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Week 1 Cal Football Preview: QB Chase Garbers vs (insert Washington starter)

Garbers is the known in Cal’s Week 1 battle of starting QBs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Redbox Bowl - Cal v Illinois Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The California Golden Bears are under a week away from starting the 2020 Pac-12 football season as they take on the Washington Huskies on November 7 at 7:30 pm.

Quarterback Chase Garbers is the known commodity in this matchup as Washington will be entering the 2020 season with a brand new quarterback for the second season in a row.

Here’s what we know about both situations:

Chase Garbers

Garbers was among the best Pac-12 quarterbacks a season ago, when healthy, though that was the biggest issue for the Cal Bears in 2019. This season, his career highlights are documented by his Cal bio:

• Has started 19 of the 21 games he has played in and posted a 13-6 record as Cal’s starting quarterback while he is 13-2 in games which he has started and played more than half of the contest
• Leads all active Pac-12 quarterbacks in games started with 19
• Has completed 290-of-475 passes (61.1%) for 3278 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 133.00 passing efficiency rating that ranks sixth on Cal’s all-time list
• Cal’s active career leader in all passing categories
• Has three career games of 250+ passing yards all as a sophomore including a career-high 357 at Ole Miss, as well as 285 at Stanford and 272 in the Redbox Bowl against Miami, while his four touchdowns at Ole Miss and Illinois equal a career best
• Had career highs of 1772 passing yards, averages of 8.2 yards per pass attempt and 13.5 yards per completion, and a 133.0 passing efficiency rating, while equaling a career-best 14 touchdown passes
• Posted career season highs in completions (159), passing attempts (260) and passing percentage (61.2%) as a 2018 redshirt freshman when he played in a career-high 12 games and made a career-high 10 starts, while he also tied a season-high with 14 touchdown passes and threw for a career-high 10 interceptions
• Has also rushed for 643 yards and five touchdowns on 188 carries
• Cal’s active career leader in total offense plays (663), yards (3921) and yards per game (186.7)
• Had his lone career forced fumble and tackle as a redshirt freshman at Washington State when after throwing an interception he forced a fumble at Cal’s three-yard line that eventually rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback and returned the ball to the Golden Bears

Garbers was extremely efficient when kept free from pressure a season ago, one of the more stable of the advanced metrics in football nowadays. When his offensive line did keep him free from pressure, Garbers threw for 118-170 for 1,554 yards and 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He suffered eight drops on those passes as well, so his numbers could have been even more impressive.

He did struggle when under pressure, however, completing fewer than 30% of his passes when under duress.

Garbers also adds an element with his legs, adding 243 yards on scrambles last year with another 96 yards on designed carries.

His health will be the only thing that can keep him from being a top-tier Pac-12 quarterback in 2020, and the road to victory for Cal this season.

Washington’s QB Situation

Currently, the Washington QB situation is, well, in flux.

The Seattle Times just published a depth chart projection for the Huskies with three quarterbacks listed with the OR designation. Those players are:

Kevin Thomson — Gr., 6’1, 200 - OR -
Jacob Sirmon — RS-So., 6’5, 240 - OR -
Dylan Morris — RS-Fr., 6’0, 200

With Ethan Garbers as the fourth string QB in the projection.

The Seattle Times, who were able to speak with new head coach Jimmy Lake, has the following bit of information about the QB situation:

Analysis: If you were a hoping for clarity at the quarterback position, you’ve come to the wrong place. With UW’s fall camp essentially closed to the media, it’s exceedingly difficult to ascertain which Husky signal callers are pulling ahead. And last Friday, Lake suggested as many as three quarterbacks could conceivably play against Cal.

“If we go into the game and we still like three of them, then maybe all three are going to play,” Lake said. “If we like two guys, then two guys are going to play. If there’s a clear leader, then that guy will be the starter.”

They ultimately side with Thomson as the likely starter as he’s the oldest and most mobile, as they put it.

Elsewhere in the news for this situation — The Athletic took a turn looking at it, Sports Illustrated did the same, and 247Sports did the same.

Here’s what we know about each of the listed quarterbacks:

We’ll start with Ethan, the younger brother of our very own Chase. Likely not to start this season as he’s a true freshman, Ethan took Corona del Mar to the CIF State Championship a season ago and a 16-0 record. He threw for over 5,000 yards last season and he’ll be someone we want to watch closely going forward.

As far as the other three:

Thomson played four seasons of football at Sacramento State, being named an FCS All-American and the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in 2019. He was a Second-Team All-American by Phil Steele and led the Hornets to a 9.4 record and a share of the Big Sky title.

Previously, Thomson spent two seasons at UNLV where he redshirted one year and didn’t see action previously.

Sirmon logged five games of action and was selected to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. He threw all of three passes, completing two of them for 19 yards, one against Eastern Washington and another against Hawaii.

He hails from Bothell, Washington where he was his high school conference’s MVP and a first-team conference quarterback as well. He was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American Game.

Morris is a redshirt freshman who didn’t see any action last year but was given Washington’s Scout Squad MVP award. He threw for a whopping 9,815 passing yards and 99 touchdowns in his high school career at Graham-Kapowsin in Puyallup, Washington. He was the No. 1 player in the state of Washington for his recruiting circuit by Rivals.

For all accounts, the advantage is Garbers here, and Garbers big, just because of the unknown. There are certainly the big accolades following either of the three potential starters for Washington, but none of them have documented experience on the big stage of the Pac-12, especially in a Pac-12-only schedule.

Keep Garbers healthy, keep him upright, and you got yourself a huge advantage at the most important position in all of team sports.