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Cal vs. Washington State Odds, Picks: Bet Cougars as Short Favorites

Cal vs. Washington State Odds, Picks: Bet Cougars as Short Favorites article feature image

John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward.

  • Cal takes on Washington State in a Pac-12 battle on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Cougars enter as short favorites over their conference foe.
  • Check out Roberto Arguello's full betting guide for this game below.

Cal vs. Washington State Odds

Saturday, Oct. 1
5:30 p.m. ET
Pac-12 Network
Cal Odds
-106o / -114u
Washington State Odds
-106o / -114u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The Cal Bears travel up to the Palouse for a battle with the Washington State Cougars. This sets up as an intriguing Pac-12 matchup between two teams with very different styles.

The Bears want to ground and pound with their rushing attack, which has the top Rushing Grade, per PFF, while the Cougars play an RPO-heavy, air-raid offense.

Purdue transfer quarterback Jack Plummer is in his first season in Berkeley, while Incarnate Word transfer quarterback Cameron Ward is playing his first season in Pullman.

Both teams covered last week as Cal pummeled Arizona, 49-31, and Washington State blew a 34-22 lead late in the fourth quarter in a 44-41 loss to Oregon as 6.5-point underdogs.

Which team will prevail in this afternoon clash in the Conference of Champions?

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California Golden Bears

The Bears look to replicate their success on the ground after rushing 38 times for 354 yards (9.3 yards per carry) in their win last week against Arizona.

Running back Jaydn Ott led the way with 274 of those yards on just 19 carries. Overall, the Cal rushing attack ranks ninth nationally in Line Yards and 24th in Rush Success Rate.

The Cal passing attack isn’t as effective with Plummer leading the way, but he is coming off of his best performance of the season as he completed 18-of-28 passes for 245 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also made two big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays — his first game of the season without a turnover-worthy play.

For the Bears offense to be successful against the Cougars, the offensive line needs to improve as it ranks 123rd in PFF pass-blocking Grade.

Defensively, the Bears don’t look great. They lost their best defender for the season when Brett Johnson went down prior to Week 1 and they just allowed Jayden de Laura to throw for 401 yards last week.

Justin Wilcox’s defense ranks an uncharacteristically poor 113th in Rush Success Rate Allowed and 119th in Line Yards as the Bears allowed Arizona to run for over five yards per carry last week.

However, the struggles don’t stop there for the Cal defense as the unit has also struggled to defend the pass. The Bears rank 101st in PFF Pass Rush Grade and 70th in Pass Success Rate Allowed.

Without Johnson, the unit has struggled to get into the backfield with consistency and to disrupt plays as they rank 100th nationally in Havoc.

Washington State Cougars

Remember last year when Bailey Zappe transferred from Houston Baptist along with his old offensive coordinator to play at Western Kentucky, where he set the single-season NCAA record for passing yards (5,967) and touchdown passes (62) in a season?

Well, Washington State is trying to recreate that type of magic as it plucked Ward from the transfer portal and brought his head coach, Eric Morris, to the Palouse as offensive coordinator.

The Cougars also snagged Incarnate Word receiver Robert Ferrel — who is a tremendous success story after playing in junior college, being a walk-on at Nevada and then playing in the FCS — from the portal.

All of these additions have combined to form an exciting air-raid offense with Ward’s dual-threat ability and cannon of an arm as the focal point. The Cougars take what the defense gives them and spread the ball around as they have six receivers with at least 100 yards receiving and at least 10 yards per reception, but no player has more than 265 receiving yards.

The Cougars also have the shifty Nakia Watson in the backfield and he is also a threat in the passing game. Morris has done a nice job using the Cougars' speed and his creative play calling to attack the space defenses give them. He also uses that speed as misdirection to open up space for Ward to scramble or run.

The Cougars offense ranks 26th in Line Yards and 32nd in Finishing Drives, but they need to be more consistent as they rank 74th in Rush Success Rate and Pass Success Rate.

Defensively, this is a classic Washington State defense that doesn’t necessarily have the biggest players, but there is speed everywhere and the unit has impressed as they rank 14th in PFF coverage and 39th in PFF tackling. The Cougars also rank among the top 40 nationally in Line Yards, Pass Success Rate, Havoc created and Finishing Drives.

Cal vs. Washington State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Cal and Washington State match up statistically:

Cal Offense vs. Washington State Defense
Rush Success2457
Line Yards1136
Pass Success6038
Pass Blocking**12387
Finishing Drives6210
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Washington State Offense vs. Cal Defense
Rush Success74113
Line Yards26119
Pass Success8570
Pass Blocking**98101
Finishing Drives3225
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling6539
PFF Coverage5414
SP+ Special Teams6949
Seconds per Play27.5 (88)24.8 (31)
Rush Rate49.3% (90)39.8% (127)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Cal vs. Washington State Betting Pick

Be wary of fool’s gold.

While the Bears ran wild last week against the Wildcats, it’s important to remember that Arizona has one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. And while the Wildcats have some exciting playmakers in Jacob Cowing and de Laura, the rest of the offense isn’t very talented — especially at the line of scrimmage.

While some might look at last week’s performance as a reason to back a rejuvenated Cal offense, I’m not buying it. Washington State has already beaten Wisconsin’s rushing attack this year and held the Badgers to four yards per carry, so I think they’ll be ready for the Cal running game.

I’m not a believer in Plummer and the Bears' passing game, which won’t capitalize on Washington State’s propensity to allow explosiveness through the air. I thought Cal’s offense last year was better than this year’s unit, and the Cougars shut that team down in a 21-6 win at Berkeley.

Offensively, I love how Ward and Morris have begun to click in Pullman and I think they take another step in the right direction on Saturday against a Cal defense that isn’t up to Wilcox’s standard.

Our Action Analytics projections make this spread Washington State -5.5, meaning there is still two points of value available with the Cougars available at -3.5 on FanDuel.

While this is a letdown/sandwich spot with Washington State coming off a heartbreaker against Oregon and traveling to the Coliseum to face USC next week, I think it’s an even bigger sell-high spot on a Cal offense that obliterated Arizona last week.

Pick: Washington State -3.5 (Play to -5.5)

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