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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 20, 2006 at 4:17 PM

The pick – Cal

Okay, so I’m not going out on a real limb here with the Bears standing as 23-point favorites and Washington suddenly facing life without Isaiah Stanback.
In the weekly position-by-position analysis for the newspaper’s Saturday scout box, I ended up giving all eight checkmarks to the Bears — and I’m not sure a lot of them are all that close.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
QUARTERBACK: Nate Longshore has thrown for 17 touchdowns this season while Carl Bonnell is pretty much an unknown. Bonnell has a lot of ability and I’ve maintained since August it wasn’t a slam dunk that Jake Locker took this team over once Stanback was gone, because of Bonnell’s improvement since the spring. Still, until he shows it, question marks remain, and this is a tough place to start. Locker is the obvious wild card here. He looked like he was working with the backup unit in the little practice I got to see this week, though Bonnell still appeared to be getting most of the snaps. There will at least be a lot of intrigue with that position, no matter the score today.
RUNNING BACK: Cal has one of the deepest running backs corps around with Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett while the Huskies are increasingly dependent solely on the solid but unspectacular Kenny James with Louis Rankin suddenly struggling. Rankin has gained 19 or fewer yards in four of the last five games.
WIDE RECEIVER: Cal’s DeSean Jackson may be the best receiver in the conference and Robert Jordan and Levelle Hawkins are more than capable sidekicks. UW’s receiving corps, meanwhile, was manhandled a week ago by Oregon State’s physical secondary and the Bears are likely to try the same tactic. I still don’t understand what has happened to Corey Williams, who has no catches in the last five games.
OFFENSIVE LINE: UW’s line looks like it’s beginning to wear down a bit. Remember, this is really the first time that three of those linemen have had to play regularly in their careers and playing basically every down for seven straight weeks will inevitably take a toll. Cal’s offensive line has been hit by some injuries. But last week in Pullman against a Cougar team that leads the nation in sacks, Cal allowed just one.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Cal DT Brandon Mebane and DE Nu’u Tafisis are each among the best in the league. Mebane has 2.5 sacks and Tafisis 3.5 each more than any of UW’s linemen. The Huskies line is in some flux as Greyson Gunheim continues to struggle a bit and may not start at one end spot for the first time in 25 games.
LINEBACKER: Cal MLB Desmond Bishop may be the best in the Pac-10 at his position and is bigger than any of UW’s linebackers, and sophomore Zack Follett is a rising star at one outside spot. Scott White continues to play real well for UW as does Dan Howell, but collectively, they had trouble stopping OSU’s running game a week ago.
SECONDARY: Dashon Goldson is likely to start in place of Matt Fountaine at one cornerback spot, and if healthy, that could help as it would give the Huskies the secondary they envisioned in August with Jason Wells and C.J. Wallace at safety. But last week showed the Huskies still have a ways to go back there. Cal has given up a lot of passing yards, but cornerback Daymeion Hughes has a Pac-10 best six interceptions and has returned two for TDs, and the Bears have gotten a lot better in the last few weeks.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Cal’s big edge here is with punt returner DeSean Jackson who has returned two for touchdowns this season. Cal also has a decent kicker and its coverage teaks each rank higher than UW’s, including its punt team which has allowed just 57 returns yards.
OVERALL: The Huskies would have been severe underdogs anyway, and the loss of Stanback only increases those odds. UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said this week he liked the way the team responded, with an above-average number of players working on their Monday day off. But it’s hard to see a win here. Cal 35, UW 17

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