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Washington State Cougars vs. California Golden Bears Preview and Prediction

Jared Goff

Jared Goff

What do you get when you match two of the Pac-12's most explosive offenses? Tons of points filling up the scoreboard.

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That's been the story when Washington State and California have met each of the last two seasons and it should be no different this week when the Cougars travel to play the No. 24 Bears on Saturday. Last year, California edged Washington State in a 60-59 shootout behind 527 yards and five touchdowns from Bears quarterback Jared Goff. Two years ago, the Cougars prevailed in a 44-22 win after former quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns.

California leads the all-time series with Washington State 45-26-5. The Bears have had the upper hand in the series in recent seasons, winning nine of the last ten games between the two teams.

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Washington State at California

Kickoff: 4 p.m ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

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Spread: California -13.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterback duel

Just like last season, California and Washington State each boast a quarterback that ranks high nationally in several passing categories. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk leads the Pac-12 in passing yards (356.7 ypg) and total offense (361.7 ypg). Bears quarterback Jared Goff ranks third in the Pac-12 in both passing yards (310.0 ypg) and total offense (306.2 ypg). Goff is also second in the league in pass efficiency (170.3). California's offense has done a better job turning QB production into points. The Bears are second in the Pac-12 in total offense (542.5 ypg) and third in scoring offense (45.8 ppg).

2. Sack masters

Stronger defensive play could help Washington State keep California's potent offense on the sidelines for longer stretches this time around. The Cougars have done an excellent job in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Through its first three games, WSU led the Pac-12 with nine total sacks and ranked 11th nationally with 25 tackles-for-loss. Ivan McLennan and Kache Palacio are the individual Pac-12 co-leaders with three sacks apiece. The Cougars will need to guard against similar pressure. California currently leads the Pac-12 after four weeks with 12 sacks. Kyle Kragen leads the way for the Bears with three.

3. Making a run

When California generates momentum on offense, it lasts as long a fully charged battery. Each of the Bears' four victories have featured prolonged scoring runs. California ripped off 66 unanswered points against Grambling State, 35 unanswered points against San Diego State, 27 unanswered points against Texas and 24 unanswered points against Washington. Defense is a big reason for these runs. California leads the nation in turnovers gained, with 14 in four games — nine interceptions and five fumbles.

Final Analysis

California is looking for its first 5-0 start since the 2007 season. The Bears are in a good position to make it happen. They have one of the nation's best quarterbacks directing an explosive offense and a defense that knows how to force turnovers and set up short fields. It won't be easy against Washington State. The Cougars can score enough points to keep up with many teams and should give California plenty of nervous moments. Still, nervous moments likely won't translate into an upset win.

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Prediction: California 49, Washington State 38

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.