Golden Bears host the Mean Green from Conference USA
California outlasted the Washington Huskies 20-19 last Saturday night, surviving an epic two hour and 38-minute weather delay that brought lightning storms that would make SEC and ACC fans proud. On the field, the Golden Bears did an outstanding job of staying patient offensively with the running game, as Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy rushed for a combined 152 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Evan Weaver did Evan Weaver things, collecting 18 tackles (14 solo, 4 assists), 2.0 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. The secondary locked down Jacob Eason and the Huskies passing game, limiting them to 162 yards through the air. Greg Thomas hit the game-winning 17-yard field goal with eight seconds left early on Sunday morning to finish off the upset win.
North Texas is looking to get back on track after a 49-27 loss last week at SMU. The Mean Green dug themselves a 21-0 hole that they couldn’t recover from, as they did not have enough answers for the Mustangs offense. Redshirt sophomore running back Tre Siggers had a huge day on the ground, rushing for 164 yards and a touchdown in an encouraging sign for the offense. Overall, North Texas seems like a team that will take some time to come together in all three phases but should gradually improve as the season goes along.
North Texas at California
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 4:15 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: California -12
When California Has the Ball
It is clear so far that the Golden Bears are going to be able to run the football consistently against most teams. The two-headed monster of Brown Jr. and Dancy is a strong combination that should be able to wear down a North Texas defense that is surrendering 197 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Chase Garbers should be turned loose a little bit in the passing game this week as well. Garbers has done a nice job of avoiding the catastrophic turnover in the passing game so far in 2019.
Defensively, the Mean Green are going to have to create turnovers and put pressure on Garbers if they are to win on Saturday. That pressure is going to come from senior defensive end Ladarius Hamilton, who was a bright spot last week against SMU with six tackles and a pair of sacks. Linebacker KD Davis and defensive back Nick Harvey are guys to watch in this game, as they both have 19 tackles so far this season. Davis and Harvey will be key components in trying to slow down the running game of California on Saturday.
When North Texas Has the Ball
The Mean Green have been a little up and down offensively so far in their first two games. They still have quarterback Mason Fine, who when he is at his best can play with anyone in the country. Fine is completing just over 65 percent of his passes so far in 2019. Tre Siggers is going to have to get at least 20-25 touches running the football to keep the Golden Bears defense honest for four quarters.
California needs to keep it simple and play sound, disciplined, clean football on defense just as the Bears have done in the first two games. Evan Weaver needs to dominate, which in turn will free up the secondary to do their thing as well. The Golden Bears have one of the top secondary units in all of college football, led by Camryn Bynum, and they will have to be aware of Rico Bussey Jr., who is the best returning wide receiver for the Mean Green.
On the surface, you would think that California would be primed for a letdown this week with a trip to Ole Miss on deck for next week. However, head coach Justin Wilcox and his staff are not going to let that happen. Look for the Golden Bears to control the line of scrimmage against North Texas all day long on both sides of the ball. This game will be close for about a quarter, and then California will pull away for a decisive win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Prediction: California 38, North Texas 20
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.