California (4-3) at Oregon State (3-3) Oct. 30, 3:30 ET
Here's The Deal … Cal continues to be as unpredictable as an exhausted toddler, alternating flops with lopsided victories. In the latest display of volatility, the Bears annihilated Arizona State, 50-17, just a week after being ambushed by USC, 48-14. Go figure.
While it's anyone's guess what they'll deliver on a week-to-week basis, they clearly possess the talent to hang with anyone in the Pac-10. Oregon State is nearly as schizophrenic, handing Arizona its lone loss of the year on Oct. 9, but falling to Washington a week later in a double-overtime heartbreaker when a two-point try failed. In defense of the Beavers, they've played a tough schedule and only two home games, so the second half brings plenty of hope for a strong finish.
Why Cal Might Win: The Oregon State defense is having the kinds of problems that the Bears will be able to exploit on Saturday afternoon. The Beavers have been equally porous against the run as the pass, and have been abysmal on third downs, ranking 119th nationally. Cal is coming off its crispest offensive performance of the season, blending the running of Shane Vereen with a mistake-free game from QB Kevin Riley.
Cal should continue to have success this week against an Oregon State D that's yet to hold an opponent under 27 points.
Why Oregon State Might Win: At home, Cal is 4-0. On the road? 0-3. That's not a coincidence. It's a trend.
The Beavers, on the flip side, are unbeaten in Corvallis and well-rested after last weekend's bye. They'll be looking to catch the Bear defense on one of its off-days, which happened in Reno and Los Angeles.
RB Quizz Rodgers remains the cover boy, especially with brother James on the shelf, and QB Ryan Katz has benefited from his first six games as the starter. He's now had a couple of weeks to get on the same page with his receivers, namely H-back Joe Halahuni and wideouts Markus Wheaton and Aaron Nichols.
What To Watch Out For: Since there are so many veterans in key positions, the plight of the Oregon State defense has been somewhat of a mystery in the first half. Sure, they did face some quality quarterbacks, like Andy Dalton, Kellen Moore, and Jake Locker, but the tackling and fundamentals have not been up to the usual standard of coordinator Mark Banker.
The Beavers will have to turn things around, or else Vereen becomes the responsibility of the defensive backs.
What Will Happen: Oregon State's last three games have been decided by no more than a field goal, so barnburners have pretty much become the norm when it's on the field.
Cal's inability to achieve consistency—or win outside Berkeley—will continue to haunt it this fall. In one of the more entertaining shootouts of Week 9, Rodgers will win the battle of the all-star backs, running for 150 yards and scoring three times to fuel the Beaver offense.
CFN Prediction: Oregon State 27 … Cal 20 …
MATCHUP: OSU vs. CAL
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