Thursday, October 4, 2018

Three and Out: Justin Wilcox and the California Golden Bears Come to Tucson

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 9:49 AM

click to enlarge Three and Out: Justin Wilcox and the California Golden Bears Come to Tucson
Arizona Athletics
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate readies a throw against the University of Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Welcome to one of the craziest, most exciting weeks of the college football season in Southern Arizona.

The game I'm alluding to is the annual contest between the Arizona Wildcats (2-3,1-1) and the Golden Bears of California (3-1, 0-1).

The two programs have met 33 times, between 1978 and 2017, with Arizona leading the all-time series, 17-14-2.

The last two matchups between the two schools have produced some of the most-watched moments in Pac-12 history.

First, in 2014 there was the infamous 'Hill Mary' touchdown pass as time expired inside Arizona Stadium—when QB Anu Solomon hit receiver Austin Hill on a Hail Mary pass play as time expired, giving the Wildcats a 49-45 win.

That score capped off an improbable 36-point comeback by the Wildcats, sparking an improbable run that would propel the team into their first (and only) Pac-12 Football Championship Game.

Last year's contest was just as exciting, with Arizona and the Golden Bears duking it out in a double-overtime classic, with the Wildcats winning, 45-44, after Cal failed on a two-point conversion attempt.

This year's game has a chance to live up to those contests, with the Golden Bears heading to Tucson with a sour taste in their mouth, after an 18-point loss at home to the University of Oregon last week.

The Wildcats find themselves in much the same predicament, falling at home to USC 24-20 last Saturday, in desperate need of a victory to boost their chances of reaching bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.

The Golden Bears enter Saturday's contest, which will kick off at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1, with an offense that ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in offensive yards per game (393.5), 11th in passing yards (793) and 7th in rushing yards (781).

The Bears have achieved second-year Coach Justin Wilcox's goal of offensive balance, with 198.3 passing and 195.3 rushing yards per game this season.

That said, they don't have the type of explosive playmakers on offense that teams like Oregon, Washington, Stanford, and even USC have—which makes finding success rather elusive in the strawberry-strewn hills of Berkeley.

It'll be interesting to see whether the Wildcats can exploit Cal's defense, which ranks 8th in the conference in points allowed (25.0) and 9th in rushing yards per game allowed (163.8), given the depth Kevin Sumlin's squad has at the running back position.

How to Watch: The Wildcats and Golden Bears will play at 7 p.m. Arizona time on Saturday, with Fox Sports 1 airing the game. Tickets to the game are still available here.

Who to Watch: The Golden Bears of Cal don't have a lot of big names, though receiver Kanawai Noa has a lot of talent, with 81 catches and 1,057 receiving yards in his career. Freshman WB Chase Garbers has shown a lot of potential this year, with 493 passing yards and 6 touchdowns.

How to Bet: Vegas has Cal as a 2.5-point favorite to win, as of Thursday morning. The over/under on the game is listed at 57.5.

Game Prediction: This one is a true toss-up game, with each side showing its share of strengths and weaknesses this season. I'll go with Arizona winning this one, 27-24.

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