BERKELEY, Calif. — At 4-4 on the season, WSU could do themselves a lot of favors this week by getting a win against Cal and thus being one win away from a bowl game. That winning though has been easier said than done this season for the Cougs.
Here are my keys for the Cougs to get a dub in Berkeley.
1. WSU'S OFFENSE VS. CAL'S DEFENSE
Karthik talked about this a bit on Monday, but Cal's defense vs. WSU's offense is going to be the battle to watch.
WSU's offense averages 41.8 points per game which ranks 8th in the country. Cal's defense averages allowing 20.8 points per game and have only allowed 19 touchdowns this season, which is tied for the 18th fewest touchdowns allowed for a team in the nation.
That touchdown stat is the most interesting stat to me, especially since Cal is not exactly the big bad defense some people may make them out to seem once you dive into the stats. For example, they're 54th in the nation in yards allowed per game and 50th in the country in passing yards allowed per game. Where they thrive though is limiting points.
Like the Oregon game, Wazzu cannot settle for field goals if they want to get a win because chances to score could be few and far between.
One other interesting thing about Cal's defense is that even though they're decent in pass defense, they only have three interceptions all season. That's tied for 115th in the country. So Anthony Gordon shouldn't have to worry much about that.
2. CAL'S INEPT OFFENSE
If WSU's defense can't hold Cal then oh boy do they have problems.
The Bear's 17.4 points per game ranks them 121st in the country in points per contest. It gets worse when you talk about yards per game, where they currently rank 124th in the nation. To put it simply: This is a rough offense, y'all.
That's pretty surprising since Beau Baldwin, who was an offensive wizard at Eastern, is now the offensive coordinator at Cal. I know that this offense has a backup quarterback at the helm, but the issues go deeper than that.
As long as WSU keeps their upwards swing on defense going, they should be able to relatively handle the Bears.
3. NO PENALTY PROBLEMS
One final thing about this match up: The Cougs are going to have to be disciplined because this Cal team does not give anyone free yards.
Cal has the 12th fewest penalties in the country this season, with only 40 flags thrown against them. They are averaging on five penalties per game.
The Cougs? Well, they rank 91st in penalties this season and 107th in penalties per game with 7.38.
This relates back to Cal's defense and how good they are. This is a huge part of what makes them so vaunted because they don't give their opponents free possessions.
Cal and WSU kick off on Pac-12 Networks at 4 p.m. on Saturday.