The Arizona Wildcats head into Pac-12 play with a 2-1 record, already doubling their win total from last season. First up in conference action is a trip to Berkeley to take on the California Golden Bears, the only team the UA beat in 2021.
Arizona has won six in a row over the Golden Bears (1-2) but according to DraftKings Sportsbook are still 3-point underdogs.
Who will win? Here’s what our staff thinks:
Kim Doss — Arizona wins 28-24
Cal is getting a lot of press off the seven-point loss at Notre Dame. I’m stuck with the nagging feeling that the Irish are just overrated. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.
The Golden Bears have two home wins on their schedule. They beat UNLV—a team that had an Arizona-like record of 2-10 and 0-6 the past two years—by a score of 20-14. The Running Rebels last had a winning record when they went 7-6 in 2013.
The other win on the Bears’ schedule is UC Davis. The Aggies have had some decent results in recent years, at least prior to the pandemic. But is a 34-13 win over UC Davis enough to say the Bears aren’t the same team that was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12?
Even with its two wins, Cal is barely outscoring and outgaining its opponents on the season. Picking Arizona to win a road game is risky, though. The Wildcats’ win at San Diego State was their first road win since Oct. 5, 2019, when they defeated Colorado in Boulder.
That said, I went with Arizona to win this one before the season and the Wildcats haven’t done anything to make me think worse of them since that time.
Ezra Amacher — Arizona wins 34-23
Arizona has not lost in Berkeley since 2019, and I expect that streak to continue on Saturday. The Wildcats have a significant advantage on the offensive side of the ball. Jayden de Laura looks to be in sync in the air and on his feet, and wide receivers Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan are making the necessary plays to keep the offense flowing. The Golden Bears have a sub-par quarterback in Jack Plummer, who completed less than 50% of his passes last week against Notre Dame. I expect this game to be close for two, maybe three quarters, but Arizona will pull away in the end.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 27-17
So, like, is Arizona good?
The Wildcats played well in two of their three games, beating a couple of solid teams in the process. This week’s opponent, Cal, might be solid but more than likely is not quite at that level.
This being a road game would normally present a challenge, but Arizona already proved it can win away from home. Add in that the Bears are challenged offensively, and it’s difficult to imagine their defense being so good as to shut Arizona’s attack down.
Provided the Wildcats avoid negative plays and turnovers, the feeling here is they’ll score enough to come out on top.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 31-17
You can always count on a good time with Arizona plays the Berkeley Bears. It’s always close. There’s always some random play that turns the tide. There’s a plethora of goofy mistakes and other freak plays. And for the past six meetings, Arizona has pushed its way through and out on top.
I think the same will happen this Saturday.
The last time UA played in Berkeley, it was a double overtime shootout. Cal had the ball first in overtime, scoring on five plays. Arizona answered in one play as Zach Green burst through the middle of the line for a 25-yd TD. Second overtime saw Khalil Tate escape pressure and deliver a near perfect pass to Bryce Wolma for the lead. Cal came back with a tough TD of their own and decided to go for two. Ross Bowers threw to the back of the end zone for his receiver, who went up for the ball and caught it. As he was coming down, Colin Schooler did a fantastic job to break up the pass and Arizona won.
Fast-forward to now, and I think Arizona will increase the win streak to seven. Cal has some issues along the offensive line, and I don’t think those will be overcome. They have allowed a ton of sacks already this season and I expect them to give up a few more against the ‘Cats.
Not to mention that this is nowhere near the same team Cal remembers from last year. This offense can move the ball and score....easily. The defense is incredibly gritty and steps up to challenges.
I don’t think Cal will be able to stop Arizona’s offense, nor protect the Jack Plummer long enough to get theirs going.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins wins 26-23
Two things can be counted on when Arizona and Cal play: close games and weird shit. No reason to suspect both won’t happen again as the Wildcats try to go for seven straight against the Golden Bears, though hopefully COVID isn’t involved like last year.
The last seven matchups have all been decided by one score, and these teams are similar enough in ability to think that will be the case this time as well. The difference is that Arizona’s offense is much better than a year ago and has shown the ability to move the ball well when it doesn’t make mistakes, while Cal’s attack is still having fits and starts. Cal’s defense is better, but the Wildcats may be able to run the ball well against a suspect defensive line.
Look for the UA to produce its first 100-yard rusher since December 2020.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.