In-focus five: Unbeatens Rebs, Cal meet Saturday night on West Coast
Ole Miss and California both satisfy their Power Five scheduling requirement Saturday night in Berkeley, as the SEC and Pac-12 programs meet at 7:30 p.m. local time.
Cal took advantage of a rough North Carolina quarterback situation and earned a cross-country win against the Tar Heels before struggling but overcoming Weber State this past weekend.
The Rebels are scoring a ton of points and leading the nation in passing yards but defense is a concern as the schedule toughens.
Here are five things we'll be looking for late Saturday night with the Rebels and Golden Bears.
THE PASS-HAPPY ATTACK AGAINST A POWER FIVE TEAM
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo didn't bristle or take offense to the questions about his running game or reliance on the air attack on Monday. He, instead, explained that his goal was to do whatever the defense didn't take away.
What will that be on Saturday night? Cal's biggest concern seems to be the size of Ole Miss' receivers, who have dominated inferior competition through two weeks. Will the Bears play a defense to make Ole Miss run the ball, or will the Rebels run offense be the short passing game? Shea Patterson said Tuesday there's no issue with the rush offense and predicted there will be a game where the Rebels rush for more yards than they throw.
Whatever South Alabama and UT Martin tried to do didn't work, so Cal may go with the opposite. The Bears also have more athletes, so it's a glimpse at Longo's system against a team on a similar level of ability.
CALIFORNIA'S RUNNING GAME WITHOUT TRE WATSON
Tre Watson did a little of everything for the Bears, but a lower-body injury against Weber State has ended his season. He was on crutches and wearing a right knee brace during Cal's practice on Monday, though head coach Justin Wilcox wouldn't specify the extent of the injury.
[Related: Watson to miss Ole Miss game -- and season]
In Watson's place, most of the rushing responsibilities fall on bruising 240-pound tailback Vic Enwere and former walk-on Patrick Laird, who had 191 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats this past Saturday.
Watson had 2,400 total yards in his career entering the season and was a pass-catcher out of the backfield in addition to his rushing ability. The Bears will implement some semblance of a by-committee approach, and Laird gets the spotlight for the first time against an FBS defense.
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