So how much difference will it make in UW’s season to finish 5-7 instead of 4-8? Seems like quite a bit, actually.
For one, it would tie the most wins for the school since 2003 and do so a year after finishing 0-12. I need to do the research to make sure, but I think that would be as much improvement as any team in the country this season based on what I saw earlier.
It would also allow the Huskies to point to all those winnable games that got away — ASU, UCLA, Notre Dame — and say they were just a few plays away from being 7-5 and in a bowl. (You could argue the converse, as well, that the USC and Arizona games were a play or two away from being losses, but I know the players and coaches would accentuate the positive end of that scale, which is what would matter most to the way the team would approach the off-season).
But getting that fifth win will be far from easy. The line has gone up from Cal by 5.5 to Cal by 7, and that makes some sense to me,
Look at the stats and the Bears have the edge in all of the key numbers — and I think by this point of the season, the stats are pretty indicative of what kind of team you have.
Scoring offense — Cal 31.0 points per game, UW 24.6.
Scoring defense — Cal 22.9, UW 28.2.
Total offense — Cal 408.5 yards per game, UW 367.5.
Total defense — Cal 369.6, UW 398.0.
Rushing offense — Cal 184.4, UW 135.5.
Rushing defense — Cal 112.6, UW 155.0.
Passing defense efficiency — Cal 129.4 (rating, not ypg), UW 142.6.
The only two of the major categories in which UW leads the Bears are pass offense (UW 232.0 per game, Cal 224.2), and pass defense (UW 243.0, Cal 257.0), but in each, the Huskies are just one spot above the Bears’ in the Pac-10 rankings. (Here’s Cal’s complete statistical profile and you’ll note their lowest national rating is 108th in pass defense).
The weather for Saturday is suddenly looking not quite so, uh, ominous. The forecast in our paper today calls for a high of 42 but only variable clouds with no solid forecast of rain. So maybe the passing game won’t be quite as hindered as it could have been, which judging by the numbers, would help UW.
Still, the key here will be if the Huskies can stop Cal’s rushing attack. Jahvid Best is out but there’s been no dropoff with Shane Vereen, who has as many rushing touchdowns (10) as UW has as a team — not bad for a backup tailback. And the Bears are increasingly using the Wildcat, something the Huskies struggled to stop against UCLA, the one other time UW has really seen it a lot this season.
Defensively, the Bears run a 3-4 front unique in the Pac-10 — UW coach Steve Sarkisian said this week it’s unlike anything anybody else in the conference runs and said the last time he’s coached against a similar front is when USC played Virginia last season.
With that preamble, here are a few words from the UW coaches on the Bears.
First, Sarkisian breaking down Cal’s defense:
“They have a physical front. Their defensive line is tough and talented. They’ve got four linebackers that play really well. And then obviously the corner in Syd’Quan (Thompson) is a guy who can al most take a guy out of the game to his side. So they are challenging that way. And they are well-coached,m sound, they align well, they deploy well in the pass game. So they are challenging that way. But I think we have some things we have in this game plan to attack some of the things they have been doing.”
“We haven’t seen so much of a true 3-4 defense this year. We’ve seen sprinkles of it on thrid down and different things. The two-gap techniques that their defensivve tackles play with is different. The closest thing I’ve seen to them is Virginia, who we opened with last year, a true two-gap, 3-4 defense.”
And next, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt on the Cal offense:
“They run the ball really, really well. They all the runs and all the formations and all the deep balls, all the trickery. They have all the that’s hard to play against, so we have our work cut out.
“They are an excellent running football team and a very committed running football team. And then big deep balls. They lull you to sleep and then (hit you) with big play-action passes and posts and things like that. And then they are really good at the screen game. And now they are doing a lot of the Wildcat. If you watched their Stanford game, and the last few weeks, they are getting into that more than 2-3 times a game. It’s 8-10 times a game, and that stuff is all difficult. (Vereen) carried the ball (42 times against Stanford) and I think they got in those (Wildcat) formations 16 times or something like that.”