been a weird season in the Pac-12 and that’s seen in the standings, as Washington State is the only team with less than two Conference losses. The Cougars have won Four straight and face an equally surprising California squad that just beat Washington last weekend. The Cougars opened as decent -10.5 point home favorites with an over/under of 54 at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This is a weird situation for a number of reasons since there are actual stakes at play. The Golden Bears didn’t look bad in the first couple months of the year, but no one saw their upset of Washington coming and that includes fans of the team. The defense stepped up in a big way and that was all that was needed in a 12-10 win. The problem is that they won’t be able to do that again versus the Wazzu offense, which has scored 75 points in the last two Games against Oregon and Stanford. In fact, the Cougars could easily be undefeated, but USC came back from a 30-17 deficit to steal the Game.
This matchup has been hard to predict over the years and that’s why Washington State backers are somewhat tentative. Just last year the Cougars were undefeated and then strangely lost 37-3 at Cal as a 17-point favorite. Cal has won three of the last Four, though Wazzu took the last one in Pullman 56-21.
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ACCording to the numbers, Cal’s defense is one of the best in the conference, allowing only 312 yards and 22.3 points per Game. They befuddled the Wazzu offense last year, racking up eight sacks and a ridiculous seven turnovers (five interceptions). The route to backing the Cougars is that they probably won’t turn the ball over seven times again and while Cal’s defense has good numbers, it’s still a group that gave up 37 points to UCLA and 42 to Oregon. Quarterback Gardner Minshew has been fairly safe with the ball completing 71.0% of his passes with 26 touchdowns and only six picks. He also hasn’t been sacked that much as he’s getting the ball out extremely quick and that was seen in his dominant performance against Stanford en route to completing 40-of-50 passes for 438 yards and three touchdowns. They’ll run the ball a few times, but against most competition, the Air Raid can’t be stopped.
And that leads to the other end of the field where Cal could struggle. The Golden Bears have scored 17 points or less in three of their last Four Games and face a decent WSU defense that’s allowing only 25 points per Game. At home, the Cougars already beat Utah 28-24 and Oregon 34-20. Expecting more than 20 points out of this Cal offense could be a stretch.
Chase Garbers has been Cal’s best quarterback with 7.10 yards per attempt and a 9:4 touchdown to interception ratio, but that should be taken with a grain of salt because all of those touchdowns came against UNC, BYU, Idaho State and Oregon State. He managed the Game against Washington and that was all that was needed. Garbers is also mobile and that should help keep drives alive, while running back Patrick LAird will be fed the ball as much as possible. He’s having a fine year, though is averaging only 4.6 yards per carry, which is worse than last year’s 5.9 mark. If the Bears can’t keep the chains moving, that probably won’t cut it on the road against Washington State.
The Golden Bears are 4-1 ATS in their last five road Games, but 2-6 ATS in their last eight road Games against a team with a winning home record. The Cougars have covered every Game this year and are 18-6 ATS in their last 24 at home. The under is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings between these schools and the road team is 10-4 ATS in the last 14.
Our Pick – Washington State -10