Vegas Over/Under: Cal -2
Location: Berkeley, CA
When I think of the California Golden Bears, I think of three things. Marshawn Lynch. Molester mascot. Bear raid offense. Two of those things will be present this Saturday when Utah and Cal-Berkeley face off in the east bay. Utah will have its hands full with defending the best passing attack in the country YTD. Cal has a lot of new faces this year from last year, but the system and air threat remains the same. Let’s look at some of the changes in Cal’s personnel.
It is not often that a quarterback gets taken 1st overall in the NFL draft. It is even more rare to have the successor of that quarterback be just as dominant. Davis Webb (QB) has been lights out through the first four games of the season with 63% completion on 1837 yards, 18 TDs, and 5 INTs. Those are big time numbers for the graduate transfer, and forecasts currently have him going for over 5,000 passing yards by the end of the season if his success continues. Utah will need to have a similar effort against Webb as they did against Jared Goff last year if they are to win this game. Utah defensive line should have more success against the Cal offensive line than they did against USC. If Lowell Lotulelei plays, I expect Utah to dominate the trenches. The question then becomes: is the pass rush good enough to disrupt the bear raid attack?
Cal replaced their top wide receivers from last year (Bryce Treggs & Kenny Lawler) with some of the most dynamic wide receivers so far this season. Chad Hansen (WR) already has 50 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. He is currently the leading wide receiver in the country with 656 receiving yards through four games. The other starters are also very dynamic. Melquise Stovall (WR) and Demetris Robertson (WR) will be a handful matched beside Chad Hansen. The Utah secondary will disguise coverage to confuse Davis Webb pre and post snap. This was a successful strategy against Goff, who made a lot of reads pre-snap incorrectly and threw 5 interceptions last year. If the Davis Webb has to think for two more seconds in the pocket from the disguised coverage and the pass rush, then Utah should have success against the Cal passing game.
You can find many things in Berkeley. World class education. Progressive political movements. But you will not find defense in Berkeley, California. The Bears currently rank 119th in the country in total defense out of 128 FBS teams. Utah will have most likely trying to control this game on offense with a pro-style attack and managing the time of possession. The biggest question for the Utah offense against the Cal defense is whether Utah can keep up with the Cal offense. Troy Williams (QB) should have his way against the Cal secondary. The Utah offensive line should have its way against the Cal front seven.
There really isn’t much else to say regarding the Cal defense. They are terrible.
The game will hinge on whether Utah can stop the Cal passing attack. Utah should have their way on offense, but may get into trouble if it turns into a shootout. I expect Utah’s defense to up to the task, and will hold Cal to under 30 points for the first time this season. Utah should also end the game with 200+ yards rushing in order to control the time of possession. Kyle Whittingham will then celebrate his 100th win at the nearly In-N-Out.
Utah 35 Cal 28