Pac-12 Conference play gets underway this week with the no. 13 Washington Huskies playing host to the California Golden Bears. Game time is set for 10:30 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. Fans can catch all of the action on FS1.
At home, Washington is listed as a 13.5-point favorite. The over/under for the game is a modest 43.5 points. Make sure to check out all of the Week 2 college football odds.
The Huskies began the season with in-state foe Eastern Washington, which played in the FCS national championship game last year. But Washington didn’t take them lightly and didn’t have a problem securing a lopsided win. The Huskies raced out to a 28-0 lead and out-gained Eastern Washington by nearly 300 yards, ultimately winning 47-14.
Of course, Washington quickly has to turn their attention to conference play. Four teams in the Pac-12 North began the season ranked in the top-25, so the Huskies can’t afford to lose their conference opener if they want to win their third Pac-12 title in four years.
Meanwhile, Cal also played an in-state foe in their season opener but was far less convincing, beating UC-Davis 27-13. The Golden Bears turned the ball over four times and trailed 10-0 at the end of the first quarter against the FCS team. Cal eventually came back to win, but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been for Justin Wilcox and company.
Cal’s first objective this season is to make it to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2009. However, with five ranked teams on their schedule, that won’t be easy. It’s important for the Golden Bears to prove that they can punch above their weight class and compete with some of the top teams in the Pac-12, so Saturday’s trip to Washington is big for them.
Of course, confidence shouldn’t be an issue for the Golden Bears after they knocked off Washington 12-10 last season. It was an ugly, low-scoring affair, but Cal found a way to win with two field goals and a defensive touchdown. The Golden Bears also won at Washington in 2015, so beating the Huskies away from home is far from impossible, even if Washington has won eight of the last 10 games in this series.
It’s redemption time for the Huskies, who will be eager to put last year’s loss to Cal behind them. To be fair, the Golden Bears will give Washington some problems, but winning on the road will be much more difficult than their unlikely home win over Washington last season. I don’t love the spread, but I think Washington is the better team, so I’ll eat the points and lean toward the Huskies to win by two touchdowns.
Admittedly, the Cal defense is good. It may be even better than it was a year ago, which is saying something. But I also think Washington has upgraded offensively from last year, most notably at quarterback. Georgia transfer Jacob Eason is now running the show, and he looks like an upgrade over four-year starter Jake Browning, which is surprising but true.
Remember, Eason once beat out current Georgia starter Jake Fromm for the starting job with the Bulldogs before an injury cost him the job. He threw for nearly 350 yards in the season opener. Yes, it was against an FCS opponent, but it was against a quality FCS opponent. More importantly, four different Washington receivers had at least five catches, meaning Eason is spreading the ball around, meaning he’ll take what the Cal defense gives him.
Along with a top-notch quarterback, the Huskies have one of the most powerful offensive lines in the country. They will give Eason plenty of time in the pocket while also paving the way for Washington’s running backs. The Huskies are replacing four-year starter Myles Gaskin in their backfield, but the tandem of Richard Newton and Salvon Ahmed should be fine running behind Washington’s stout offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, I can’t overlook Cal’s abysmal offense. The Golden Bears struggled to score points for most of 2018 and only managed 27 points against an FCS opponent last week. Chase Garbers has retained his starting spot despite some competition in the preseason. But I still have my doubts about the Golden Bears consistently moving the ball against Pac-12 defenses.
Despite losing a wealth of talent from last season, the Huskies appear to have reloaded quickly on defense. I don’t want to overreact to one game against an FCS team, but holding Eastern Washington to 14 points is nothing to scoff at. Considering all of the questions that still surround the Cal offense, I think the Washington defense will have a good day at home.
In fairness, I’m a little nervous about eating two touchdowns knowing how good the Cal defense can be. But Washington should have almost as much talent on defense, not to mention much better quarterback play. I don’t think the Huskies will run away with this game. But Cal’s ineptness on offense will be too much to overcome. I think Washington scores a late touchdown to allow them to cover the 13.5-point spread.