The Washington Huskies this week return to Seattle for their first home conference game of the 2017 season Saturday, when they will face off against former UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and the California Golden Bears. After opening at UW -26.0, the betting line has shifted even further in favor of the Dawgs to its current position of -28.5, and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives UW a 96.1 percent chance to win. Do the UW Dawg Pound writers think that yet another blowout is in store?
In starting the Justin Wilcox era with a 3-0 non-conference record, the Golden Bears promised to be one of the Pac-12’s bigger surprises in 2017, and Justin Wilcox positioned himself well for a run at coach of the year honors. While their current 0-2 Pac-12 record has rubbed off some of that shine, this remains a team capable of putting points on the board and could make this game a contest if they catch the Huskies napping.
Bothell High School alumnus Ross Bowers has gotten off to an encouraging start to the season, with the redshirt sophomore having completed 55 percent of his passes for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns against eight interceptions. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, of course, but they are respectable for a first-time starting quarterback in the Pac-12. On the other hand, the Golden Bears have surrendered 15 sacks in five games; if the Huskies can generate even a moderately effective pass rush, they should be able to hold Cal’s passing offense largely in check thanks to the strength of the Husky secondary.
Defensively, Cal has allowed opposing quarterbacks to gain 7.1 yards per pass attempt, and has allowed as many touchdowns as they have gained interceptions (seven apiece). Dante Pettis probably won’t find the end zone three more times against Cal the way he did against Oregon State, but it wouldn’t at all be shocking to see UW’s star receiver dominate the post-game highlight tape. On the ground, Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman should be able to make hay against a defense that has allowed 4.24 yards per attempt and 10 rushing touchdowns.
The Bears have a nice nucleus of offensive playmakers in Bowers, running back Patrick Laird, and wide receivers Vic Wharton III and Kanawai Noa. But they will have to play out of their minds if they are to go toe-to-toe with a Washington defense that is among the best in college football. On the other hand, Washington’s slower-than-expected start against clearly outgunned teams like Oregon State and Rutgers has me a bit spooked. I’m comfortable calling for a stress-free Washington victory, but that 28.5-point spread is a bit too rich for my blood. Washington 31, Cal 13.
Interesting stat that I heard recited on KJR the other day: the Huskies have won 20 of their last 22 games with 16 (80%) of those being by three TDs or more. Furthermore, their average points scored over that span is 43.9 per game. All the while, UW hasn’t surrendered more than 27 points in a single game in a nation-leading 19 straight.
What does it all mean?
First of all, it means that there haven’t been a lot of stressful evenings in the Landon household resulting in neglected children and kicked puppies.
Secondly, it means the Cal Bears are going to have to be pretty special to both hold UW under 30 and to score at least that much themselves.
That has about as much a chance of happening as Brad admitting his man crush on Ragu.
I think UW wins this one going away, slow start or not. Look for Jake Browning to break the UW career record with four more TD passes - at least two of which go to Hunter Bryant - on the way to a big, big win.
Cal 10, UW 52
The Huskies will get off to a good start this week. I have no idea why I think that, but I just do. We'd all love to see Jake Browning come out sharp and start distributing the ball from the opening possession. Like every other UW opponent, Cal will look to try to stuff the run and Browning will be afforded the opportunity to take the game over early.
Cal has some good playmakers on the outside in Vic Wharton and Kanawai Noa and if they want to have a chance to keep up they will take some shots down the field. The Bears may find some early success running the ball with the two-headed monster of Vic Enwere and Patrick Laird, but the Cal offensive line has not been great this season and I don't see them being able to sustain a running game.
Once Ross Bowers takes some hits and the Cal offensive line has been beaten up by the Vea/Gaines welcoming party, the mistakes will begin to mount and the Huskies should run away and hide.
UW 45, Cal 13
Every year in college football there is a team that looks much better than they are because of incorrectly perceived strength of schedule. Cal was one of the most surprising teams of the first month. They beat North Carolina on the road, Ole Miss at home, and played a competitive game against a #5 ranked USC Trojans squad. North Carolina now? 1-4 and 77th in FEI. Ole Miss now? 2-2 and 91st in FEI. USC? Out of the top 10 following a loss to Washington State.
All of this to say that Cal isn’t a very good football team. That’s especially true now that they have lost their starting RB and best WR for the season. They struggle in almost every phase of the game. They’re 109th in the country in passing success rate and 106th in the country in power success rate which measures the ability to run the ball in running situations. Ross Bowers has looked competent at times and could grow in time but he is a sub-standard Pac-12 quarterback at this point in his career. And UW has chewed up and spit out those QBs over the last year and a half. I don’t see Bowers coming out of this game with less than 3 picks.
On defense, they’re 126th in the country in rushing success rate. Once the Huskies get a lead they are going to pound the ball down Cal's throat. Gaskin and Coleman should both average well over 5 yards per carry while Browning does enough to keep the defense honest. I expect the Huskies to control the clock which may deflate their scoring numbers a tad. Cal gets a garbage time touchdown to cut it down to a 28 point final margin.
Washington 38, California 10
What result do you expect from the Cal vs. Washington game?
This poll is closed
Washington wins a blowout
Washington wins a close one
Cal wins a close one
Cal wins a blowout