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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 1, 2012 at 7:12 PM

The pick. …

Well, much of what I had prepared to write for this has gone out the window with the news that Cal’s leading receiver, Keenan Allen, won’t play due to a knee injury.

His stats may not completely jump off the page at you, but I thought he was one of the top five or so playmakers in the conference heading into this season, the kind of player opponents really had to account for on every play

Now he’s out of the picture, though my assumption is Cal has known about this all week and devised a gameplan without him.

I would imagine that gameplan would be to emphasize the run even more, Cal surely wanting to test a UW run defense that has been good at home but shaky on the road (though admittedly against much different and better running teams than the Bears). If UW can contain the run, though, and make Zach Maynard throw to an Allen-less receiving corps, that would seem to greatly favor the Huskies.

On the other side of the ball, Cal has had some major injury issues at linebacker, and also simply hasn’t played as well this year as many thought, giving up more than 400 yards to six of nine opponents and at least 344 to all of them. Running teams have been able to run on Cal and passing teams have been able to pass.

I’d imagine UW would try a fairly similar offensive gameplan to those that worked against Stanford and OSU, especially in trying to emphasize high-percentage plays, and limit mistakes, especially early. If UW can execute its runs as well as it did against OSU, it could probably get twice as many yards on the ground against the Bears, and that, too, would go a long way toward getting the Huskies a win.

Each team has had special teams issues, making it hard to know who to give that edge too. What it’s obvious UW can’t do is give away free scores on special teams as it essentially did at Oregon and officially did against USC and Arizona.

The wildcard in this game is that each team has been really up and down. In UW’s case there’s been a little bit of consistency to its inconsistency in that it’s been blown out in three road games but played pretty well most of the time at home. Cal has simply been all over the place, playing well early at Ohio State and blowing out UCLA at home, but also looking pretty awful at home against the likes of Nevada and Stanford.

This late in the year, games often are decided by which team has more to play for. That’s sort of hard to read here, too. Cal has to win this game to maintain any chance at a bowl and also could be playing for Jeff Tedford’s job (though maybe one would argue none of that is real clear motivation. There’s also the factor of Tosh Lupoi’s return, and this story from the San Jose Mercury News tonight (for the Friday paper) quotes a couple of Cal players indicating they are still unhappy with the way Lupoi left.

UW has the motivation of ending its six-game road losing streak and getting another step closer to a bowl. UW is the one that on paper has momentum, coming off the Oregon State win, while Cal has looked dreadful the last two weeks in decisive losses to Stanford and Utah. But then Cal sort of looked like a dead team walking four weeks ago when it then rose up and beat UCLA 43-17 (and it wasn’t real fluky as the Bears had 480 yards).

Allen’s absence, though, complicates everything in terms of analyzing Cal. The Bears are billing this game as a “Gold Out.” But this usually isn’t a real raucous environment — it certainly wasn’t all that much when UW played here two years ago in the final game at Memorial Stadium. Cal’s favored, but that line was set with Allen and also is no doubt heavily influenced by UW’s road struggles.

But given everything, this should be the most winnable road game for UW since the last time it won a road game, at Utah in Oct., 2011 (recalling that UW had to go with Nick Montana at Oregon State last year and that each of the other five losses in that streak came against teams that either were or had been — and would be again — ranked).

This is pretty much the pick I was going with even before the news of Allen broke, and I’ll stick with it — call it, UW 21, CAL 13.

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