Three reasons the Cal Bears should win – or could lose – pivotal home game vs. Arizona State

It’s early, but a win over the Sun Devils on Saturday at Memorial Stadium could go a long way in the Bears’ pursuit of becoming bowl eligible

BERKELEY, CA — Coaches preach playing them one at a time, and the Cal Bears can’t afford to let this one slip away.

The Bears (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) return to Memorial Stadium on Saturday for a noon kickoff against Arizona State (1-3, 0-1) in a game that could shape the rest of Cal’s season.

Following a 59-32 thrashing at No. 7 Washington last week, the Bears won’t get another chance like this one all season: At home, mostly healthy, and nearly two touchdowns ahead of an opponent with no FBS victory.

Because of the gauntlet directly ahead of Cal on the last day of September, victory becomes critical. The Bears’ next five games in six weeks are against teams with a combined record of 19-1, including home games against Oregon State, USC, and Washington State, as well as tough road tests at Utah and Oregon.

The Bears have little leeway in their quest for six wins and bowl eligibility, and ASU is a game they cannot afford to lose.

The Sun Devils are still finding their way after a 42-28 loss to USC and playing on the road for the first time this season. ASU has 78 new players on its roster this year, second only to Colorado (88) among FBS teams, and has already started three quarterbacks. Freshman Jaden Rashada won the starting job out of camp, but an injury from his days at Pittsburg High kept him out of the game after two games. Drew Pyne, a Notre Dame transfer, made his first start for the Sun Devils against USC but is out indefinitely with multiple injuries. Trenton Bourguet will likely start against the Bears.

Cal should win on Saturday for three reasons:

The turnover factor favors the Bears: Despite three interceptions against UW, Cal is plus-3 in turnover margin thanks to 11 takeaways, which are tied for the most by a Power 5 team in the country.

ASU has committed 11 turnovers, which is tied for the most among Power 5 programs. The Devils have just one takeaway (and no interceptions), giving them a turnover margin of minus-10, which ranks them last out of 130 FBS teams.

While the Bears continue to sort out the quarterback position, they are running the ball better than they have in years, ranking third in the Pac-12 with nearly 217 yards per game.

Last week, USC averaged 7.3 yards per rush against ASU, and they lack the speed of Jaydn Ott.

After the Cal offense and special teams gave Washington a 14-0 lead, the Bears’ defense couldn’t stop Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies’ potent offense. ASU is not that; in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils rank last in scoring, total offense, rushing yards, and pass efficiency.

And here are three potential stumbling blocks for the Bears:

Scattebo returns with an encore:Running back Cameron Scattebo, the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 at Sacramento State, helped keep ASU in the game last week against USC, totaling 232 yards rushing, receiving, and passing before the Trojans won 42-28. Scattebo also punted once for 53 yards and completed a 25-yard pass out of punt formation for a first down.

ASU turns up the heat:First-year head coach Kenny Dillingham, a former Oregon offensive coordinator, needed only three weeks to decide to take over play-calling duties from one-time Cal OC Beau Baldwin. After being shut out by Fresno State the week before, the Sun Devils kept the Trojans off balance by going for it four times on fourth down (converting three) and going 3-for-3 in the red zone.

Sun Devils press Cal’s quarterbacks: The Bears avoided allowing any sacks against Washington, but the Sun Devils present another challenge in that regard. In four games, their defense has 11 sacks but also 17 quarterback hurries. ASU could make life difficult for Sam Jackson V and Ben Finley if the Bears get too many third-and-long situations.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply