PULLMAN, Wash. -- For most of the past three seasons, Washington State has been overmatched. The Cougars are 3-31 since the beginning of the 2008 season. During that span, they have been outscored by an average of 28 points per game.

Throw in the fact that two of those three wins are against Football Championship Subdivision opponents, and the Cougars' ineptness is striking.

That should help Old Blues relax when Cal visits Martin Stadium this afternoon. The Bears have outscored Washington State 115-20 in the past two meetings between the teams.

As recently as last week, the Cougars were thoroughly dominated in a 42-0 loss at Arizona State. But just to throw in a little uneasiness for the Cal fan base, consider this:

  • While the Cougars still are outclassed most of the time -- they are 1-8 this season with their only win coming by 23-22 over FCS opponent Montana State -- they are improving. Granted, they couldn't get much worse, but they have been more competitive at times this season than the previous two. Washington State held a lead on the road over UCLA in the third quarter and still had it tied in the fourth before losing, 42-28. The Cougars kept it respectable in a 24-7 loss against Arizona and had a late flurry of scoring to lose just 38-28 at Stanford.

  • Washington State is more competitive at home, and the Bears are 0-4 on the road, getting outscored 145-61 in the process. That includes an 83-21 deficit in their past two games away from Memorial Stadium.

  • Cal is breaking in a new quarterback. With Kevin Riley going down last week with a season-ending knee injury, junior Brock Mansion will make his first career start. Before filling in for Riley last week at Oregon State, Mansion had never taken a meaningful snap in his career.

    Do these factors make up a perfect storm for an embarrassing loss? The Cougars have lost 15 consecutive Pac-10 games dating back to the end of the 2008 season, and certainly Cal's players don't want to endure the stigma of allowing that skid to end.

    "Ultimately, we have to take this team like we do all teams, like we do against USC or Oregon," Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones said. "We have to have the same preparation and the same mentality."

    Jones' comments echoed most coming from Cal's players this week. They are not interested in discussing their own vulnerability to a bad loss. After an up-and-down first two-thirds of the season that included an unsightly 35-7 loss last week to the Beavers, the Bears are focusing on themselves.

    "I don't think we think about that as much as we think about us getting back on track, us getting another win and forgetting about this tough loss we just had," Cal running back Shane Vereen said.

    Added Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan: "It has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with us and our execution."

    CAL AT WASHINGTON STATE
    RECORDS: Cal 4-4, 2-3 Pac-10; WSU 1-8, 0-6
    KICKOFF: 1 p.m. at Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
    TV/RADIO: CSNCA; 810-AM
    SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 41-25-5 and has won the past five meetings.
    THE STORY LINES: Cal junior Brock Mansion makes his first career start at quarterback. It's the first time anyone other than Kevin Riley has started at quarterback for Cal since Nate Longshore started the 2008 Emerald Bowl. It's the Bears' final chance this season to win on the road. Cal is 0-4 away from Memorial Stadium, getting outscored 145-61 in the process. With Oregon and Stanford still on the schedule, Cal needs a victory to improve its chances of becoming bowl-eligible.
    INJURY UPDATE: Cal -- QB Kevin Riley (knee) is out. WSU -- WR Daniel Blackledge (concussion), RB James Montgomery (concussion/quadriceps), CB Damante Horton (knee), WR Jeffrey Solomon (knee), DE Justin Clayton (knee) are out. RB Carl Winston (hamstring) is questionable. DE Sekope Kaufusi (shoulder) is doubtful.
    STATS THAT MATTER: Over its past 34 games dating back to the beginning of the 2008 season, Washington State is 3-31 with an average loss of 40-12. The Cougars rank 120th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense (487.7 yards allowed per game). Cal ranks second in the Pac-10 in total defense (312.8 yards allowed per game).
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: WSU wide receiver Marquess Wilson against Cal cornerbacks Steve Williams and Marc Anthony. Wilson leads the Pac-10 in receiving yards per game (98.3), and the Cougars like to go with quick passes. That means it might be hard for the Bears to get pressure on quarterback Jeff Tuel, putting more pressure on the corners.
    QUOTE OF NOTE: "They are a lot better than they have been in past years. They're getting a lot better." -- Cal running back Shane Vereen, on Washington State.
    -- JONATHAN OKANES