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Cal Football Game Preview: Bears Big Underdogs Against Washington
By Jake Curtis,
Cal is a three-touchdown underdog for its Pac-12 opener in Seattle against No. 8 Washington on Saturday night.
The last time the Golden Bears played at Husky Stadium they lost to Washington in overtime in 2021. In the prior meeting in Seattle, in 2019, Cal waited out a two-hour, 38-minute lightning delay and beat 14th-ranked Washington 20-19 in a game that ended at 1:33 a.m. (4:33 a.m. East Coast time).
RADIO: 810 AM -- Justin Allegri (play-by-play), Mike Pawlawski (analyst), Kevin Danna (sideline reporter)
BETTING LINE: Washington is favored by 21.5 points. Over/under is 63.5 points.
WEATHER FORECAST: Saturday night will be cloudy in Seattle with rain likely. The afternoon high of 65 degrees will drop to 52 degrees Saturday night. There is an 84% chance of rain early in the evening.
CAL-WASHINGTON HISTORY: The Huskies lead the alltime series 56-41-4. Washington won last year’s game in Berkeley 28-21, and the Huskies also won the last time the teams met in Seattle, pulling out a 31-24 win in overtime in 2021. The Bears’ last four games against Washington have been decided by seven points or fewer, and Cal won two of those four contests, both against ranked Washington teams. The Bears beat No. 15 Washington 12-10 in 2018 in Berkeley, and topped No. 14 Washington 20-19 in Seattle in 2019 when a lightning delay caused the game to end at 1:22 a.m.
--The last time Cal beat a ranked team was 2020, when the Bears upset No. 23 Oregon 21-17 on December 5 in Berkeley. Cal was a 9-point underdog in that game. The last time Cal beat a top-10 team was 2017 when the Bears upset No. 8 Washington State 37-3 on October 13 in Berkeley. Cal was a 14.5-point underdog in that game, and that remains the Bears' only win over a top-10 team since 2003. Cal was unranked in both the 2020 and 2017 upsets.
--Cal has lost 11 of its last 14 conference openers, but it won its first Pac-12 game last year, when it beat Arizona 49-31 behind Jaydn Ott’s 278 rushing yards.
--The Bears have not announced their starting quarterback for Saturday night’s game. It could be either Sam Jackson V, who started last week’s game against Idaho, or Ben Finley, who started the previous game against Auburn. Both might see playing time against the Huskies.
--Cal running back Jaydn Ott is expected to return to action this week after missing last week’s game with an undisclosed injury.
--Cal ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense and is tied for first in the nation in turnovers gained with 10 takeaways. The Bears have allowed just seven second-half points in its first three games combined. Washington has by far the best offense Cal has faced this season, but Cal limited the Huskies and Michael Penix Jr. to 14 points through three quarters last season.
--Cal’s uptempo offense is second in the nation in offensive plays per game (80.3) Only South Florida (83.3 offensive plays per game) has averaged more.
--Cal is second in the Pac-12 and fifth in the nation in rushing, at 242.7 yards per game. And that’s without leading rusher Jaydn Ott in last week's game against Idaho. The Bears have outgained their three opponents on the ground by a margin of 728 to 285.
--Bears inside linebacker Jackson Sirmon played his first three seasons at Washington before transferring to Cal prior to the 2022 season. In 2021 Sirmon stopped Cal running back Damien Moore a yard short of the goal-line and forced a fumble to preserve the Huskies seven-point overtime win. Saturday will be his first game at Husky Stadium since transferring to Cal.
--Cal wide receiver Taj Davis played for Washington last season, and he caught three passes for 20 for the Huskies against Cal last season. Saturday will be his first game at Husky Stadium since transferring to Cal.
--Washington has won 10 straight games dating back to last season. That is the second-longest winning streak in the country, behind only Georgia’s 20-game win streak.
--The Huskies are 14-2 under second-year head coach Kalen DeBoer.
--Washington ranks first in the nation in passing offensive, second in total offense (614.7 yards per game), first in yards per play (9.46) and eighth in scoring (46.7 points per game). Washington has had 31 offensive plays of 20 yards or more, the most in the country.
--Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation in passing yards per game, is second nationally in touchdown passes (12) and is fourth in the country in passer rating (206.63). He has thrown for over 400 yards in each of the Huskies’ first three games. Penix has thrown 121 passes this season, but has been sacked only once.
--Washington is coming off an impressive 41-7 road win over Michigan State. In that game, Penix was 20-of-25 for 375 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as the Huskies built a 35-0 lead at intermission.
--Washington is ranked No. 8 in the county this week and is one of eight Pac-12 schools ranked in this week’s AP top 25.
--Three Huskies receivers – Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk – are averaging at least 100 receiving yards per game. No other team in the country has more than one receiver averaging 100 receiving yards or more. But tight end Jack Westover leads Washington in touchdown receptions with four.
--Washington is 16 th in country in scoring defense, allowing 12.0 points per game.
CAL PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Sam Jackson V or QB Ben Finley (passing game depends on one of them being productive); RB Jaydn Ott (133 yards per game, missed last week’s game with an injury); WR Jeremiah Hunter (16 catches, 147 yards, 2 TDs); RB Isaiah Ifanse (137 yards last week vs. Idaho); ILB Kaleb Elarms-Orr (22 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble); CB Nohl Williams (2 interceptions); ILB Jackson Sirmon (22 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery)
WASHINGTON PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Michael Penix Jr. (Heisman Trophy contender); WR Rome Odunze (139.7 receiving yards per game, second nationally); WR Ja’Lynn Polk (23.1 yards per reception); WR Jalen McMillan (103.7 receiving yards per game, dangerous return man); EDGE Zion Tupuola-Fetui (two sacks in two games played); EDGE Bralen Trice (preseason first-team All-America).