California (3-0) at Washington (2-1): Line started with Washington favored by 3 but slipped to a pick 'em by game time.
The Bears are still a mystery. Beating ordinary Fresno State, lousy Colorado and woeful weakling Presbyterian doesn't mean much. No one yet knows what kind of team this is, particularly since there's raw QB Zach Maynard at the helm. He may throw a long, dazzling TD bomb or screw up an easy five-yarder.
The list of Bear negatives is long, including an average of nine penalties a game, botched hand-offs and drive-killing dropped passes. Special teams, at times, have been a disaster, with bungled PATs the biggest headache. There are some major red flags, topped by a lucky OT road victory against Colorado, which destroyed the Cal secondary for 474 yards.
But there are reasons to back the Bears. They've been successful on 45% of their third-down attempts, a plus against a Washington defense that generally crumbles in third-down situations. The Bears have a superior defensive front seven that should overpower the Washington O line. Overall Cal's defense is much better, with the ragged Washington D near the bottom in key national stats.
Something's gotta give in the Washington running game. Cal's nationally ranked run defense is surrendering a meager 2.3 yards a carry while the Huskies' Chris Polk, a longtime Bear nemesis, is not only averaging 120 yards a game but has crossed the 100-yard mark in five straight games. Whoever wins that battle is likely to win the game.
The Huskies have stained Cal's seasons the last two years. Last season was a particular killer, with the Huskies beating Cal, 16-13, on the final play of the final game, a heart-breaker that booted the Bears out of a bowl bid and into the abyss of a 5-7 season, Jeff Tedford's first loser as Cal coach.
So far, Washington, with unimpressive wins over Hawaii and Eastern Washington and a stumble in Nebraska, has been so-so. But in the Huskies' favor: QB Keith Price, a scrambling wizard, has been very effective and may be tough for the Bears to corral. The biggest Husky advantage just might be that the game is in Seattle--and Cal rarely plays its best on the road.
This one, which could be high-scoring, is a coin flip. The key factor may simply be that Cal is a feeble road team and they're playing on the road.