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Arizona vs. Cal: First look at the Golden Bears

Will UA make it three in a row?

NCAA Football: Washington State at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

After playing their sixth game of the season, the Arizona Wildcats have officially reached the half way point and are sitting nicely with a 4-2 record.

They hit the road to Berkeley for their next contest in a showdown with the California Golden Bears on Saturday at 5 p.m. MST.

Here’s a brief look at what Cal brings to the table.

A look at Cal

2017 Record – 4-3 (1-3)

Key Games – Week one win at North Carolina (35-30), week three win versus Ole Miss (27-16), week four loss versus USC (30-20), week seven win versus Washington State (37-3)

Key Offensive PlayersRoss Bowers (QB), Patrick Laird (RB), Kanawai Noa (WR), Vic Wharton (WR)

Key Defensive PlayersTony Mekari (NT), James Looney (DE), Devante Downs (LB), Darius Allensworth (CB)

First-year head coach Justin Wilcox has a tough task in getting the Cal program back to respectability. The Golden Bears had an excellent start to their season as they finished 3-0 in non-conference play, but have lost three of four since conference play began.

They were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North division but surprised many last week by their 37-3 blowout win against No. 8 Washington State.

Cal’s offense is led by sophomore Ross Bowers who sits with 1,696 passing yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 55.8 percent of his passes. It’s important to note that he also has eight interceptions, which suggests his decision-making has room for improvement.

Bowers’ offensive weapons won’t pop off the stat sheet, but he has two running backs with close utilization rates.

Patrick Laird and Vic Enwere have recorded 65 and 73 carries, respectively. Laird missed the WSU game with an injury and Enwere took advantage of the opportunity as he cashed in 22 carries for 102 yards and touchdown. He also had two receptions for 28 yards.

As for Cal’s receivers, Kanawai Noa and Vic Wharton have combined for 61 receptions, 924 yards and four touchdowns. Their combined 924 yards accounts for nearly 55 percent of Bowers’ passing yardage. Noa also missed the WSU game and his status for Saturday is unknown.

You would assume their 61 combined total receptions would account for the majority of the team receptions as well. However, it only accounts 41 percent as Bowers isn’t afraid to spread the wealth. In fact, there are 15 players who have recorded a reception through their first seven games.

It’s easy to focus on Noa and Wharton as a result of their production, but UA will need to avoid overlooking other receivers.

Defensively speaking, the Golden Bears rank 96th (of 129) as they’re allowing an average of 422.3 yards per game. They have been particularly bad in passing defense where their average allowance has been 271.1 yards per game. However, they intercepted Luke Falk five times last week and didn’t allow him in the endzone.

At the beginning of the season, this appeared to be a definite win for the Wildcats but Cal has outperformed expectations to this point. This will end up being a solid road test for UA and a good opportunity for their passing offense to get on track for the second half of the second.