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September 22, 2011Matchup: California Golden Bears (3-0) at Washington Huskies (2-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV, Radio: The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net (Root Sports in the Northwest). Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis will provide the commentary. It can be heard in Seattle on the radio on 950-AM KJR with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.
Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); Jeff Tedford, California (10th year).
Series: The programs have a long history being the only teams that have played in what is now the Pac-12 Conference since its inception in 1916. All-time, the Huskies lead the series with a record of 49-38-4 and they have won the past two meetings. Last season, the Huskies pulled out an exciting 16-13 victory over Cal on the game's final play. Chris Polk scored on a 1-yard run on the final play of the game. The last time the Bears came to Seattle was in 2009 and they were blown out, 42-10, in a game that Jake Locker scored five times.
About the Bears: Cal's offense is centered around quarterback Zach Maynard and his ability to make plays in multiple ways. In the past, California has been a pro-style offense, but Maynard's quickness has changed that this season. He is similar to Husky quarterback Keith Price in that he has the ability to run the ball, but frequently uses his legs to open up the passing game. He has two receivers on the outside in Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones, who make his life much easier. Combined, they have nearly 600 yards receiving in the first three games of the season.
Unfortunately for the Bears, while they have a great passing offense, they have struggled to run the football. Running back Isi Sofele is a quick, small back who has had a decent start to the season, but he doesn't have much ability to break tackles or gain yardage after contact.
On defense, the Bears like to go after the quarterback and so far they've been relatively successful with 11 sacks on the year. While they've been good with their pass rush, their secondary hasn't been quite as strong. Against Colorado in week two, the Bears gave up 474 yards passing and almost lost the game, winning in overtime, 36-33. Their rush defense appears strong statistically, giving up just 2.4 yards per carry, but considering the Bears' last game was against Presbyterian, the numbers may lie. Their defense is the weakness of the team, like the Huskies, they don't expect to pitch any shutouts, but the Bears do hope they can at least just bend without completely breaking.
About the Huskies: The Huskies offense is just about as complete as an offense can get. Chris Polk has run for over 100 yards in each of the first three games and is on pace for over 1,500 yards on the season. But he hasn't even been the anchor of the offense; that has been Keith Price, whose 11 touchdown passes are tied for the most in the nation. Washington's offense has threats all over their offense, from senior wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who has four touchdowns in three games; to true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who's given the offense a completely new outlook with a dynamic tight end. Price has been banged up in the first three games and the young offensive line needs to improve, but at the skill positions, it's hard to see any holes in the Huskies offense.
For how good the Washington offense has been, the defense has been equally as bad. The Huskies are ranked last in the Pac-12 and are 107th in the country in scoring defense on the year. The run defense and pass rush was supposed to be the strongpoint of the defense, but neither has had any success so far. The defense allowed Nebraska to run for over 309 yards last Saturday, while the pass rush has only gotten to the quarterback for five sacks all season. Even scarier about the Husky defense is that the secondary may be the weakest part of the entire unit. The Washington secondary has battled some injuries lately, but it's been missed coverages and bad reads leading to big plays through the air that's been their downfall. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt says he expect improvement and as Pac-12 Conference play opens up, the Husky defense has a solid test in front of them.
What to expect: It should be a shootout on Saturday as two strong offenses will line up against two weak defenses. Both teams starting a first-time quarterback who has had success through the first three games so anything could happen. The game will come down to the turnover battle and up to this point in the season the Huskies are plus three in the turnover battle and the Bears are even. Combine that with the home field advantage the Huskies have and they should win in a game that comes down to the fourth quarter.
UDubNation.com pick: Washington, 41-34
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