Saturday Night in Pullman the number 23 ranked Washington State Cougars will be taking on the California Golden Bears in search of their eighth straight win and will look to stay perfect in conference play. Whenever these two teams get together it’s easy to imagine a lot of points being put up because of the offensive styles they both use. Both teams are air raid offenses, but what makes them harder to defend is that both teams like to also use the run as a part of their offense. While they both have explosive offenses a distinct advantage that Washington State has is that they have a much better defense than the Golden Bears. The Golden Bears are giving up 44 points per game this season, which safe to say is one of the worst averages in all of the FBS. Washington State should be able to do pretty much whatever they want when they are on offense and while the defense will probably give up their fair share of points against an offense that has scored on pretty much everyone, they just need to put together a decent number of stops or force some turnovers and they should be able to win their eighth straight.
Players to watch for the Bears: The key for any good air raid offense is easily the quarterback, and the Bears have a good one. Davis Webb isn’t going to be the first pick in the draft like last years Bears quarterback Jared Goff was, but he certainly does a good job leading this offense with over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns to this point. The biggest downside to Webb’s game is that he can be a little careless with the ball. He has 11 interceptions this season and a lot of his interceptions seem to be ones that give other teams momentum. The Bears air raid offense features one of if not the best wide receiver in the whole conference in Chad Hansen. Hansen is enjoying a breakout season for the Bears, with 840 yards and 9 touchdowns in only seven games. He has also made a number of jaw dropping catches this season while showing that he is more than capable of making a tough catch even when the defensive back has good coverage on him. What makes him even more dangerous is that they have a number of other good receivers so the defense can’t just key in on Hansen. A guy to watch defensively for the Bears is former quarterback turned safety Luke Rubenzer. He leads their team in interceptions and is probably the guy on their defense that puts himself in the best position to make plays.
Keys for the Cougars: Washington State has to be able to shutdown the Bears run game and make them a one dimensional offense. They are a fairly balanced air raid team and will look to establish the run game and if it is working early Cal coach Sonny Dykes will stick with it, but if they force them to throw the ball non-stop Webb can definitely be good for some turnovers, which is another key. The Cougars need to find a way to force some turnovers and get a short field against a pretty bad defense, because that would essentially be stealing points for Luke Falk and the Cougars offense. Washington State has to keep using the strong rushing attack they’ve been using during this current seven-game winning streak. Falk also needs to use a number of targets in the passing attack, because the more that the Cougars spread things around and stay balanced the more the Bears will struggle to even slow them down.
Expect a very high scoring game at Martin Stadium on Saturday Night, but I like the Cougars defense much better which is why I would pick them to win this game if I were to pick it. With Colorado and Washington looming in the last two games it’s important for the Cougars to win this game, because if they do they will guarantee that the Apple Cup against Washington will be a game to determine the Pac-12 North. The Cougars are currently set at 15-point favorites and the over/under for the game is set at 83. The weather is expected to be in the high 50s to upper 60s with a decent chance at some rain showers.