California (3-1) at Washington State (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 4, 10:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Martin Stadium (35,117) -- Pullman, Washington. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Cal 2-0, WSU 1-1. Away Record: Cal 1-1, WSU 1-1. Neutral Record: Cal 0-0, WSU 0-1. Conference Record: Cal 1-1, WSU 1-1. Series Record: California leads, 44-26-5.
GAME NOTES: Expect plenty of passing when the high-flying aerial assaults of the California Golden Bears and Washington State Cougars take center stage for a a Pac-12 Conference duel at Martin Stadium on Saturday night.
If you are a fan of California football, there hasn't been much time to breathe the last two weeks. The Golden Bears nearly upset Arizona on Sept. 20, only to fall in demoralizing fashion on a last-second Hail Mary. Then, last weekend, the Golden Bears erased a 21-7 deficit at the end of the first quarter to outlast Colorado in a double-overtime marathon. All said, the Golden Bears are 3-1 overall, and 1-1 in Pac-12 play.
Washington State also has been locked in some blood pressure lifting contests in its first two conference bouts. The Cougars nearly toppled No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 20 before rallying for a 28-27 win at Utah last weekend. However, they don't have as promising an overall record to lean on, sitting at 2-3, despite the same 1-1 league ledger as California.
In Berkeley last season, the Cougars had their way with the Golden Bears, posting a 44-22 victory. It was their first win against Cal since 2002, ending a nine-game losing streak. The Golden Bears have normally dominated this conference rivalry, posting a 44-26-5 series advantage.
Jared Goff is the real deal. He was thrown into the fire as a freshman a year ago, with head coach Sonny Dykes seeing if he could handle running a complex, fast-paced offense. He held up as a rookie and that experience is turning into even better production this season. Goff has completed 62.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,348 yards and 17 touchdowns, compared to three interceptions. Goff may have only connected on 57.1 percent of his passes against Colorado, but he finished with 458 yards and seven touchdowns as well. Plus, he found a way to lead his team to victory.
With Goff at the helm, the Golden Bears have produced at an offensive pace that rivals any of the other potent attacks in the high-octane Pac-12. The Golden Bears trail only Oregon in scoring offense (47.5 ppg), while ranking fourth in total offense (535.5 ypg).
Of course, Goff can't do it by himself and he hasn't had to with a stable of talented wide receivers at his disposal. Kenny Lawler (13 receptions, 160 yards, five TDs) leads the team in receptions and touchdowns through the air, but he is one of six receivers with at least nine catches. Trevor Davis (12 receptions, 220 yards, TD) and Bryce Treggs (12 receptions, 192 yards, three TDs) are also favored targets.
Daniel Lasco (347 yards, two TDs) and Khalfani Muhammad (169 yards, four TDs) handle the duties in the backfield. Lasco had a fantastic game against Colorado, tallying 108 yards on the ground while setting a Cal record with a 92-yard touchdown reception.
While the impressive numbers are obviously fun to talk about and make for plenty of highlights, the Golden Bears' defensive effort is still holding the team back. They are allowing 35.8 points and 478 yards per game, ranking last in the conference in both categories. Jalen Jefferson (29 tackles, 1.0 sacks) is the leader of the squad, although Griffin Piatt (25 tackles, three INTs) has been a playmaker in the secondary, leading the Pac-12 in passes defended (nine).
Piatt will certainly have plenty of opportunities to add to his total against Washington State. The Cougars lead the country in pass attempts (301). No other team has more than 250. The Cougars are also the first team to have reached 200 completions, and one of only two with 2,000 or more passing yards.
Connor Halliday has accounted for all but 86 of those yards and two of those pass attempts. In all, he has thrown for 2,318 yards and 20 touchdowns, while completing 67.2 percent of his passes. All that throwing has left him susceptible to mistakes, as he has been picked off seven times.
With the passing game getting such constant work, there have been plenty of chances for Washington State receivers. Vince Mayle (40 receptions, 440 yards, five TDs) and Isiah Myers (36 receptions, 478 yards, five TDs) are the two top options, but River Cracraft (32 receptions, 404 yards, three TDs) and Dominique Williams (19 receptions, 389 yards, six TDs) are potent threats as well.
Jamal Morrow (168 yards) and Gerard Wicks (148 yards, TD) are each averaging more than four yards per carry, but their chances have been severely limited.
The Cougars have been able to contain opponents a bit better than might be expected, allowing 30.2 points and 408 yards per game. Daquawn Brown (44 tackles) and Darryl Monroe (42 tackles) have each reached 40 tackles and Xavier Cooper (6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Ivan McLennan (4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) have been instrumental in the pass rush.
Despite the improvements the Cougars have made on defense, this should still be a shootout between two squads that love to throw the ball. With a rowdy Martin Stadium crowd behind them, the Cougars get the nod.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington State 41, California 34
10/01 10:46:04 ET