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ASU Football Opponent Primer: California Golden Bears

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A look at a trip to Berkeley

NCAA Football: Colorado at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State 2019 Schedule

Kent State (Aug. 29) - Read

Sacramento State (Sept. 6) - Read

At Michigan State (Sept. 14) - Read

Colorado (Sept. 21) - Read

At Cal (Sept. 27)

Washington State (Oct. 12)

At Utah (Oct. 19)

At UCLA (Oct. 26)

USC (Nov. 9)

At Oregon State (Nov. 16)

Oregon (Nov. 23)

Arizona (Nov. 30)

Cal’s 2018 Season

In the second year under head coach Justin Wilcox, Cal finished 7-5, reaching its first bowl game in Berkeley since 2015. The Golden Bears finished fifth in the Pac-12 North for the second consecutive year after finishing 5-7 in Wilcox’s first year.

Cal had notable wins against North Carolina, BYU, USC, and Washington while sustaining defeats against Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, and Stanford.

The team’s bowl appearance was in Phoenix as a part of the Cheez-It Bowl, which turned into a nine-turnover clunker of a game that the Golden Bears lost to TCU 10-7 in overtime at Chase Field. With a young offense in place this season, limiting turnovers and protecting the ball will be at an all-time high for Cal.

Key Returners

On defense, one of Cal’s biggest returning players is the senior who will be wearing No. 89 at inside linebacker - Evan Weaver. Weaver just has a nose for the football. He was second in the conference with 12.2 tackles per game last season. He is an integral piece on a veteran, stingy defense that trailed only Utah and Washington in points per game (20.4) and yards per game (317.2) last season.

Biggest Losses

The Golden Bears are losing a starting running back from last year in Patrick Laird. He had 223 rushing attempts for nearly 1,000 yards. He looks to be backed up by a committee of backs, including sophomore Chris Brown Jr., but his presence from last season will certainly be missed on an offense that is full of new and inexperienced pieces in 2019.

Additionally, Cal lost center Addison Ooms, who started 37 games over three years.

Reasons why ASU Could Win

On paper and from the outside, this game has the looks of an old-fashioned, smash mouth football game on a probable chilly night in late September in the Bay Area. That style of play favors the Sun Devils and their head coach, who has seen many low-scoring, hard-hitting affairs with his brand of pro style football. That possession, control the clock style of play fits right into Herm Edwards’ scheme and how he likes to coach.

The Golden Bears display an offense full of run-pass options (RPO’s), and the group is still primarily in its youth at most of its skill positions. It will be ASU’s young defense against Cal’s young offense. In that case scenario, I’ll side with the defense, especially with some of the talent that the team poses up front and at linebacker.

Reasons why ASU Could Lose

As often the case, a big key to this game will be ASU’s ability to establish the rushing attack. Cal’s secondary led the entire conference with the least amount of pass yards per game (175.1) and they had the most interceptions (21) in the Pac-12. The group is returning a plethora of that talent from last season. Mix that with a probable first-year ASU quarterback on the road in conference play, and that spells trouble.

If the ground game gets bottled up and ASU is put in a lot of long throwing situations, that favors Cal, regardless of how well the quarterback is playing at the time. On the flip side of that, the Golden Bears have four starting offensive linemen returning, putting additional pressure on the efforts of the Sun Devil d-line.