October hasn’t even arrived and already Cal faces a game it cannot afford to lose.
The Bears will try to show they’re better than their 1-3 record and Arizona State hopes to prove it’s as good as its 3-1 start.
Here’s my game preview.
ARIZONA STATE AT CAL
RECORDS: Arizona State 3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12, Cal 1-3, 0-1 in Pac-12.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m., Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 17-14. Cal won 47-38 in 2011 and has won four in a row in the series. ASU has not beaten Cal in Berkeley since 1997.
STORYLINES: The Bears, coming off consecutive road losses to Top-25 foes Ohio State and USC, need a win to keep alive their bowl hopes. Only one Cal team (2003) has recovered from a 1-3 start to earn a postseason bid. . . . Arizona State, under new coach Todd Graham, has been one of the Pac-12′s best offenses and defenses so far, posting its three wins by an average margin of more than 39 points. . . . ASU has yet to face an opponent that both started and finished the game with its starting quarterback. . . . The Bears hope to establish the run against an ASU defense that is fast and aggressive but not particularly big.
INJURY UPDATE: Cal – TE Richard Rodgers (foot) and OT Matt Summers-Gavin (knee) are questionable. TE Spencer Hagan (knee), ILB David Wilkerson (ankle), ILB Khairi Fortt (knee), OG Dominic Galas (shoulder), CB Stefan McClure (knee) are out. Arizona State – LB Carlos Mendoza (shoulder) and DL Corey Adams (back) are out.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s defense vs. Arizona State’s spread offense. This is the third game in five the Bears have played against an opponent whose quarterback will run. Cal lost the previous two — to Nevada and Ohio State. The Sun Devils’ offense is deceptive and efficient. Cal must contain quarterbacks Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank, who have combined to complete 73 percent of their passes with eight touchdowns, but also have rushed 240 yards, discounting sack yardage.
STATS THAT MATTER: ASU has forced 10 turnovers in four games and has 39 tackles for loss — tied for most in the country. Cal is 114th nationally, allowing 33 tackles for loss. . . . ASU’s 165 points are the most it’s scored through four games since 2005. . . . The Sun Devils are outscoring opponents 108-31 in the first half and 40-0 in the fourth quarter. . . . Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen, fourth on school’s career receptions list at 173, needs eight catches to pass Bobby Shaw for the No. 3 spot.