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Opponent Preview: Cal Defense

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

At one point this season, it looked as though Cal could possibly challenge Oregon for the top spot in the North. Opening their 2019 schedule with a 4-0 record with dramatic road victories against Washington and Ole Miss, the Bears are now on a three-game skid as injuries continue to pile up and have effectively found themselves eliminated from the PAC-12 conference game as the Ducks continue to steamroll opponentsweek in and week out. Despite this, the Bears still field a formidable defense that could cause more than a few problems for a bruised Utah offense.

​Much like the Utah teams that carried the program up from the Mountain West into the PAC-12, the Bears defensive is a formidable unit that has been carrying the offense through a turbulent season, and a big part of that success has been thanks to senior inside linebacker, Evan Weaver. At 6’3”, 235 lbs, Weaver is a large presence on the field, and his stat line is sure to have NFL scouts drooling over his potential, including 104 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks on the season, Weaver has established himself as one of the top linebackers in the conference this season.

​Opposite of Weaver is junior Cameron Goode, whose identical 6’3”, 235 lb frame makes him a perfect fit at outside linebacker, where he’s racked up a team high 4.5 sacks this season, along with 8.5 TFL’s. His ability to break trough the line and pressure the quarterback will make this week’s matchup particularly interesting, considering Ute QB Tyler Huntley’s health is questionable after taking a number of hard hits against ASU last week, leaving him with a noticeable limp before being relegated to the bench in the closing minutes of the game.

​Solidifying Cal’s status as a future linebacker factory is junior college transfer, Kuony Deng. Joining the Bears after a stint with Independence Community College, the 6’5”. 230 lbjunior has quickly become one of the top defenders on a roster stacked with NFL talent by averaging 9.3 tackles per game, fourth best in the conference (Weaver currently leads the PAC-12 with 15 tackles on average per game). Unfortunately for Deng and company, the Bears as a whole have struggled to stop the run, allowing an average of 184.3 yards per game when playing on the road, and 161.8 yards on average in all contests. With Utah’s Zack Moss at the helm (followed by a seemingly endless well of talented back-ups), it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Utah’s offense fails to move the ball against Cal.

​While the 1-3 conference record is relatively unimpressive, Cal has managed to keep things close all season, winning by an average of 7.25 points while giving up no more than 20 points in each victory, while their losses have also come down to the wire, losing by an average of 7 points per game, and giving up more more than 24 points in each loss, including a 17-7 loss to the division-leading Ducks. If the Utes are able to continue their recent offensive dominance, it will certainly help make their case as the team to beat in the South.