Breaking down the WSU-Cal matchup. Here's what the Cougars will have to do to win on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
No. 8 Cougars (6-0 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) vs. Cal (3-3, 0-3)
When: Friday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Radio: 710 AM
Stream: Watch ESPN
Line: WSU (minus-15)
WSU Players to Watch
QB Luke Falk – 19 pass TD
WR Tavares Martin Jr. – 7 rec TD
RB Jamal Morrow – 7.8 ypc
SS Jalen Thompson – 34 tackles
DT Hercules Mata’afa – 10 TFL
Cal Players to Watch
QB Ross Bowers – 9 TD, 8 INT
RB Patrick Laird – 6.2 ypc
WR Vic Wharton III – 66.2 rec yards per game
LB Devante Downs – 60 tackles
CB Camryn Bynum—3 pass breakups
WSU’s Keys to the Game
Get things chugging on defense
The Cougars have lost three senior linebackers — Peyton Pelluer, Isaac Dotson and Nate DeRider – to injury this season, and will be leaning on freshmen Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers down the stretch. Lucky for them, they’ll get to work things out and get comfortable with one another against an opponent that is also regrouping and figuring out how to get the chains moving offensively. Also, the Cougs are likely to be without another injured defender, Darrien Molton, at cornerback, so Sean Harper Jr. or Marcus Strong might make a first career start there.
Get the run game going
Cal has given up 13 rushing touchdowns this season and is allowing 172.5 rush yards per game. This presents a golden opportunity for the Cougars to get some ground production from their trio of backs – James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks. Wicks had a season-high 58 yards on seven carries last week and hinted that he was fully healthy for the first time this year. Expect him to try and build on that.
Force Bowers into bad decisions
For as much heat as Ross Bowers has taken recently because of Cal’s inability to move the ball on offense, he’s been pretty good about taking care of the football. Bowers hasn’t thrown an interception since the fourth quarter of Cal’s game against USC on Sept. 23. But WSU’s defense can be challenging for a young quarterback because of how much stunting and stemming the Cougars like to do. The Cougars’ defense hopes to dupe Bowers into throwing a pick or two. WSU’s defense has six interceptions from the Cougars’ last three games.
Start fast and keep the pressure on
Cal takes a while to get things going on offense. The Golden Bears have only scored 24 points in the first quarter this season – meaning they average a first quarter field goal every game. The Cougars have had some fast start troubles of their own, but they tend to ignite in the second quarter – WSU has scored 72 second quarter points this season. If the Cougs strike fast and keep it going, Cal simply does not have the offense to keep up.
Prediction: WSU 52, Cal 10