On surface level, there really isn’t much to say other than that the Bears face off against the worst team in the College Football Bowl Subdivision, at least according to their record (if you follow that sort of thing). The hapless Washington Huskies are the only winless team in college football, are coming off a heartbreaking loss to their WSU rivals, and play the final game of the season knowing their Coach Ty Willingham is already on his way out.
On the bright side, weather forecasts predict a beautiful day in Memorial Stadium.
So how are the Bears to properly prepare for a game in which a loss would be considered one of the greatest choke jobs in modern college football history? I’ve already touched a few of these issues before, but there are a number of conference stat records on the line, an emotional final home game for the seniors, minor bowl implications, and the opportunity to go undefeated at home for the 3rd time in 5 years.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.
As difficult as it may be though, the biggest key for the Bears may be to try their best to not overlook the Huskies. Just consider remote chance that the Bears actually lose on Saturday. Just think about that.
Horrendous isn’t it?
Okay, now that you’re ready to take this seriously, let’s get to it.
Take Away the Huskies’ one non-sucky attack
Washington features of a fairly balanced offense, rushing the ball on average 34 times per game versus its average 31 pass attempts each contest. The results however have led to just 13.8 PPG and 268.9 yards per game (both 9th in the conference).
For all its faults this year, Washington actually features a marginally mediocre rushing offense. Currently ranked 7th in the conference in rushing yards per game (with Cal in 6th, although the dropoff is pretty significant), the Huskies average 98.91 yards per game. Granted, they only manage 2.9 yards per attempt, but injured QB Jake Locker (out for the season), had accounted for 180 rushing yards on 56 attempts, so that number is actually closer to 2.8 yards per attempt sans Locker.
That’s relieving news to a stout Cal run defense that is ranked 3rd in the conference in yards per game, to just 124.2 yards per game and only 3.26 yards per attempt.
Shutting down the running game will put the onus on QB Ronnie Fouch, who has filled in for Jake Locker to courageous but lackluster results. Fouch is the one starting QB in the Pac-10 who has a lower completion % than Kevin Riley (45.3 vs. 50.9), and has thrown 12 interceptions versus 4 touchdown passes. It goes without saying that if Washington is forced to pass, an opportunistic secondary, currently 3rd in the nation in interceptions, will put itself in position to lead the nation in that category.
Washington is actually equally bad in their passing defense as they are in their rushing defense. The Huskies have given up 23 TDs through the air on the season, and 28 on the ground. The truth is, the Bears could probably choose one mode of offensive attack, and attack either the secondary or the defensive line fairly equally.
However, given the Bears’ recent success rushing the ball and continued struggles through the air, I recommend the Bears jump out to an early lead with their running game, and work out a few kinks in the passing game, before settling back into running out the clock on the ground (preferably with Peter Geurts and Tracy Slocum).
The Huskies are the one team where I actually expect Cal to match the rushing assault they put on Washington State in which they amassed 391 yards. Washington has given up nearly as many yards per game as the Cougars, yielding 223.27 YPG vs. WSU’s 247.62. Give Best a shot to take the conference rushing title, and then pull him after a 4 TD lead or the 3rd quarter. Whichever comes first.
I don’t mean this to disrespect the Huskies, although I am well aware on its obvious intimations. The Bears still need to show up, and play with the same level of pride and passion that they have demonstrated at home all year.
This means no stupid penalties, no snaps sailing over Bryan Anger’s head, no forced passes, wrapping up instead of trying to blow up knees, discipline on gap assignments, etc…
Outside the chance that Coach Tedford instructs Nate Longshore to fake a point after attempt on every snap of the game to atone for the Big Game snafu, there is absolutely no chance the Bears lose on Saturday if they show up the same way they’ve done every week. Cal simply features better athletes, better coaches, home field advantage, and a freaking canon. Enough said.