Beating The Bears Will Be Tough At Best

As sweet as the Apple Cup victory was, beating California will be even sweeter because Cal, at 8-3, is a lot better team than were the Cougars. Duh! Almost every team in America is better than the Cougars and Da' Bears have had two weeks to get better and that means they could be at their best, as in Jahvid Best.

I've been hoping for one thing and that is that Best decides to by-pass this game and go straight to their bowl game - and that looks like that is going to happen. He is easily their best player and without him, Washington will have a much better chance of winning this game.

Those of you who saw him land on his head in their game against Oregon State realize what a terrible injury it was and just how lucky he is to have not broken his neck. But Cal didn't even need him when they upset Stanford in their Big Game two weeks ago. That one shocked me and I was surprised the Bears won, especially after Stanford had beaten Oregon. A big reason why was their backup running back, Shane Vereen. He carried the ball 42 times, and will be an important player to stop if the Huskies plan on winning this game.

The Bears will play in a bowl game for sure and beating the Huskies would push them to 9-3, giving them a chance at a 10-win season. You can bet that Jeff Tedford will not let his team play like they did the last time they were in Husky Stadium and lost to Huskies 37-23 in what may have been the best conference win of the whole Tyrone Willingham era. On that day in November, 2007, the Huskies rushed the ball 56 times for 334 yards and three touchdowns and totally dominated the game.

Looking at their film and statistics, it is interesting to note that Cal have been outscored in their conference games and are in the middle of the pack in just about every statistical category. They are first in only one thing, and that is turnover ratio - where they have forced 10 fumbles and 10 interceptions but have only given up six of each in return. That puts them at a plus-8 on the season, and you have to be impressed with their ball protection.

Their quarterback, Kevin Riley has only six picks against 16 touchdowns, but does not have that great go-to receiver to throw to. He spreads it around and they have always been big on play-action passing and screens.

Their worst statistical category is actually pass defense, where they are ninth in the conference, giving up almost 260 yards per game and 14 touchdowns overall. This could be the key match-up, because the Huskies' receivers have gotten better and better with each game.

Playing at home has been the only recipe for success for this Washington team, as they have gotten all four of their wins at Husky Stadium. This should be a plus, but the crowd is likely to be under 60,000 because the Bears don't travel real well. Whatever, this will be a tremendous win if the Huskies can pull it off.

To beat a nationally-ranked opponent and finish the season at 5-7 would have to be considered a really good season for these Huskies, especially since it will be one of the best improvements of a D1 team from last year. To go from 0-12 to 5-7 is a heck of an accomplishment for any program, but even more so for a program like UW that had a really small senior class of players on scholarship.

We all realize that this team is indeed a work in progress but to see them follow up their great Apple Cup victory with a win over a ranked team would certainly give all of us a lot to look forward to in the off-season.

They are already having a great year recruiting and maybe a win at the end will solidify their standing with those they've got and help get them a couple more. The transformation will continue but a win here over the Cal Bears, a team many picked to win the conference, would be a great way to end it - sort of like the perfect ending to what could be a great beginning. Top Stories