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Cal at Washington State Preview: Brock Mansion Tries To Win His First Start

FACTS & STATS: Site: Martin Stadium (37,600) -- Pullman, Washington. Television: FSN-NW, FCS-Pacific. Home Record: Cal 4-0, WSU 1-3. Away Record: Cal 0-4, WSU 0-5. Neutral Record: Cal 0-0, WSU 0-0. Conference Record: Cal 2-3, WSU 0-6. Series Record: California leads, 41-25-5.

GAME NOTES: The California Golden Bears need two more wins to become bowl eligible, and they'll try to notch one of those victories this Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium when they take on the Washington State Cougars in Pac-10 Conference action.

A week after routing Arizona State in a 50-17 decision, Cal came out flat last weekend at Oregon State and wound up with a 35-7 loss. The Golden Bears have won all four of their home games, but have lost all four of their road games on the season, a trend they're hoping to buck in this matchup. In the next two weeks following this contest, Cal will face off with top-ranked Oregon and No. 10 Stanford.

Meanwhile, Washington State is coming off a 42-0 loss at Arizona State. The loss was the Cougars' 17th straight against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents dating back to last season. Against Pac-10 foes, WSU has dropped 15 in a row.

Cal has won each of the last five meetings with the Cougars to extend its series advantage to 41-25-5.

After putting up 50 points against ASU two weeks ago, the Golden Bears thought they had things finally figured out on offense. But after last week's showing, there are now more questions than answers. The first order of business is quarterback Kevin Riley, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter that will end his season. The fifth-year senior ranks among the school's all- time leaders in several passing categories. Now, the offense will be guided by junior Brock Mansion, who went 14-of-24 for 138 yards and a touchdown in place of Riley last week. However, Mansion's lone TD came with 20 seconds left to play in regulation, and he was also sacked six times. Shane Vereen carried 12 times for 53 yards in the loss, as Cal managed just 10 first downs and 206 yards of total offense. While Riley and the passing game have been rather inconsistent throughout the season, Vereen has generally been very dependable. On the season, he ranks fourth in the conference with 96.8 rushing yards per game and has scored 13 times. With Riley on the shelf, the Golden Bears will have to rely even more heavily on Vereen and the ground attack.

Cal's defense has thrived at home, but not so much elsewhere. In their four road losses, the Golden Bears have yielded 52, 10, 48 and 35 points. In their four home victories, they've allowed 3, 7, 7 and 17. Last week, they once again struggled in a hostile environment as Oregon State jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Cal had no answer for OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers, who ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns, and also threw for a touchdown. Marc Anthony led the way with 10 tackles in a losing effort. On the season, D.J. Holt leads the Golden Bears with 56 tackles in addition to two sacks and two forced fumbles. Cal's strength has been getting after the quarterback, as the team ranks second in the Pac-10 and 18th nationally with 2.75 sacks per contest. Mychal Kendricks leads the way with 4.5 QB takedowns.

Washington State has been a whipping post for opponents all season long, but last week's effort was particularly uninspiring, as they became the Sun Devils' first shutout victim in two years. Jeff Tuel completed 17-of-26 passes for 200 yards, but his two first-half interceptions thwarted any momentum. On the ground, the Cougars were held to a team net total of eight rushing yards on 33 carries (0.2 ypc). For the season, WSU ranks 117th nationally in rushing offense (73.2 ypg) and 107th in scoring offense (18.1 ppg). Tuel had been making progress over the past few weeks -- the Cougars rank fifth in the Pac-10 and 34th nationally in passing offense (258.1 ypg) -- but last week's performance has to be considered a step backwards. With no running game to speak of, the pressure really shifts to Tuel to execute his reads and move the ball through the air.

As poor as Washington State's offense has played, the defense has been perhaps the softest unit in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Cougars enter this contest ranked 119th in the nation in run defense (224.3 ypg), 107th in pass defense (263.3 ypg), 120th in total defense (487.7 ypg) and 116th in scoring defense (40.1 ppg). In last week's matchup, Sun Devils' quarterback Steven Threet was nearly flawless, picking apart the WSU defense for 300 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-32 passing before taking a seat in the fourth quarter. It was his first game action since suffering a concussion in his previous outing -- an embarrassing loss to Cal. After remaining competitive in losses to Stanford and Arizona in the week's leading up to that game, the Cougars' defense simply could not slow down the Sun Devils' passing attack. And although Cal has some quarterback questions at the moment, the Washington State secondary needs to step up in a big way if they are to keep this one close.

These teams both recently faced Arizona State, and the final results were substantially different. And while Cal has lost six straight road games dating back to last season, that figures to end against lowly Washington State.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: California 41, Washington State 10