5 keys for the Cougars against California

THE LINE IN VEGAS may be edging back a bit but facts are facts: the Cougars are heavy underdogs Saturday at Cal and will need to flourish in several ways to pull off the upset. Here are the five crimson keys to the game (as well as a final score prediction), per long-time Cougfan.com analyst Matt Moore.

WHEN WSU HAS THE BALL

1. Attack the secondary, but avoid turnovers.

Cal's defense is improved but should still be treated like a weakness until proven otherwise. That said, this defense lives and dies by turnovers, so Falk has to be accurate.

2. Avoid a slow start.

WSU averages just 3.4 points in the first quarter following a bye week under Mike Leach. They cannot afford to fall into a hole.

WHEN WSU IS ON DEFENSE

3. Go for the pick.

WSU had five turnovers in the win over Cal in 2013, but zero last season. The team that wins the turnover battle likely wins the game. Inherent in this key is the need for the Cougars to put pressure on Jared Goff -- not necessarily sack-happy pressure but enough to keep him off balance.

4. Tackle well.

Goff will get his yards, but limiting yards after the catch and keeping first downs from becoming touchdowns is essential.

WHEN WSU IS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

5. Maintain lane integrity.

Cal's special teams have been as bad as WSU's this season.  As long as there is no repeat of the kick coverage calamity against Cal a year ago, this one is a wash that might even tint toward the Cougs because Erik Powell and Zach Charme have been solid.

Kickoff: 1 p.m./Pac-12 Networks

CF.C Prediction: 48-47 Cougs

Check back with CF.C after the game for  our wall-to-wall coverage and during the game for lively message board conversation.


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