Friday night features an exciting slate of college football action, which will be capped by a Pac-12 matchup between the No. 15 California Golden Bears and the Arizona Sun Devils. At home, the Golden Bears are listed as 5.5-point favorites with an over/under of 41 points.
It may be just four games, but it’s been a magical ride so far for head coach Justin Wilcox and Cal, which sits at 4-0. The Bears haven’t exactly been flashy or exciting, but they’ve found ways to win games regardless of the opponent. Their first big win was a 20-19 upset over Pac-12 darling Washington. That win proved to be no fluke last week when the Bears ventured into SEC territory and beat Ole Miss on the road 28-20.
In fairness, Arizona State also has a marquee win this season, beating Michigan State in East Lansing 10-7 a couple of weeks ago. That win briefly put Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils in the Top 25. Unfortunately for ASU, it didn’t last long, as the Sun Devils came up a little short last week, losing to Colorado at home 34-31.
Heading into the season, no one was sure what to expect from Arizona State, especially since they had so little experience at quarterback. But true freshman Jayden Daniels has taken the reins from Manny Wilkins and handled himself well. He’s thrown just one interception in his first four games, showing good ball security and maturity for a young quarterback. He’s also shown himself to be a threat with his legs, making him tricky for opposing defenses.
Of course, for the Sun Devils, it’s all about establishing the run. Junior running back Eno Benjamin is the focal point of the offense after rushing for over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. It’s been a struggle for ASU to get Benjamin going early in the year, which is why they’re only averaging 22.5 points per game this year. But Benjamin started to break out last week against Colorado, and the Sun Devils are going to keep feeding him the ball as much as possible.
Since Wilcox took over the Golden Bears, everything they’ve accomplished has been on the back of their defense. This season has been no different, as Cal has given up 20 points or less in all four of its games. Of course, there have been a couple of easy games along the way. But holding Washington to 19 points was no fluke, indicating that the Bears are going to give every Pac-12 offense a tough time.
The key for Cal is how much they can expect from their offense from week to week. Quarterback Chase Garbers is coming off one of the best games of his career last week, throwing for over 350 yards and four touchdowns against Ole Miss. That game is more the exception than the rule at this point, but it could be a sign of things to come for the sophomore quarterback.
Let It Ride
It’s a good bet that the Cal defense will give ASU’s freshman quarterback a hard time. Even if Garbers can’t quite replicate last week’s performance, he should have plenty of support from his defense, so the Cal offense won’t have to get out of their comfort zone. Bet on Cal to win and cover.