3 ways Arizona will win, 3 ways the Wildcats will lose to California
Keenan Turner/ The Daily Wildcat
UA Quarterback B.J. Denker runs the ball against Utah on Oct. 17 at home.
Not so Sonny in California
I can think of a lot of ways the Wildcats will beat Cal, but I’ll stick to three.
Head coach Sonny Dykes took on a tough job when he came to Berkeley. Cal fired its head coach of 11 years, Jeff Tedford, after a losing season. The Golden Bears, however, clinched a losing season this year under new leadership, sitting at the bottom of the Pac-12 for a majority of the season.
On top of that, last week the NCAA released its Graduation Success Rates, and Cal football’s results looked bleak. California is dead last in the BCS conferences.
The program is under some major reconstruction, and it will probably take more than a couple years for Dykes to get the Golden Bears back on track. The Wildcats can definitely take advantage of this broken team.
Just score already
To put it simply, Cal doesn’t score a whole lot.
Cal has scored a measly 183 points, while its defense has allowed 352 points. That’s a ratio of 22.9:44 points per game, the worst scoring statistic in the Pac-12.
Arizona, on the other hand, has a 254:139 scoring ratio to its opponents, a 36.3:19.9 points per game average. Score more points, win the game — it’s as simple as that.
The Golden Bears’ problem has a lot to do with their struggle to gain rushing yardage, with only 876. Arizona junior running back Ka’Deem Carey alone has 927 of the Wildcats’ 2,016 total.
On a roll
Emphasizing one of Arizona’s perks this time, rather than one of Cal’s flaws: Quarterback B.J. Denker is coming off a high note from last week’s win over Colorado. He completed 21 of 32 passes for one interception.
Then again, Colorado seems to be Denker’s favorite team. Last year he stepped in for former quarterback Matt Scott for a home game against the Buffaloes and led the Wildcats to a 56-31 win with 136 passing yards.
If Denker keeps the ball rolling and doesn’t just make last week a one-time thing, he could have the advantage over the Golden Bears’ quarterback, Jared Goff, who is ninth in the conference with 125.6 passing efficiency.
— Follow Megan Coghlan @MeganCoghlan
There are only four schools in the FBS that have a worse winning percentage than 1-7 California. But that doesn’t mean the Golden Bears really are the 119th best team in the country. Cal is far better than its record would tell you, and if Arizona believes Saturday should be a breeze, watch out.
California hosts a top-10 passing offense with a number of weapons that have big play capability.
Wildcats’ head coach Rich Rodriguez has put an emphasis this season on preventing big passing plays, something UA has struggled with at times.
Don’t capitalize on turnovers
In eight games this season, the Golden Bears have lost the ball on a turnover 23 times. Only four other schools have matched that or turned the ball over more. Of those California turnovers, 13 came on fumbles, while the 10 others were through interceptions.
The Golden Bears average just under three turnovers a game, but that’s not a guarantee. Saturday, Arizona must force at least two turnovers and score on them. It will have plenty of chances on offense, but opposing teams have killed Cal this year because of the turnover ratio.
Get into a shootout
At times this season, the Wildcats’ defense has been shaky and has poorly defended the pass. Arizona must prevent California from scoring a high number of points, which will mean stopping big passing plays.
Even though Arizona runs a high-tempo offense, which has produced a few big plays this year, the Wildcats are more likely to have a big play running the ball than passing. Cal, a passing team, is much more likely to break off a big through the air than Arizona is running the ball.
Arizona averages 5.91 yards per rush compared to California’s 11.39 yards per completion.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella