FACTS & STATS: Site: Husky Stadium (72,500) -- Seattle, Washington. Television: FS1. Home Record: Cal 1-4, Washington 3-1. Away Record: Cal 0-2, Washington 1-2. Neutral Record: Cal 0-0, Washington 0-0. Conference Record: Cal 0-4, Washington 1-3. Series Record: Washington leads, 51-38-4.
GAME NOTES: Desperate to keep themselves afloat in the Pac-12, the Washington Huskies will welcome in the California Golden Bears for a conference meeting at Husky Stadium on Saturday night.
California may be just the team Washington needs to face as the Golden Bears enter play riding a five-game losing streak, with four of those losses coming against the Pac-12. In the five losses, the Golden Bears have been outscored by a total score of 210-99. The most recent disappointment was a 49-17 rout at home against Oregon State.
Washington is riding a losing streak of its own and one that has dropped it from the national rankings. The Huskies, who rose as high as No. 15, were routed 53-24 last week at Arizona State after losses to Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks. Washington is now 4-3 overall. In terms of league play. UW has been just a step better than California with one win in four tries.
Bishop Sankey rolled up 189 yards and two touchdowns to carry Washington to a hard-fought, 21-13, win over California in Berkeley last year. It was the fourth straight win for the Huskies in the series, which they lead, 51-38-4.
The good news for California is that it is third in the Pac-12 in total offense. The bad news is that the Golden Bears have had very little balance and are last in the league in scoring (23.7 ppg).
Freshman Jared Goff has been a productive quarterback when it comes to piling up yards, as he has thrown for 2,256 already this season, completing 60.4 percent of his pass attempts. However, Goff has not been so successful in turning those passes into touchdowns as he has thrown for only nine this year and none in the last two games.
The struggles have led head coach Sonny Dykes to give Zach Kline a few more opportunities in recent weeks, including when he threw for 81 yards and two scores on 11-of-16 passing against the Beavers.
There is a talented group of receivers for either Goff or Kline to choose from when they drop back. Chris Harper is the leader among the ground with team- highs in just about every category including receptions (52), yards (698) and touchdowns (four). Harper is among the top five players in the conference in receptions and yards while Bryce Treggs (46 receptions, 496 yards, TD) is fourth in the league in catches. Richard Rodgers (24 receptions, 496 yards, TD) is also a solid option.
Also helping in the passing game are the California running backs, especially Brendan Bigelow (17 receptions, 114 yards). However, the running game has largely been an afterthought with Bigelow leading the team with just 280 yards on the ground.
The limited success the Golden Bears have had on offense has been completely wiped out by their lack of defensive pressure. California is last in the league in total yards allowed (525.4 ypg) and scoring defense (44.4 ppg). Both of those marks put the Golden Bears among the handful of teams at the bottom of the FBS rankings.
Remember when the Huskies were lighting the world on fire offensively this season? The memory is now a distant one as the Huskies have been falling further and further off that pace. Rock bottom came last week when the Huskies had just 212 yards of total offense, a season-low.
The hope for things to get better took a serious blow during the loss to Arizona as quarterback Keith Price left with an injured thumb. The injury has been nagging the Washington signal-caller for several weeks and has him listed as questionable for Saturday's game. Without Price, Cyler Miles would likely get the start, though it would be difficult for Miles to reproduce the type of production that Price has posted this season (149-of-231, 1,793 yards, 14 TDs).
Even more troubling for the Huskies was the giant step backward that Sankey took against Arizona. Sankey entered the contest leading the nation in rushing but he dropped all the way to eighth after a miserable game in which he had just 22 yards on 13 carries. The Huskies desperately need Sankey back to normal, especially if Price is out.
Four different receivers have been making plays at a solid rate for the Huskies, though none has been overly productive. Jaydon Mickens (39 receptions, 362 yards, two TDs) leads in receptions. Kasen Williams (28 receptions, 400 yards, TD) and Kevin Smith (26 receptions, 459 yards, three TDs) have been more dangerous in stretching the field, while tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (17 receptions, 205 yards, four TDs) is lethal in the red zone.
Washington also suffered a difficult day on the defensive side of the ball, as it surrendered 585 yards of total offense to the Wildcats. The Huskies rank in the middle of the league defensively, posting the seventh-best mark in total defense (379.3 ypg). The pass rush, led by Hau'oli Kikaha (4.0 sacks) is solid and Sean Parker and Marcus Peters have been effective in forcing turnovers with three interceptions apiece.
The Huskies could not be facing California at a better time. Washington is battered and bruised and may be without Price, but against a California defense that has been unable to stop anyone, Sankey will get back on track as will Washington.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 34, California 21
Saturday, October 26, 11 p.m. (et)