The longest continually active Cal Bear blog

It’s official: Goff to turn pro

(Written by kencraw)

Well, the Goff era is officially over.  He will be missed.

This will be an interesting test for the Cal coaching staff.  How well will the system work without someone of Goff’s caliber?

Bowl game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Well that was fun!  Some post-game thoughts:

  • The way the defense performed makes me think good things about the coaching staff.  Even on the 1st drive the defense looked reasonably prepared.  They would have stopped the drive for a field-goal attempt if it hadn’t been for the phantom facemask penalty.  As the game wore on, they got better and better.  Every time Air Force made an adjustment, it would work for a short while, but the Bears would adjust and shut it down again.
  • As the season has wore on, I’ve been less and less impressed with the receivers.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re still reasonably good.  It’s more that I used to think they were awesome and now think they’re just good.  Powe in particular didn’t impress me early in the game.  He just didn’t look like he cared all that much.  Maybe these guys are affected by the cold?  I dunno.  Whatever it is, the number of dropped balls has been disappointing for a supposedly elite group.
  • The offensive line looked good today against a smaller defensive group.  That last drive to seal the game was something we’ve never seen before from a Dykes team.  Air Force knew Cal as going to run the ball to grind out the clock and they couldn’t stop it.  Considering the opponent one has to take that performance with a grain of salt, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  • Something the announcers picked up on starting in the ASU game and was repeated yesterday was how good Goff is against pressure.  I wholeheartedly agree.  I think the key to the Cal offense without Goff is whether the new QB can be trained to know his quick pass opportunities when the opponent brings a blitz and has the guts to deliver those passes with the heat bearing down on him.  The offensive line doesn’t look to have the talent to take care of blitzing all on its own.
  • While we’re on the topic of Goff leaving, put me in the camp of thinking he is more likely to stay than most people think.  If you made me bet with even odds, I’d bet on him leaving.  But somewhere around 2.5-to-1 I’d consider betting on him staying.  Goff loves it at Cal.  I think he sees the potential for a better run next year.  I’m not sure how close he is to getting his degree by the end of next year, but that could be the deciding factor.
  • Back to the game, I still think Mohammad is our most under-appreciated running back.  It seems he’s the #2 back right now behind Tre Watson, who I must admit is starting to impress me and I think is the back of the future, but Mohammad deserved the #1 spot yesterday.
  • On a more light hearted topic, unless Tony Franklin likes the crazy professor look, I think he should wear hats more often like he did yesterday.  He looked darned right respectable.  Normally he reminds me of Bill Murray in the movie Kingpin:

    Sure, he doesn’t have the comb over, but it just looks worse and worse as the game wears on:
  • I was happy with the linebacker play considering how many we were missing yesterday.  It makes me feel a lot better about the future of the defense.  While I’ve still got my fears about how many guys we’re losing on defense, it seems that the linebacker core of 2016 might be an area they can build around.
  • Overall, a reasonably strong performance in a mediocre bowl against a reasonably challenging mid-major opponent.  The Bears came to play and were the superior team.

Go Bears!

$2.825M

(Written by kencraw)

Well, it’s a bit more than my suggested $2.75M, but in the range of reasonableness, if at the very top of it.  Personally I would have rather seen that last $75K go to the assistants.  The reason is that I think Dykes will do very well if he has the defensive assistant coaches needed to field a good defense.  Just like with head coaches, getting and keeping good assistant coaches requires paying them well.

The other interesting clause is the automatic 1-year extension for every 7-5 season with a 980 APR.  At first I thought this was the 4-year APR, which would mean any extension would be unlikely to kick in for a few years.  While we’re expecting a high score this year (997), the previous 4 years are 946, 969, 923, with the 923 falling off next year, hamper his ability to make 980.  Even if the team scored a perfect 1000 next year, that would only be a 4-year APR of 978.  But, it’s the single year numbers he will be graded on, so there’s a good chance, Dykes can get an automatic 1-year extension most years if he can keep his current level of on the field performance.

5-7 teams in bowl games a HUGE disgrace to NCAA

(Written by kencraw)

I didn’t realize this until today, but apparently the NCAA ended up three teams short for the number of bowl slots out there.  Because commitments have been made, the NCAA felt compelled to allow three 5-7 teams to participate in bowls.

There’s no other way to say this:  SHAME ON YOU NCAA!

There should never, never, never, NEVER be a situation where teams with losing records go to bowl games.  I’ll concede that I’m on the picky side of things in that I think it should be restricted to 7-5 teams.  But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that 6-6 is as absolutely low as it should go.

The NCAA should have never allowed the number of bowls they’ve allowed.  They should nix at least two games next year  (which removes 4 teams) and should analyze the scenarios to see what the minimum number of 6-6 teams that should be expected in any season to see if any more need to be eliminated.

This is an absolute disgrace.

Air Force will be a test of defensive coaching

(Written by kencraw)

Air Force is an easy team to beat if you have time to prepare for their triple option offense.  Their systems is quirky and effective, but their personnel is vastly undersized on the lines due to the limitations of being a service academy. That’s why the best time to play them is either the 1st game of the season or a bowl game.  The team has the time to prepare for the triple option, neutralizing their advantage.  Without that advantage, they’re much easier to beat.

The last time Cal played them, in the Armed Forces bowl in 2007, for the 1st 20 minutes of the game it looked like the defense hadn’t spent a minute preparing for the triple option.  Frankly, it was one of my greatest disappointments in the Tedford era as far as my trust in the coaching staff.  But eventually, the team figured out how to defend it and Kevin Riley led a dramatic comeback, and the Bears won.

We’re about to find out how good the current defensive coaching staff is.

Unlike other games where all the issues that make up a good defense are mixed together: talent, effort, maturity, scheme, coaching, in this game, since the way to beat the triple option is pretty well known and it’s not an issue of talent, we can know that the result will come from effort (a result of good coaching), maturity and coaching.  And since this team has plenty of upper classmen, it means the defensive result is pretty much entirely about coaching.

It will be interesting to see.

How much should Cal do to keep Dykes?

(Written by kencraw)

Dykes is rumored to have interviewed for three different jobs: Missouri (although they announced someone else recently), South Carolina and Virginia.  It’s unclear if Dykes really wants out of if he’s just trying to get Cal to offer better terms than what they offered, specifically more money and a longer more guaranteed extension.

So the question becomes, how much should Cal offer to keep Dykes?

My thinking is that his salary should be upped to about $2.75M, but that he should only be extended 2 years (so 4 years total from now) with it getting reasonably cheap for the Bears to let him go after 2017.  I’m OK with Cal having to give a fairly large sum after next year.  With the amount of talent leaving (particularly if Goff leaves) and how the schedule is shaping up, it’s reasonable to expect Cal to take a bit of a step back next year.  Thus it’s reasonable for Dykes to insist his contract protects him from a one-year blip.

What do you guys think?  (Answer in the comments and respond to the poll on the sidebar)

Who are we rooting for in the title game?

(Written by kencraw)

Let’s see, if Stanford wins, our arch-rival gets another trip to the Rose Bowl and with luck a trip to the playoff.  That’s bad.

But at the same time, if Stanford gets into the playoff (somewhat of a long shot) and the Rose Bowl takes Oregon (I would expect it), we likely get to go to a better bowl, perhaps even the Foster Farms at Levi Stadium.  That’s good.

As for USC, when do we ever want them dominant in the league?  They get enough of the best recruits as it is.

So are we rooting for the Spoiled Children/Evil Empire or are we rooting for the Trees?

ASU OTRH Podcast

(Written by kencraw)

Here’s the year’s final installment of the On The Road Home podcast.  Thinking over what I said, I probably was a bit too harsh on the offensive line.  They did a VERY good job of pass protection against a difficult blitzing ASU defense.  Where my mind was as I was recording this was the lack of a consistent run game, something that has plagued the team all year.

Since I don’t see myself going to the bowl game, this will be the last installment of the 2015 season.  I’m always interested to hear if people enjoy them, so consider this post your opportunity to say you’d like me to keep doing this in future seasons or if you couldn’t care less.

Forgetting why we were down 24-3?

(Written by kencraw)

I don’t know why this has to be my 1st post-ASU post.  I mean, I’m ecstatic with the win and really think the Bears showed a lot of heart, determination and resolve last night.  Way to go, right?

But it’s not what is on my top of mind this morning.  Perhaps it is because all of the articles and blog posts I’m reading don’t even mention it other than to set the stage for the comeback.  Perhaps it is because I fear what happens if it becomes a pattern.  Perhaps it is because I fear it is already a pattern (UCLA?).  Whatever the reason, I’m a bit stuck on… why was this team down 3-24 to ASU?

There have been a few too many moments this season where I just don’t get why the team was unable to execute.  Why was the offense so good against Oregon for a 10-0 lead, but then pathetic for the rest of the game?  What happened to the offense against UCLA?  Why did it take a quarter for the offense to get humming against OSU?  Why was Cal unable to execute in the redzone against Stanford?

It all leaves me a little bit uneasy.

So as I reflect on ASU, I’m happy.  I’m thankful for the strong effort, for the never-say-die attitude.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that in the back of my mind I’m worried about why this team was ever down 3-24 to ASU.

Thus endeth the negative post-ASU posts.  More joy to come…

ASU Preview

(Written by kencraw)

ASU is a perplexing team, maybe even as perplexing as Cal.  It becomes most notable when looking at how ASU faired against common competition:

When Cal was hanging tough with USC, ASU was getting the crud kicked out of it.  While on the other side of LA, ASU absolutely destroyed UCLA while Cal was licking its wounds before halftime.  They held closer against Oregon than Cal did, but lost handily to WSU while Cal won that one.  We both beat Washington by a small margin.  And to finish off the list Cal held closer to Utah than ASU did.

So if we ignore the LA teams, the results favor the Bears.  If we include USC, it looks even a little better for the Bears.  But UCLA throws that all into turmoil.  (Maybe it’s UCLA who is the wildcard here?)

And unlike Oregon, Stanford or WSU, for whom we have a narrative to explain the discrepancies, it’s much harder to give one to ASU besides perhaps inconsistency.

Thus when I visualize this match-up, I see both the potential for a big Cal win and a disaster of a game that sends the program reeling.  ASU has potential.  One shouldn’t too quickly discount their performance at UCLA as an anomaly.  ASU can play that good.

What ASU needs to have that sort of a dominating performance is to get pressure with their defensive line.  Until last week’s victory over Arizona, the most points ASU had allowed in a winning effort was 23.  They won by being disruptive all game long and allowing their offense the time to find it’s rhythm and be productive.

I believe Cal would do better today in a shootout than a defensive struggle.

I also think Cal has the defensive chops to slow ASU.  There’s nothing particularly scary about their passing game (although it’s not bad either).  The key to ASU is traditional balance. I see more of USC and Washington in them than I see UCLA or Oregon.

So the question becomes, can the Cal offense be efficient and productive against ASU?  I think so.  I think Cal has enough different ways to deal with defensive line pressure to defuse that threat.  I also think Goff has turned a bit of a corner the last couple weeks and is focusing on taking what the defense is giving him, something that was lacking from Utah through Oregon.

The end result is that I see a game where Cal marches down the field, nibbling away.  Lots of dump-off pass plays, screens, QB scrambles, quick hitches and the such.  They’ll end up getting the defense tired.  So while I expect a close score through the 1st half, I see Cal extending the lead in the 2nd half.  I see the Cal defense overall doing a reasonably good job, but there’s also going to be a few too many plays (or even a drive or two) that will drive us nuts.  One or two of those scores will make it appear that the potential win could be in trouble.

But in the end, Cal will control enough of the game to win by a couple scores.

Cal finishes 7-5: Bears 37, Sun worshippers 23

Big Game OTRH podcast

(Written by kencraw)

Here’s another thrilling installment of the On The Road Home podcast:

 

Frustrated with my fellow Cal fans today

(Written by kencraw)

I’ll have my OTRH podcast up tomorrow morning, but I wanted to make a comment in the mean time:

GET A HOLD OF YOURSELVES!?!

I’m frustrated too, but what I’m seeing on the various Cal sites today is bothersome to me.  Dykes made reasonable calls taking the points instead of going for it on 4th down.  At the end of the game, yeah, they were surrender punts and kickoffs, but guess what, the game was ALREADY surrendered at that point.  (Anybody here really think Cal was going to recover two consecutive onside kicks and score 2 TD’s with 1:50 left?)

My point is overall Dykes was reasonably aggressive.  He went for it on 4th down a handful of well chosen times.  Those 9 points made it so Cal was within a score in the 4th quarter.  Yes, Cal would have had a much better shot at winning had a couple of those field-goals been touchdowns, but that should be blamed on bad catches, bad throws, or if someone would like to put in the effort to prove it, bad play calls on 1st through 3rd down.

Cal needed two things Saturday: Better redzone execution and a defense that could hold a tough rushing team for 4 quarters.

Dykes lack of aggressive play-calling wasn’t the problem.

Big Game preview

(Written by kencraw)

This might just be the most important game of Sonny Dykes coaching career.  The Bears need to prove they can beat  the better teams in the conference, even if it is just occasionally.  A win over a struggling ASU isn’t going to cut it for that, so Stanford is the last chance of the season.  It’s put up or shut-up time.

The good news for the Bears is there are reasons for optimism.

As the previous post showed, the common opponent analysis suggests the difference in quality between the teams isn’t has high as their current records would suggest.  The unbalanced Pac-12 south schedule doesn’t allow a fair comparison.  While Stanford was off beating up on Colorado and Arizona, two of the three worst teams in the conference, Cal instead had to play Utah.  In contrast, in the Pac-12 north where the teams played an identical set of teams, they have the same record (3-1).

The second reason is that if one looks at where Cal has struggled, UCLA and Oregon, it is against teams the emphasize speed over power.  Against the better teams that emphasize power, Cal has held their own.  I remain convinced that if Goff hadn’t felt the pressure of trying to carry the whole team on his back against Utah, he wouldn’t have thrown 5 picks and Cal would have won the game.  As for USC, Cal had a shot to win in the 4th quarter, and I think we’ll see later today how good a resurgent USC team is when they play Oregon.  After all, they haven’t lost a conference game since the coaching change happened.

So here’s the blueprint for how to win this game:

  1. The offense needs to have a mantra today: “Take what the defense is giving you.”  The team does not need to score 50 points.  30 will likely do.  They don’t need to be successful on every drive.  While it would be wise to *occasionally* take the shots down field to get some extra “free” points and to keep the defense honest, the key to victory for the offense is to be opportunistic and not let a few stalled drives get inside their psyche.
  2. The defense needs to be VERY physical at the line of scrimmage while biasing towards stopping the run.  I think they have it in them.  They showed it against Utah and to a lesser degree against USC.  Make Hogan beat Cal with his arm.

If they do that, I think they have a 50/50 shot of winning, if not slightly better than that.

The big question is, will they?  And here’s thinking that they don’t. (Sorry to say)  I very much fear we’re going to see Jekyll and Hyde at quarterback, flippant at some times, and desperate at others.  There will be flashes of Goff’s brilliance, but I don’t think it will be consistent.

On defense, we’re going to see them be just barely not good enough.   There’s going to be a lot of long frustrating drives where the Bears appear to have it stopped every 3rd of 4th set of downs, but somehow Stanford keeps chugging along and getting 1st downs when they should have been stopped.

This will have the effect of shortening the game and reducing the number of chances for the Cal offense to find its rhythm.

Thus what I expect to see is a game where Cal appears to have a shot, where they remain in tantalizingly close striking distance, but are never able to put together enough drives, particularly at the crucial times, to win.

Bears lose a frustrating one: Cal 20, Trees 27

Common opponent comparison for Big Game

(Written by kencraw)

(Sorry for my lack of posting this week.  I only got to watch snippets of the OSU game due to connectivity problems and this week has been so busy I haven’t been able to do the re-watch.  I wanted to complete the re-watch before commenting, but that’s just not going to happen.)

As I predicted, the most important game as a precursor to the Big Game was in Palo Alto, not in Berkeley.  Cal decisively beat OSU to gain bowl eligibility, but who can say what that really means?  Cal was expected to win big over a weak OSU team and they did.

But in Palo Alto we found out two things:

  1. Stanford is vulnerable.  They can be beat.
  2. Oregon is really a very different team than they were in the early to mid-season and that Cal lost to them is not so much about Cal being weak but instead about how much better Oregon has gotten.

Now the question becomes, how do we judge the Big Game?  To that end, let’s do a common opponent analysis:

Washington State:

  • Cal won small
  • Stanford won even smaller, needing a missed field goal by WSU at the end to hold on
  • Conclusion: WSU is much better than we thought early and this turns out to be Cal’s best win of the season.  It suggests against an offense like Cal’s, Stanford can be beat, although it won’t be easy.

Washington:

  • Cal won small
  • Stanford won medium
  • Conclusion: Stanford was better positioned to win a grind it out power game, so it made it easy for Stanford to win.  Not much to learn from this common opponent other than to say Cal was able to be competitive against a power team.

UCLA

  • Cal lost big
  • Stanford won big
  • Conclusion: Without a doubt, the most troubling common opponent of the season.  If you want to be optimistic you can chock this up to Cal having their worst performance of the year.

USC

  • Cal lost small
  • Stanford won medium
  • Conclusion: Definitely a game in Stanford’s favor, but Cal played competitively against another power team and kept it close.  Nevertheless, if one ignores UCLA, this becomes the most troubling common opponent.

Oregon

  • Cal lost medium-large
  • Stanford lost small
  • Conclusion #1: It turns out that Oregon is playing the best football late in the season in the North and Cal’s loss doesn’t look so bad.
  • Conclusion #2: The teams Cal has been most vulnerable to are the fast spread teams, like Oregon and UCLA, and not the power teams, like USC, Utah, and Washington.

Oregon State:

  • Cal won big
  • Stanford won big
  • Conclusion: Not much to take from this one.  OSU just isn’t very good and isn’t a good test for either team.

And that’s it.  Because of the way the scheduling work, Cal and Stanford will only ever have USC and UCLA as common south opponents in the same season.

So what’s the overall conclusion?

It says that Stanford is the better team, but by less than one would expect, particularly when you look at how Cal does against power teams (and when judging Cal against Stanford, we need to be more concerned with power than speed).  If you’re willing to chock up the UCLA game to a horrid Cal performance and suggest it is not a good comparison point for the Big Game, the margin of Stanford’s edge gets surprisingly small.

Thus, I think this game is going to be a lot closer than people think.

Expect a full preview post tomorrow.

The most telling game this weekend isn’t in Berkeley

(Written by kencraw)

Although there is a possibility that the Bears continue their free-fall and lose to Oregon State, it’s not a high probability.  And no matter what the score is, assuming the Bears win, it will be hard to learn much about the Bears from the game.

More telling will be what happens across the bay.

The way I see things, Cal has only had two really bad games.  UCLA and Oregon.  Other than that it has lost close games with too many mistakes to pretty good teams.  At this point I’m willing to chock the UCLA loss up to a bad effort and poor preparation.

But the Oregon game really hurts if Oregon is as mediocre as we all fear.

The best possible thing to happen for the Bears outlook is to find out that Oregon is “back”, that they turned a massive corner in the last few weeks with the return of a healthy Vernon Adams and the rest of the team starting to click.  Then the Bears just happened to hit Oregon at the wrong time and their preparation was hindered by not having enough film on the resurgent version of the Ducks.

But the only way the above logic would make sense is if the Ducks go into Stanford Stadium on Saturday and stick it to Stanford.  That’s the best proof that the Ducks are “back” and for real.  Then all of a sudden, finishing the seasons with a few more wins won’t seem so unlikely.  Then Stanford will be more beatable, and ASU, who’s record (minus UCLA) in the conference is less impressive than the Bears, looks manageable with a strong performance in Berkeley.

But if Oregon gets dominated by Stanford, it’s hard to imagine the Bears getting a 7th win without a huge improvement.

(One more piece of good news: The Bears are done traveling.  They’ll stay in the Bay Area for the rest of the season.  Don’t under-estimate how much impact traveling has, particularly as the season wears on.  I’ve done a couple seasons of going to every game, and it really wears on you.  ASU is not going to be happy coming to Berkeley on Thanksgiving weekend.)

Oregon State tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

Can’t make it to the Oregon State game this weekend, so I’m selling my tickets on eBay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/252165271009?

 

I’m done

(Written by kencraw)

(Clarity update: this was written just before halftime during the Oregon game)

I’ve got better things to do with my life than watch this garbage.  How can the team that got those stops in the 1st quarter and looked mostly unstoppable turn into completely incompetent on both sides of the ball?

The only answer is effort.  This team doesn’t have it.  Goff couldn’t care less and the rest of the team with him.  Defense too.  Over 400 yards in basically 1 quarter.  Are you FREAKING kidding me!?!

To hell with them all.  Dykes, Goff, Franklin, Kaufman.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any posting from me for a while.

Various USC thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Not going to try and do a full breakdown, but just a few of the random thoughts I have:

  • It’s disappointing to me to hear that both Goff and Dykes were frustrated with the refs.  No game is ever officiated perfectly and there was nothing egregious in this game.  Their efforts would be better spent being frustrated with their own problems.
  • Hardy Nickerson did not have his best game.  He took a bad route on a blitz that allowed him to be too easily blocked on a touchdown run and both of the 3rd down conversions when USC was running out the clock was due to him not doing the outside contain properly.  Perhaps someone else was responsible, but it sure looked like it was supposed to be him and he got caught up by trying to fill an already filled inside gap and then couldn’t get to the outside.
  • Not that it matters, as USC would have definitely scored from 1st and goal from the 1 yard line, but that interception return was NOT a touchdown.  The pylon is OUT of bounds.  That means the nose of the ball must cross the plane INSIDE the pylon.  At best the ball touched the outside of the pylon (and I have my doubts about that, I think it might have been his forearm and the full ball was outside the pylon).  I’ve got no problem with the on the field call, but shouldn’t the replay booth know the rules?
  • I’m definitely of the opinion that Goff has not been right in the head ever since the Utah game.  I’m still seeing hesitation and jitters that he didn’t have before that game.  It might be that it is because the subsequent performances have all seen a lot more man-coverage, but my instinct tells me that’s not it.  If there’s good news, it is that I feel as the game wore on he slowly shook his jitters.  Perhaps this will be the last game of it.
  • When I re-watched the game on TV I was closely watching for whether the RB’s were hitting the holes right.  I noticed two things: 1. it’s a lot harder to tell on TV because the view is more from the sideline than my seats.  2.  From what I could see my fears were confirmed: The RB’s were not hitting the right holes at time and were often in the wrong location within the hole.
  • The other thing the RB’s were doing is cutting to the sideline too much.  They need to cut up field.  The running game needs 5 yard runs to keep defenses honest.  It’s better to get 3-5 consistently than a lot of 2 yarders and the occasional 50 yarder.  Someone needs to remind them of that and that they can get those extra couple of yards by plowing through defenders.
  • That said, the OL is not exactly helping the cause.  I think they were able to open holes early because they gave a strong effort, but they aren’t big/strong enough to do it for 4 quarters against a team like USC.
  • Just one comment about the defense: Anytime you guys give up 19 points against a Pac-12 team, I’m happy.  Carry on.

Any thoughts from others?

USC OTRH Podcast

(Written by kencraw)

Sorry for the delay this week.  I am traveling on business, so I didn’t have as much personal time at the end of the weekend/beginning of the week as I usually do.  In any case, here is this week’s installment:

 

USC Preview

(Written by kencraw)

There are certain games where one can break down film and stats to predict what is likely to happen.  There are other games where it comes down to more of a feel than cold analysis.  This is one of those games.

Anyone who knows recruiting knows that there is no team in the conference who gets higher rated recruits than USC.  They get more 5-star recruits than the rest of the conference combined in many years.  And while there is the issue of whether the ratings align to whether those kids are in fact the most talented players, one would have to take a very dim view of all of the rating services to believe that USC didn’t have a talent advantage.  I think this is particularly true of the 5-stars.  There are a number of 4-star players who get their rating from their in-game statistics and statistics can be misleading due to what team a player is on and the such.  But 5-stars have to have the whole package: size, speed, physically dominating tape plus the in-game statistics.  There are very few 5-stars who are not as talented as they appear.

All of that is a long way of saying that USC is more talented than any team in the conference.

But talent will only get a team so far.  They have to be motivated.  They have to be coached well in all aspects (technique, scheme, physical development).  As a result, USC has been under-performing now for the better part of a decade because the coaching just hasn’t been there.  In the most recent incident, it appears it has been because their head coach has been an alcoholic.

Now that Sarkesian has been fired, everything has changed.

And the worst part is that the way it has changed for USC is in a way that is deadly to Cal: the linemen.  When I’ve seen USC play up until the Utah game, I saw a team that looked marginal on the line.  They didn’t look bad, but they weren’t pushing anyone around.  What I saw at the Utah game was a physically dominating line performance.

That’s the worst case scenario for Cal, as Utah and UCLA both proved.  Both of those games were lost in the trenches.  And if Cal lost a game in the trenches (albeit marginally) to a team that lost badly in the trenches to USC, we should turn on the red-alert alarm.

So I’ll be blunt: Unless Cal has a HUGE improvement in line play today (or for some reason USC massively under performs on the line), Cal loses this one big.  And frankly I just don’t see that happening.  I think you might be surprised to see me discounting this game when previewing future games, because I don’t think the teams after USC (Stanford aside) are going to physically dominate Cal the way USC is likely going to.  I’ve got hope for the future against Oregon, OSU and ASU.  But today is going to be a blood bath.

Cal 17, USC 42