This time last week, the California Golden Bears' football season was in shambles. The Bears were 1-4 and staring squarely at the virtual certainty of 1-5 as it got ready to face a ranked and ready UCLA team at Memorial Stadium. Cal couldn't possibly turn its season around, right?
That was this time last week. The Bears pulled themselves off the canvas and shocked many of us with a 43-17 victory over the Bruins to earn their first Pac-12 win of the season. Instead of 1-5, the Bears are 2-4 (1-2 Pac-12) and the season is suddenly looking hopeful once again.
Can the Bears build on last week? They will try tonight on the road against the Washington State Cougars. Cal has had recent success against WSU, winning the last seven meetings against the Cougars, including the last three played in Pullman. For many (if not most) Cal fans, though, the prevailing thought is to throw those stats out the window. It's still a roadie in Pullman, after all, and the phrase "Curse of the Palouse" is one that many Cal fans will not retire, no matter how many times the Bears win there. And then there's the matter of WSU head coach Mike Leach. "The Pirate" has not turned WSU around quite yet --- the Cougs are 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12, including an inexplicable home loss to dreadful Colorado --- but no Cal fan will overlook a Leach team after his Texas Tech squad unceremoniously upset the best team of the Jeff Tedford era in the 2004 Holiday Bowl.
This is your official pregame thread. Gear up for the game here as we draw closer to kickoff: woof, worry, whine, whatever in the comments. Also in the comments, look for the link to the game stream and first quarter thread as kickoff time draws near. More game info below.
Saturday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. (PT)
Cal (2-4, 1-1) at Washington State (2-4, 0-3)
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
TV: Pac-12 Networks - Ted Robinson (Play-by-Play), Glenn Parker (Analyst), Ryan Nece (Sideline Reporter)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst, *Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Sideline, *Pregame Show), Lee Grosscup (^Postgame Show), Matt Foley (^Postgame Show) Postgame Show: Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: *KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KGO 810 AM (San Francisco), +KLAA 830 AM (Los Angeles), KRAK 910 AM (Los Angeles), KAHI 950 AM (Sacramento), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno), XEPE 1700 AM (San Diego) ^Primary, *Secondary; +game scheduled to be broadcast in its entirety on Saturday, Oct. 13
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast of the Golden Bears' game at Washington State can be heard on the Internet through the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page at CalBears.com..
Cal Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM, kalx.com (Berkeley) - Josh Toyofuku (Play-by-Play), Cliff Zimmerman (Analyst)
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Washington State's commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-Washington State game can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio on channel 92 on Sirius and channel 192 on XM.
CalBears.com: Visit CalBears.com for complete coverage of Cal football, including a live play-by-play update via Gametracker.
Cal did not come through last week's win over UCLA unscathed as far as injuries go. Cal cornerback Marc Anthony was injured in the first quarter and did not return. Kameron Jackson filled in nicely in Anthony's place, garnering Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors with a three-interception performance. Though it is nice for Cal to know that Jackson is a capable fill-in, it would be nice for the defense to have Anthony back and be at full strength in the secondary against Leach's pass-happy offense. We won't know Anthony's status until later today, as Anthony will be a gametime decision for the Bears.
With or without Anthony, how will the Cal defense do against the WSU offense? ManBearCal previewed MIke Leach's "Air Raid" Offense and told us what to expect.
What to Expect:
40+ pass attempts, for good or bad. If we fail to generate any pressure, we're dead. Conversely, if we can generate pressure with a 3 or 4-man rush and hurry [WSU QB Connor] Halliday a bit, there's a high likelihood that he'll gift wrap a few for us. He may do that even without any pressure, but I wouldn't take any chances. I think we can bring some heat with a minimal rush, while also dropping 7 or 8 defenders in coverage. I'd anticipate a 4-2-5 look, with Scarlett or McCain sometimes dropping back and sometimes rushing. Some disguised blitzes to keep Halliday guessing would be good too, as he's been fooled before and demonstrated a tendency to force a ball into some bad spots. Basically, we can do many of the same things that we did against UCLA last week. I do think he'll get his yards though, and I'm okay with that. We just need to nut up in the red zone. This is a team that's averaging just 22 points per game, so it's not as if that's an impossible task. But we're not the most consistent team defensively, so it's not exactly a foregone conclusion that we can duplicate the past success of others. I do expect Halliday to throw on us to the tune of 300 or so yards, but if we can keep his completions down around 55% and pick him off a couple times we should be fine.
On the other side of the ball, Cal fans were treated to an offensive explosion of sorts last week against UCLA. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard completed 25 of 30 passes for 295 yards and 4 TD and the Bears showed off their big play capability with Brendan Bigelow and Keenan Allen in particular. Will we see more offensive production from Cal this week against the Cougs? norcalnick previewed the WSU defense.
Against the Run
3.98 yards allowed/attempt, 61st in the nation
A completely average running defense probably sounds beautiful to Washington State fans. Last year Cal rode the Sofele train to victory at AT&T Park, and I would imagine they'll try to do more of the same, especially now that C.J. Anderson and Brendan Bigelow are such big parts of the equation.
It's worth noting that WSU is still pretty vulnerable to the home run - they've allowed 10 runs of 40 yards or more. Can you say Brendan Bigelow?
Against the Pass
7.1 yards allowed/attempt, 71st in the nation
Again, essentially average. If you were a time-traveller, and also a jerk, you could have some fun going back a few months and telling Washington State fans that Mike Leach's defense would be perfectly average and watch smiles grow wide as they imagine the possibilities when combined with an air-raid inspired offensive explosion.
As Liffeytroll describes, you don't want to hang any passes up for [SS Deone] Buchanon because he'll either kill the receiver or intercept the ball. As I mentioned above, the key matchup on this side of the ball will be the line vs. WSU's blitzing linebackers, and Maynard's ability to get rid of the ball before being crushed like he did against UCLA.
So, the Cougs are decidedly average on defense. But average is good for WSU compared to years past. And Cal's offense is in no position to thumb its nose at anyone.
The win over UCLA last week was sweet, no doubt about it. But if the Bears are to capitalize on the progress made last week, they must show improvement today. A win in Pullman would certainly make Cal look at its season in an even more optimistic light and be a great momentum builder into next week's Big Game.