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California vs. Washington State Odds & Picks: Saturday’s Betting Value Lies With Golden Bears

California vs. Washington State Odds & Picks: Saturday’s Betting Value Lies With Golden Bears article feature image

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Muelu Iosefa.

  • The California Golden Bears (1-3) take on the Washington State Cougars (1-2) in Pullman on Saturday in a battle of teams looking to salvage bowl eligibility.
  • Cal's defense has stepped up in its last couple of games, and Roberto Arguello is giving the Golden Bears the edge in this matchup.
  • Read Arguello's full betting analysis and see his pick for this Pac-12 showdown below.

Editors Note: Saturday’s California vs. Washington State game has been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests and related contact-tracing protocols within the Golden Bears program.

Statement regarding today's Cal at Washington State #Pac12FB game:

— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) December 12, 2020

California vs. Washington State

The California Golden Bears (1-3) face the Washington State Cougars (1-2) on the Palouse in a Saturday battle between teams looking to run the table and salvage bowl eligibility.

Cal started the season 0-3 before bouncing back last week to stun Oregon in a 21-17 win at Berkeley. The Golden Bears’ defense played their best game of the season, holding Oregon to just 4.0 yards per carry and kept the Ducks scoreless in the second half.

Conversely, Washington State started its season with a win over Oregon State before losing its last two contests against Oregon and USC. The Cougars were shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols against USC and were absolutely manhandled, falling behind 35-0 in the second quarter.

With Cal’s defense stepping up in the last few games, I give the Golden Bears a slight edge over the Cougars on the road in Pullman.

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California Golden Bears

The Cal defense that was expected to have the program in contention for the Pac-12 North crown has stepped up as of late.

If the Golden Bears can limit their mistakes on offense and special teams, plus force Washington State to score by driving across the field, they will have success. 

In Cal’s frustrating losses to Oregon State and Stanford, the Golden Bears out-gained each opponent in total yards by an average of 87 yards per game. However, a few big returns against Oregon State were brought back due to holding penalties, and two costly fumbles in their own territory against Stanford led to 14 quick Cardinal points. 

Even with a few miscommunications leading to monster plays in those games, the Cal defense — led by Kuony Deng and Cameron Goode — played well enough to win its last three contests.

In the Oregon win, the Ducks scored two quick touchdowns at the end of the second quarter due to more issues from the Cal defense. Aside from those huge plays, the Golden Bears kept the Ducks in check. With that said, I expect them to be similarly effective against Washington State. 

While Cal’s offense hasn’t done anything special yet this year, I expect Chase Garbers to have his best game of the season against the worst defense he has seen thus far. The Cougars ‘defense is last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, 11th in pass yards per play and last in passing yards per game. 

A few key statuses to monitor for Cal include defensive tackle Stanley McKenzie and guard Valentino Daltoso. McKenzie’s return would kick defensive tackle Brett Johnson back to his natural position at defensive end, improving the defensive line. Daltoso’s return would solidify the offensive line and help in the run game.

Both players, who are making the trip to Pullman, will be game-time decisions. 

Washington State Cougars

After running all over Oregon State in Week 1 for 7.6 yards per carry, Washington State hasn’t had the same success in its two losses, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Luckily for the Cougars, running back Max Borghi might make his season debut after missing the previous three games with a back injury.

If Borghi is back, Washington State will have a dangerous trio of rushers in the backfield with Borghi, freshman dual-threat quarterback Jayden de Laura and senior running back Deon McIntosh.

Borghi is a shifty player who can make plays in both the running and passing game. In Borghi’s absence, McIntosh has filled in nicely by averaging 6.9 yards per carry. De Laura impressed running the ball in Week 1 but has been held in check in the last two games.

If the Cougars can establish the run, it opens up space for their top three receivers — Renard Bell, Travell Harris and Jamire Calvin — to make plays. Without the run threat, they will struggle against a strong Cal secondary.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The Golden Bears have done a great job defensively against the Cougars lately, limiting Wazzu to fewer than 21 points in each of their last three games.

This includes the time when Cal held the Washington State offense, led by Gardner Minshew, to just 19 points — the fewest points scored by Washington State outside of the 2018 edition of the Apple Cup.

Although the Cougars have shifted from Mike Leach’s air raid to Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot scheme, I expect the Golden Bears defense to have the edge, especially after a strong showing last week against Oregon’s run game and dual-threat quarterback Tyler Shough. 

The air raid’s one-dimensionality made it easier for Cal’s defensive secondary to limit the Wazzu offense. If the Golden Bears limit the Cougars’ running offense and force de Laura to win the game with his arm, Cal should win.

Pick: Cal -2 (up to -5.5).

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