No. 4 Washington (8-0, 5-0 in Pac-12) at California (4-4, 2-3 in Pac-12)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
The line: Washington by 16.5
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Some are calling this a trap game for the unbeaten, No. 4-ranked Washington Huskies.
It makes sense. California is a mediocre team with one of the worst defenses, statistically, in all of college football. This isn’t the kind of primetime matchup like UW played last week at Utah, and it isn’t receiving nearly as much fanfare as next week’s home game against USC. Washington is favored by 16.5 points.
And yet the Golden Bears still seem capable of giving the Huskies trouble, especially with an offense that averages 41.3 points per game, and especially at Memorial Stadium, where Cal is 3-0 this season with a victory over 16th-ranked Utah.
But this UW team doesn’t feel like the type to get trapped.
The Huskies have played eight games, and won each of them by a margin of 24 points or more. The only two exceptions: their Pac-12 opener at Arizona, and last week’s top-20 matchup in Salt Lake City. I don’t think complacency or overconfidence were factors in either of those games. And as soft as Washington’s nonconference schedule was, the Huskies still seemed to show up with the proper attitude and focus for each overmatched opponent. That’s why each of those games were decided by halftime, and why UW has outscored its opponents 107-7 in the first quarter this season.
So I don’t see the Huskies relenting now, not with four more victories separating them from a trip to the Pac-12 championship game and a bid in the College Football Playoff. Cal is good enough offensively to challenge UW’s defense -- quarterback Davis Webb will be one of the best the Huskies see this season, and if receiver Chad Hansen is healthy, he presents a unique challenge, too -- but the Golden Bears have the second-worst rushing defense in the country (5.99 yards per rush), they allow 41.8 points per game, and it’s just really hard to see them stopping Washington enough to have a chance, especially considering how good Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman have been recently.
The Huskies need to rush the passer better than they did last week against Utah, and they need to stop hurting themselves with unnecessary penalties. Cal is good enough to make them pay for those. But the Huskies are still the better team, and I envision a fairly comfortable victory to set up a much more difficult game next week against the Trojans.
The pick: Washington 42, California 20.