Washington Football: What to expect from Cal

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Chad Hansen
BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Chad Hansen /

California enters Husky Stadium on Saturday at 3-2 on the season, fresh off a 24-45 loss at Oregon. What can the Washington Football team expect to see from a scrappy Golden Bears team?

The Washington Football team has cruised to a 2-0 Pac-12 record with dominant road wins over Colorado and Oregon State. Head coach Chris Petersen would like to see that trend continue with a strong showing against Cal on Saturday night.

Cal is a middle of the pack team in the conference, but those tend to be the most dangerous in the Pac-12. The Golden Bears are historically an offense-oriented program, and its passing attack has continued that trend into 2017.

Sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers, a Bothell native, is averaging over 271 yards per game through the air. He has struggled taking care of the ball, racking up eight interceptions, but has the ability to spread the ball around to several speedy receivers.

Cal has utilized a pair of primary tailbacks. Junior Patrick Laird is the higher usage back so far, averaging over six yards per carry and scoring five times in as many games.

Despite this offensive prowess, Cal typically neglects its defensive struggles. This season has been somewhat different.

New attention to defense

Cal’s strongest victory, 27-16 over Ole Miss, was in large part due to a huge defensive effort. The Golden Bears allowed a mere 53 rushing yards on 29 carries to force the Rebels to lean on the passing game.

Ole Miss found some success throwing the ball (accounting for 363 passing yards), but opportunism won the day for Cal. Its defense came up with three interceptions to ultimately shut down the Ole Miss offense.

If the Golden Bears can find any way to slow UW back Myles Gaskin early on, they may be able to stall some Husky drives. For Washington, the opposite will be critical. Establishing both Gaskin and Lavon Coleman on the ground can open up space for the talented UW receivers.

Cal has yet to play an offensive line as sound as Washington’s. UW’s front five on offense may be where its advantage lies in the running game.

Related Story: Washington Huskies 2017 Football Schedule Game By Game Analysis

Cal’s road to Seattle

The Golden Bears started their 2017 campaign strong, winning three consecutive non-conference games in September. Cal beat North Carolina on the road, 35-30, before opening at home with a 33-20 win over Weber State.

Some experts were eyeing a Cal upset over USC in week four, but the Trojans pulled away in the second half to win 30-20. The Golden Bears committed six turnovers to kill their own upset chances.

A tough trip to Eugene was next on the slate for Cal. Oregon, despite injuries to its starting quarterback and running back, managed to dominate offensively to win 45-24.

Washington is currently a 27 point favorite against Cal, and reasonably so. The No. 6 team in the nation has been dominant this year, and playing host to a team that has struggled against the Huskies in years past bodes well.

Next: Pac-12 undefeateds: Utah, Washington State, and Washington football teams

Years past

Washington owns the series lead with Cal, 53-39. Washington has won seven of the past nine meetings, the most recent being a 66-27 blowout a year ago in Berkeley.

Browning tossed six touchdowns in that win, three each to receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis. UW also rushed for 287 yards and intercepted Cal three times on defense.

Cal’s last win over Washington? Just two years ago, when the Golden Bears survived a 30-24 win in Seattle.