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California Golden Bears vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction

Author:
Sonny Dykes

Sonny Dykes

Life after Jared Goff is going more smoothly than originally anticipated for California. The Bears (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) made a goal-line stand in the final seconds to upset then-No. 18 Utah 28-23 last weekend. It marked the first back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for California since 2009.

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Now the Bears face a reeling Oregon State team that can't seem to do anything right on either side of the ball. The Beavers (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) lost their 12th straight conference game dating back to 2014, falling to Colorado 47-6. It matched the second-largest margin of defeat for Oregon State in that span and came against a Buffaloes program that won five total league games in its first five Pac-12 seasons.

California has won two straight over the Beavers and is looking for its third straight victory in the series for the first time since running off six consecutive wins from 1991-98. The Bears lead the all-time series 36-32.

California at Oregon State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: California -12.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Webb on a record setting pace

Pac-12 teams are quickly learning that preventing Davis Webb from shredding opposing defenses is not a realistic option. Webb again proved just how much of a disruptive threat he can be last week when he threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns against a tough Utah defense. He has thrown for at least 300 yards in all five games this season.

Currently, Webb leads the nation in touchdown passes (22), passing yards (2,143), completions (160) and passing attempts (257). The senior also is second nationally in passing yards per game (428.6 ypg) and completions per game (32.0 cpg). He ranks fourth in total offense (410.0 ypg).

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If Webb can maintain his current pace, he is projected to finish the 2016 regular season with more than 5,000 passing yards and more than 50 TD passes. That would set new Pac-12 records in both categories. Webb's predecessor, Jared Goff, currently holds the Pac-12 record of 4,719 passing yards — which he set last season.

2. Can Oregon State limit big scoring plays?

After allowing just two chunk scoring plays in its first three games, Oregon State's defense melted down in the first half against Colorado. The Buffaloes scored their first three touchdowns off of long passes from Steven Montez to Shay Fields. Montez connected with Fields on passes of 51, 33 and 63 yards to torch the Beavers.

As a team, Oregon State has allowed 13 plays of 25 yards or longer in its first four games. On the other side of the ball, the Beavers have had a single play of 25 yards or longer in their last two contests.

Both are alarming stats for the Beavers with Webb on deck this Saturday. The California quarterback has produced 17 touchdown passes of 20 yards or longer. Nine of those scoring plays have gone for 30 yards or longer.

3. Can California's defense build on win over Utah?

The Bears hit a low point defensively after surrendering 31 fourth-quarter points to Arizona State two weeks ago. Fast-forward a week and California showed some defensive resilience in the final 15 minutes against the Utes. The Bears stopped one potential scoring drive after stopping Utah on fourth down at the California 11. Then, California capped it off with a goal-line stand at its own 1 on the game's final play.

Oregon State could be a perfect opponent for building additional defensive confidence. The Beavers rank 11th in the Pac-12 in total offense (312.0 ypg) and scoring offense (22.5 ppg). It has led to questions at quarterback. Former walk-on Conor Blount replaced starter Darell Garretson in each of Oregon State's last two games after Garretson has led the Beavers to slow first-half starts.

Final Analysis

This is a nightmare game for Oregon State no matter how you look at it. California's explosive offense can test the best defenses to their limit. Beating the Bears requires being able to score enough to keep up with them for four quarters. Given how much the Beavers are struggling to produce yards and points, California should face little resistance in notching a victory over Oregon State for the third straight year.

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Prediction: California 48, Oregon State 20

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.