Last week was rough for the Bears. For the 13th straight year, the Bears were unable to come through with a win against a talent rich USC squad. Sonny Dykes took exception to having to play a historical rival on the road with short rest, and made some valid points the Pac-12 needs to look at going forward. Rest or not, the Bears still dropped to 4-4 last week and still need to find 2 more wins to become bowl eligible this year.
Looking ahead, Cal faces another big test against Jake Browning and the Washington Huskies. While the Huskies don't own a crazy 13 year win streak over the Bears, this is still going to be a tough one for the Bears to win. Cal may be at home and not on short rest, but Washington comes in at 8-0 ranked 5th in the nation, with a top 5 scoring offense and top 10 defense in points allowed.
This week we'll break down the matchup and see what the Bears can do to try and keep up with the Huskies at home this week.
Stopping the Washington Defense.
Chris Petersen has installed his offense masterfully at Washington. He's developed his personnel into an explosive attacking offense that utilizes a spread offense that emphasizes scheme, power and a little trickery to keep defenders on their heels. The offensive attack is led by Sophomore sensation Jake Browning - who has 28 TD's to 3 interceptions, has thrown for 1709 yards and has rushed for and additional 4 touchdowns. His targets include the 3 headed receiving attack of John Ross, Donte Pettis and Chico McClatcher, who are all legitimate explosive threats. The Huskies are equally dangerous on the ground with star RB Miles Gaskin gashing defenses with his balance of elusiveness and power.
Washington's offense has all the firepower and brute strength needed to roll lesser defenses and the banged up Bears are going to need an unprecedented performance to even slow this unit down. The defense is thin, the line and backers are banged up and the secondary is down to players who were not expected to see the field at the seasons start. Without the required depth or most talented defensive players on the field it's hard to rationalize the Bears slowing down the Washington attack - Let's hope for some uncharacteristic Washington turnovers.
Outplaying Washington's Defense.
As good as the Husky offense is this year, the defense may be even more formidable. This unit is ridiculously deep, returning almost their entire secondary and line backing corps - and virtually all of them were top recruits. The defensive line is huge and fully healthy as well. This unit is young, athletic and extremely well coached by top notch DC Pete Kwiakowski. This team is great against the pass and run and only gives up about 15 points per game, this will truly be a test for the Bear Raid.
Optimism for Davis Webb and Co. to keep pace with Washington's defense should be much higher. While Washington can create pressure, Cal’s line has held its own and kept Webb's jersey clean against good pass rushing teamS. I also have faith in the receiving corps of the Bears to match up well against any secondary, regardless of talent - especially with Chad Hansen back this week. The run game may be harder to get rolling with the stellar linebacker play for Washington, but if Cal can get the Huskies on their heels through the air , maybe the run lanes will open up.
Final Thoughts - This will be tough.
While the Bears may be overmatched, expect them to put up some points this weekend. The Bear Raid can run with anyone offensively in the Pac 12 as long as they are healthy, but the defense will almost certainly be the Bears Achilles heel this weekend. It's hard to foresee any outcome other than the Bears getting outpaced by the Huskies offense, unless the defense plays out of this world this weekend. However, to quote an old cliche - ‘there’s a reason they play the games.’ Hopefully the Bears can find some magic on Saturday.