Momentum is measured in winning streaks, and Cal has a chance to win consecutive games for the first time this season when it plays Washington State in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday.
The impressive 43-17 victory over a UCLA team that was ranked at the time gives the Golden Bears a chance to resurrect a season that seemed to be going down the drain. But it’s unclear whether Cal’s success against UCLA was a product of the Bears’ improvement or the Bruins’ six turnovers, which made things a lot easier for Cal.
And that victory won’t mean much if the Bears turn around and lay an egg against a team they should beat.
The Cougars (2-4) have a decent passing attack, but they have not done anything this season that should scare the Bears. Plus, Cal (2-4) has played pretty well on the road, giving itself a chance to beat both Ohio State and USC away from home before falling short both times.
As always, Cal’s success depends on quarterback Zach Maynard — not just his numbers, but his attitude, although they typically parallel each other.
When Maynard has a spring in his step and displays confidence, his passing percentage goes up and the Bears’ offense is productive. If he misses a few passes or gets sacked a few times, Maynard sometimes shows the frustration, and it tends to pervade the entire team.
The running game will be key for Cal to control the clock, as well. C.J. Anderson had a monster game last week, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Cal presumably will employ a defense similar to the one it used against UCLA when it had five defensive backs on the field most of the time. WSU has no running game to speak of, but the passing attack of a Mike Leach-coached team can never be dismissed.
Leach has not had consistent quarterback play, however. He said Connor Halliday will make his fifth straight start at quarterback against Cal, but Halliday was replaced by Jeff Tuel after throwing three interceptions against Oregon State on Oct. 6. So the Bears may see Tuel at some point if Halliday struggles.