The Early Glimpse: Cougs vs. Bears

I KNOW WHAT you're thinking today about Cougar football. Man, we took all those baby steps and they had us thinking, maybe, just maybe, we could taste the sweetness of a Pac-10 victory sometime this season. Then Washington State found a giant sinkhole in Tempe.

So much for 2010.

But wait. Mr. Schedule Maker has wrapped the Cougars a gift. Its name is California.

Forget what happened at Arizona State. Think about what could happen Saturday in Martin Stadium.

Because in Cal, the Cougars may be playing the most immature college football team in America.

How else do you explain a team that one week can beat Arizona State 50-17 on its home turf, then hit the road and no-show at Oregon State?

It's not a one-time thing with these Bears, either. They have usually been brilliant at home, and a train wreck on the road. They have lost 48-14 at USC, and 52-31 at Nevada. Cal's only credible road performance this season was a 10-9 loss at Arizona, and in that game, the Bears caught the Wildcats still celebrating a milestone win over nationally-ranked Iowa.

This is a winnable game, Cougar fans, big loss at Arizona State or not.

In fact, it might be the best chance Washington State has, of its remaining three games, including walking-dead Washington.

I KNOW WHAT else you're thinking. What about Cal's recent trips to Washington State, when they treated the Cougars to old-fashioned woodshed whippings? That 66-3 stomping in 2008? The 21-3 win in 2006?

Both times, California was hot and ready to get hotter. Not this time. The Bears are struggling, having lost four of their past six games, three times by large margins.

The Cougars play a Cal team that, against Oregon State last Saturday, gained all of 206 yards, 93 coming on a meaningless last-minute drive.

The Fighting Tedfords have become the Failing Tedfords.

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday in Pullman (Armed Forces Day). Live TV via FSN Northwest.

At stake: For Washington State, the Cougars are looking for their first Pac-10 win since the 2008 Apple Cup. A loss for California (4-4) could lead to the Bears' first losing season under coach Jeff Tedford since he became coach in 2002. Cal still has Oregon and Stanford left on its schedule, so to keep that streak alive, Washington State looks like a must win for Cal.

Statistically speaking: California isn't quite as mediocre as its 4-4 record. Nationally, the Bears rank among the top 25 in net punting (15), punt returns (16), sacks (18), total defense (21) and, pass efficiency defense (22). Offensively, it's not a pretty picture for Cal, as its passing game rates No. 80 in the country, and total offense checks in at No. 71.

Riley doubtful: One Bear unlikely to make the trip is quarterback Kevin Riley, who sustained a knee injury against Oregon State. If Riley is unable to go, he will be replaced by junior Brock Mansion, who was hardly inspiring in throwing for 138 yards in three-and-a-half quarters of work against the Beavers. The Bears' third-string QB is Beau Sweeney, the grandson of former WSU head coach Jim Sweeney. Beau was teammates with Jeff Tuel at Clovis West High in Fresno. Sweeney was a year ahead of Tuel, so Tuel played receiver as a junior.

The series: California brings a five-game winning streak over the Cougars into Pullman. But prior to that, Washington State won four consecutive games from 1999-2002. Recent games in Pullman have been incredibly one-sided. The margins of the past five games at Washington State are 63, 18, 31, 24 and 26 points. California leads the series 41-25-5.

The Jim Moore zone: In honor of everyone's favorite gambling Cougar, California opened as a 15-point favorite over Washington State. Expect that line to come down, because no one in their right mind would lay the Bears and 15 on the road.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at

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