Washington State looked as though they were primed for a long-awaited rebound earlier this season, but lost QB Jeff Tuel to an injury and then lost the first real momentum (a 3-1 start) they’ve had in what seems like forever. Cal has also fumbled away yet another strong start, and once again a QB controversy is brewing in Berkeley – and the stakes may be higher this time, as anxious Cal fans are starting to call for Jeff Tedford’s head, something that seemed unthinkable years, even months, ago.
Washington State Offense:
Marshall Lobbestael, a senior, has done an admirable job replacing the highly-regarded and injured Jeff Tuel. He’s thrown for 16 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 64% completion percentage and a 145+ passer rating. Not too bad at all. Lobbestael is a bit of a gunslinger… he’ll make plays and he’ll make mistakes.
At running back, the Cougars rely primarily on the two headed monster of Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston. Galvin, a 5’8″, 170 pound scatback who hails from Berkeley, is averaging over 6 a carry. Winston (also 5’8″, but a Justin Forsett-like 200 pounds) has had even more work than Galvin, though he’s only averagign about 4. Between them they have run for 740 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Washington State’s passing attack, however, is much more formidable. Marques Wilson is their #1, and is a potential NFL guy. His 889 yards and 6 TDs pace the team. He’s an explosive athlete and stands 6’4″, 190 pounds. When he’s covered, the Cougars have solid second and third options with Isiah Burton and Jared Karstetter. Their numbers are nearly identical, including receptions (41 vs 37), yards (467 vs 418), and TDs (4 each).
Part of the reason WSU’s passing game may appear so prolific is that they’ve given up a lot of points, and have spent a lot of time behind. Which brings us to…
Washington State Defense:
This group has had it rough. They’ve given up 228 points in their last 6 games, losing all but one – woeful Colorado. For those keeping track at home that’s a hair under 40 a game.
On the defensive line, Sekopa Kuafusi, Travis Long, and Anthony Laurenzi pace the group with 13.5 TFL between them. The linebacking crew is anchored by Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who leads the team with 57 tackles. In the secondary, Deone Buchanan (3 ints, 2nd on the team with 48 tackles) and Damante Horton (4 picks) lead the group.
The team has outgained its opponents 437 to 412, but has simply given up too many points against good competition. They can pass the ball, but that is because they’ve had to being behind.
Biggest Advantage vs Cal: Their passing game. If they can get a lead, and aren’t forced to pass because of a lopsided score, they may have a mismatch with Lobbestael and Wilson against Cal’s secondary, which has given up yards and points. Maynards innaccuracy, if the homefield fails to mask it, could also be a boon for WSU.
Biggest Disadvantage vs Cal: Combination of it being at Cal, and Keenan Allen. If this game were in Pullman, I’d predict a Cougar win. But for whatever reason, Cal can play a mediocre game against an average team at home and still win by 4 TDs (see Utah). Keenan Allen is also a better athlete than anyone on WSU’s defense, and he’ll no doubt be eager to bounce back from a rough outing last week against the Bruins.
Prediction: Cal 38, WSU 21.