California and Washington State, both in need of a win to boost their bowl chances, duel in what amounts to an elimination game Saturday night in Pullman, Wash.
The contest is, for now, scheduled as the Pac-12 regular-season finale for each squad.
The home team has won the last five in a row in the rivalry, with Cal getting rushing and receiving touchdowns from running back Christopher Brown Jr. last year in a 33-20 home win.
The Bears (1-3, 1-3 Pac-12) were staring at a winless 2020 season a week ago before surprising then No. 23 Oregon 21-17 in Berkeley, Calif. Now Cal is a win over the Cougars (1-2, 1-2), coupled with a victory next week if/when the Pac-12 adds a game to its schedule as expected, from a 3-3 campaign and a puncher’s chance at a third straight trip to the postseason.
Washington State is in a similar position, although it enters the contest on a two-game losing streak. Still, a win Saturday and another next week could still produce a 3-2 record that might warrant bowl-scout attention.
All teams are bowl-eligible this year regardless of record due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cal got a big game from Nikko Remigio in its victory over Oregon. The wideout had six catches for 81 yards and what turned out to be the difference-making touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a true playmaker,” quarterback Chase Garbers said of Remigio, who had two long kick returns nullified by penalties in Cal’s earlier loss to Oregon State. “We put the ball in his hands and he’s going to do something.”
Washington State dominated the passing numbers in last year’s game, with Brandon Arconado and Easop Winston Jr. combining for 21 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown.
But both have since graduated, turning the Cougars into more of a running team this season. That could be even more the case against Cal if standout back Max Borghi is finally able to return from a back injury sustained before the opener.
Washington State freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura was pulled after three quarters last week in the Cougars’ 38-13 loss at Southern California.
Wideout Travell Harris expects a bounce-back performance this week from de Laura.
“He dealt with the adversity good,” Harris said. “It’s not just about Jayden or me or coach (Nick Rolovich). We all have to come together. Jayden had excellent energy. He did a good job.”
The game matches a Cal team that’s winless on the road in conference play (0-2) against a Cougars squad that has played just once at home, a 43-29 defeat to Oregon.
–Field Level Media