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ASU Football: First look at Cal

First Pac-12 road game

California v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

After losing their Pac-12 opener to the Colorado Buffaloes, the Arizona State Sun Devils look to rebound against another Pac-12 opponent, the No. 15 California Golden Bears who are coming off a hot win against Ole Miss.

The Golden Bears ended last season 7-6 overall (4-5 in Pac-12 play) and reached their first bowl game since 2015, where they lost to TCU 10-7.

Head coach Justin Wilcox is in his third year coaching the team, while Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards will return to the college where he once used to play with hopes for a win.

Let’s take a look at the Golden Bears:

Powerful defense:

Wilcox has been able to turn a struggling defense around to a successful one within only two years.

ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels will get his first Pac-12 road test against a dominant Cal defense. Will he be able to handle it and not crack under pressure? Edwards said earlier in the season that he admires Daniels’ composure and the way he handles himself in tough situations.

He will be facing a defense that had 21 interceptions last season, the most in the Pac-12. Daniels threw his first career interception late in the game last week against the Buffaloes, a pass that changed the momentum of the game.

The Sun Devils offense had 453 total yards last week and will be up against a Cal defense that was 11th in the nation last year allowing an average of 317 yards and 20.4 points.

Eight out of Cal’s ten top tacklers returned back on the field for the Golden Bears this season.

That includes 235-pound linebacker Evan Weaver who ended the season with 12.2 tackles, second most in the conference. He had 22 tackles against Ole Miss and is coming in as Pac 12’s Defensive Player of the Week.

The offensive linemen will need to be strong for the Sun Devils in order to protect Daniels as the Golden Bears will be bringing the pressure.

Young offenses:

Just like Arizona State, the Golden Bears’ offense is still young. They will be led by sophomore QB Chase Garbers. Against Ole Miss, Garbers threw four touchdowns with just over 350 yards passing.

The offensive line is lead by offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin.

However, the offense has had it’s ups and downs within the last season. They finished last in the conference during the 2018 season, averaging 344 yards and 21.5 points per game.

It’s also a bit ironic to consider how their defense had 21 interceptions, and their offense threw 20 interceptions. Will the Arizona State defense be able to find success through this?

With majority of the receivers gone, Cal is learning to adapt to its young offense just like Arizona State is. Seven of their top nine receivers are underclassmen.

During Arizona State’s home opener against Kent State, they had 25 freshmen on their roster many of which who played.

Cal’s offense is also learning the running game without Patrick Laird. They now lean on returner Christopher Brown, who has 335 yards rushing so far this season, and Marcel Dancy who has 179 yards rushing.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this game ends up being a very pass-dominant game, like it was for both the Sun Devils and Golden Bears in week three matchups. The Sun Devils are averaging 268.25 passing yards per game, while the Golden Bears are averaging 212.75.

Will the Sun Devils be able to find success against a dominant defense, but gain stops against a young offense?