies hit the road for unique matchup with Cal

This game is weird, because it could go any number of ways. I'll take a look at what Washington needs to do to leave the Bay Area with a win against a rapidly improving Cal squad.

John Ross III (1) of Washington is going to have to reappear against Cal this Saturday.
John Ross III (1) of Washington is going to have to reappear against Cal this Saturday.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Cal leads the Pac-12 North Division. You can thank Arizona (beating Oregon) and USC (beating Stanford) for that fun little tidbit.

Those division-leading California Golden Bears (4-1, 2-1) get ready to host the Washington Huskies (4-1, 0-1) this Saturday at 3 p.m. on Pac 12 Networks.

On paper, Washington's Pac-12 road opener against Cal could go multiple directions.

Washington's defense is the strength of the team, but Cal's Bear Raid offense could potentially give the Huskies problems. Similarly, Cal's defense is atrocious, but Washington's offense is just about on the same level. The UW is 112th nationally in passing offense (162.6 ypg) and 37th in rushing offense (207.6 ypg), meanwhile the Bears are third in the nation in passing offense (398.2 ypg) and second in scoring offense (50.0 ppt), yet they allow more than 40 points per game on defense, good for 122nd.

To be cliché, somethings gotta give.

The questions surrounding the Huskies right now are deserved and understandable. Cyler Miles hasn't played his best football, the running game is good but inconsistent, and the supposed-to-be-good receiving corps has a tendency to disappear. Kasen Williams isn't getting consistent targets, John Ross III is no longer the big play threat he was earlier this season, and the tight end position is the invisible man.

I would think that Cal's bottom-feeding defense will be a confidence booster for the Dawgs. Just look at their recent games: 59 points to Washington State, 56 points to Colorado, 49 points to Arizona; teams can score with eight men on the field against Cal.

We already know the Huskies can sustain a shootout, and we know the young secondary is susceptible to a high-powered passing attack.

I'm not going to run through all the numbers because I don't think it's all that important, truthfully. Cal's quarterback Jared Goff has some gaudy numbers, we know that. Cyler Miles, well, doesn't. We know that, too.

But Washington is going to have to find their offensive identity at some point. That's what this game has to be for Washington. They have to figure out what they want to do when they have the ball. They like to run it, because that's all they can do to have success. Take away two long touchdown passes to Ross and the passing game has largely been impressively ineffective.

They're going to have to figure out if they're a smash mouth running team — as they were in Steve Sarkisian's final season — and use the play action pass as a counter, or if they can get their drop back passing game actually going, as Chris Petersen prefers.

Cal isn't a gimme this year. The Pac-12 Networks money is starting to work its way through the league and you can see the results. The league has never been better or deeper as it is right now, and Washington is going to have to show up in just their second road game of the year.

I'm not going to make a prediction, because I can't even pick high school games well. I will say this, though: if it's a shootout, Berkeley has the advantage. That's what they want. If it's a slugfest, the UW's size and experience in that category will have the upper hand.

The way I see it, it's a push. And that makes me nervous.