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Big Game Preview

(Written by kencraw)

I’ve been pounding the drum ever since Cal played UCLA close that Cal could beat anyone on their remaining schedule.  Not that they would beat them all, but Cal is good enough now to have a shot at anyone in the conference.  And thus far it has proved out.  Cal hung with Oregon longer than most.  Then the team left us wondering what would have been if they hadn’t spotted USC a 31-2 lead.  Plus watching the same Oregon State team Cal beat the prior weekend shock the Pac-12 south by upsetting ASU, really showed the parity in this conference.

It all makes me wish Cal had another shot at UW, the only team that beat Cal by a large margin and there was never any meaningful hope the Bears might win.

Which brings us to Stanford.  While it’s not uninteresting, doing a common opponent break down, which is coming shortly, probably misses the key “any given Saturday” point.  This year’s Big Game, more than any in recent memory comes down not to who’s the better team, but who plays the better game.  Stanford is right in the middle of the conference parity along with the Bears.

Nevertheless, here’s the common opponent analysis:

  • Versus Washington: Cal lost 7-31, Stanford won 20-13
  • Versus Oregon: Cal lost 41-59, Stanford lost 16-45
  • Versus OSU: Cal won 45-31, Stanford won 38-14
  • Versus USC: Cal lost 30-38, Stanford lost 10-13
  • Versus WSU: Cal won 60-59, Stanford won 34-17

So Stanford won one that Cal lost big time, but otherwise the two teams did similarly.  One can argue Cal did better against Oregon and Stanford did better against WSU and maybe OSU, but to some degree it’s over analyzing to get too much into the details.

One thing that is beyond obvious is that Cal both scores and gives up more points.  Against those common opponents Cal scored 183 and gave up 218 whereas Stanford scored 118 and gave up 102.

Of particular note is that outside of Oregon, Stanford didn’t give up more than 20 points in regulation all season.  A similar, but in the reverse stat is that outside of Washington the Bears haven’t scored less than 30 points all season.

So, the two-fold question is, does the Cal offense share something in common with the Oregon offense that suggests Cal can put up numbers against Stanford or, in the inverse, does the Stanford defense share something in common with the UW defense that suggests Stanford can stop the Cal offense.

My gut says that the UW game, if played again, particularly after the experience at USC, Cal would put up 30 points. So whether or not Stanford shares something in common with them, it’s irrelevant.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Stanford has a good chance of frustrating the Cal offense, but it won’t be just because they follow the UW blueprint.  They’re going to have to be far more disruptive at the line of scrimmage without allowing too many open receivers for Goff to quickly zip the ball to than either UW or USC did.  It’s a tall order for the Stanford defense.

And yes, I do think Cal’s offense, while different in lots of ways, exposes Stanford in similar ways that Oregon did.  Cal is the most balanced of the “raid” offenses in the conference.  Oregon is the only team with the balanced running spread offense in the conference.

So I guess that’s a long way of saying I expect Cal to score a significant amount of points tomorrow.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the other side of the ball.  Stanford has put up some points against weaker defenses and there is a reason to believe Stanford will do it against Cal.  The two conference games they did it, WSU and OSU, they really did it in the air.  Not the way Cal does, it was only high 200’s and low 300’s passing, but for Stanford, it was a strong passing game.  And there was nothing spectacular about the running game for the Cardinal in those two games.

So does Hogan channel himself from last year and throw with his hair on fire, or does Cal contain it enough to allow their offense to chip away at the stout Stanford defense?  My gut says Cal will contain it this year, and will have learned enough from UW and USC to keep the offense productive.  The Bears are all heart this year and I have my strong doubts about the resolve of Stanford this year.

This is the year the drought ends: Cal 37 – Furd 23 (but it will feel closer than that)

Late starting liveblog

(Written by kencraw)

OK, I’ve got a connection… Seeing how it is already 2-21, we can make it a moan-fest liveblog.

(remember to click on the title to go to the single post page to view the liveblog updates.)

USC Preview

(Written by kencraw)

Tonight has the potential to be a VERY important night for Cal football.  Think USC 2003 important.  That win was the signature win that propelled the program to where it was for the peak of the Tedford years.  And actually, at the other end of the spectrum, imagine if Cal had beat USC in 2004, how much further that would have propelled the Bears.

USC is USC, even when they’re not playing like USC.

So the big question is can Cal win tonight.  My answer is that I’m 100% confident they CAN.  They don’t even need a bad performance by USC.  Cal can beat this team outright.  Cal has the offense to score enough points to win and the defense is slowly learning how to contain the opposition.  USC doesn’t have the depth to win a fast paced, shootout against any team with the offense firepower that Cal has.

And let’s linger on that firepower a bit.  Here’s a stat for you.  5 of the 8 FBS teams Cal has played, Cal put up the highest score against that team.  Oregon, Oregon State, WSU, Colorado, and Arizona all gave up more points to Cal than they gave up to anyone else.  Two of the remaining 3 (UCLA and NW) Cal was just a handful of points from the highest opponent score.  Now THAT’s firepower.

But just because that’s one storyline for how the game will play out, it’s not the only one.  As just mentioned, the Cal offense has put up points against everyone, with one exception: Washington.  What is scary to me is if you asked me to pick which team that Cal has played that most closely resembles USC’s defense, it is without question Washington.  So if you’re looking for my fears and worries, it is that the Cal offense is disrupted by the USC front seven the way they were against UW.

Thus I think what this evening’s game will come down to is whether Franklin has come up with schemes and changes to defuse what killed Cal against UW.

One final thought… There’s a part of me that won’t be surprised to see the Cal defense have a good game tonight.  USC’s new offensive scheme is one that generically speaking is one that Cal is well suited to defend.  And USC isn’t executing it at a particularly high level.  They’re a very high talent team, but they’re new to this scheme.  So it’s not unreasonable to think the Bears at least keep the totals on the lower side of their average.  (the counter thought is that the old UW coaching staff has had Cal’s number and now that they’re at USC, there’s no reason to think they won’t do it again)

When I sum it all up, my gut says that the Bears will be competitive, but there’s just a few too many reasons that USC might be a tad bit too much defensively for the Bears to put up their 40+ points and the defense, while it might do better than normal, won’t be good enough to win a defensive battle.

Cal loses out on an opportunity to re-assert the program: Cal 27 – USC 31.

ASU v. Notre Dame

(Written by kencraw)

Anybody else think ASU was going to pull a Cal (shades of Arizona earlier this year) and let Notre Dame win that game?

Perception problems

(Written by kencraw)

Have you noticed that in certain corners of the Pac-12 commentator world, every team that loses to Cal “is in real trouble” or “a mess” or “under performing”?  It seems there are certain people who assume the Bears are bad and when they win, it can’t mean they might be good, but that the team they beat must be even worse.

1st Oregon State thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

What an important victory for the Bears!  It sure feels like the sort of game where a loss would have been a real setback for the program and the victory is a corner turned in the turn around.  Here are some more detailed thoughts:

  • Can someone explain to me how a team can for 48 minutes of the game only give up 10 points, but in 12 minutes can give up 21 and look pretty pathetic doing it?  I think it was even more disconcerting to me because it was 27-10 when I was first able to watch the game (up until then I was only able to keep my eye on the box score).  And what I saw was a team that couldn’t move the ball to save their life but was getting bowled over by OSU at the line of scrimmage with guys WIDE open when OSU decided to throw the ball.  Yet then everything switched again and the Bears dominated in similar fashion the rest of the way out.
  • It was nice to see the Bears winning at the end of the 1st half.  I had that “here we go again” feel when OSU got the ball back with 3:24 left in the half and the bears only up 17-10.  But the Bears forced a punt and drove the field for a field goal.
  • Really nice to see the running game pick up the slack when Goff had an off night.  My gut has been that with the exception of the UW game, the Bears have had a competent run game, but it hasn’t been used in the right ways.  We seem just a tad bit predictable or formulaic in how we go about it.  But if you look at most Cal running plays the linemen are getting a strong push and there are fair running lanes.  This game, against a mediocre team they really delivered a strong performance.
  • Of course the next step is to deliver a strong running performance against USC or Stanford.  I think this team has it in them particularly if they force them to defend an accurate passing game.  Stanford’s linebackers don’t have the range that their linebacking groups of the past have had.  Cal could really run them ragged.
  • Yes, I do think the Bears can beat USC and/or Stanford.  The road apparently doesn’t scare this team.  They have played great on the road.  And minus the game being in the Coliseum, is there anything really scary about USC this year?  As for Stanford, I think the wheels are starting to come off the bus.  Think about this… With Utah (who beat them last year and is looking pretty strong right now), @Cal and @UCLA left, and Stanford needing one more game to get bowl eligible, it’s possible Stanford will have plenty of time to study for finals in December.  Can we do it Bears?!?  (and Baby Bears)
  • Getting to things that worry me, the penalties still bother me.  There have been some borderline and worse calls from the refs, but there’s also been some pretty stupid penalties.  One of the things Cal is going to need to do is clean that up, particularly on defense.  When they’re having trouble getting off the field, it always seems an ill-timed penalty is part of the problem.
  • I know the headline is Lasco, but Enwere ran pretty well.  With a healthy Mohammad that’s 3 backs who can be every down backs.  Lasco deserves the lead spot, without a doubt, but it is REALLY nice to have guys who can come in and keep pounding away.
  • Going back to the balance the running game gave the Bears, there’s another way to show it:  47 rushing attempts, 47 passing attempts.  269 yards rushing, 277 yards passing.  It’s pretty hard to get any more balance than that (statistically).
  • But going back to how important this win is for the Bears, I find it hard to overstate it.  Bears lose and they’ve got to find at least one win against two teams they won’t be favored against.  The team will be under a lot of pressure to deliver an upset.  Instead the Bears can look at these two games very opportunistically.  They don’t have to win, but they’ve got an opportunity to make a statement.  A BIG statement.  Don’t forget this team can still reach 8-4 and 2nd in the Pac-12 north.

I hope to comment more tonight after a re-watch of the full game sequentially.

Oregon State Preview

(Written by kencraw)

This week’s preview is going to be a short one.  I am short on time, but I wanted to make sure I got it in.

Today’s game will come down to the Cal defense.  The offense will be able to put up points, of that I have little doubt.

Considering how much the Beaver offense has been struggling, that should be the start and end of the post.  However, the Cal defense has been the cure to more than one team’s offensive struggles and I fear that the OSU offense will find its rhythm tonight under similar circumstances.

Here is to hoping that the Cal defense turns a bit of a corner tonight.

Cal 45, OSU 24

Thoughts on new admission policy

(Written by kencraw)

It was announced Wednesday that by 2017-2018 80% of the Cal recruiting class must have a 3.0 high school GPA.

At the outset my opinion is one of gratitude.  Cal needs to set a high standard for its student athletes.  And a 3.0 GPA is a pretty good measuring stick point for students.

However, upon further thought, I fear a too arbitrary a system that prevents us from going after the right recruits.  The ultimate goal should be to recruit players who will succeed academically at Cal.  Obviously grades and test scores are a factor in predicting that, but they’re not the only metric.  80% means a class of 24 must have only 4 guys with less than a 3.0.  In a group of that size it’s not hard to find 5 or 6 guys who when you take a more qualitative approach give you reasonable belief they can exceed at Cal.  What do you do with guys who were getting mostly C’s in their freshman and sophomore years but at some point they turned a corner and are getting solid B’s and even a few A’s once they’re being recruited?  Or kids who have a 2.9 GPA but scored 1100’s on their SATs?

I’d be more in favor of an average GPA approach.  With the minimum threshold approach coaches don’t have any incentive to after those really special kids, with 4.0+ GPA’s and good athletic skills to boot.  In an average GPA approach, those kids are pure gold.  Aren’t those the kids Cal should most want?

So I applaud the University for being committed to academics, but I also think they should rethink their metrics and work to find ones that really meet the goals of finding student athletes who will succeed both academically and on the field.

What do others think?

Pac-12 review (9th week edition)

(Written by kencraw)

Clarity in the north is pretty strong at this point.  In the South, there are a lot of question marks with three 1-loss teams.

  1. Oregon 59 – Cal 41: (Oregon entry) Oregon’s defense leaves something to be desired, but at the same time, they’re still winning all their games by big margins, so it’s hard not to put them on top.
  2. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (ASU entry) ASU is asserting itself pretty strongly right now.  One has to be pretty impressed with how solidly they dispatched both Stanford and UW.  All of a sudden their blowout loss to UCLA is looking more and more like an anomaly brought on by having to start the backup QB in his 1st meaningful action.
  3. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: (UA entry) If I was taking the overall schedule view of things, it would be tempting to put Utah above Arizona, but two things prevent that: Arizona beat Oregon and Utah lost to WSU.
  4. Utah 24 – USC 21: (Utah entry) Call me surprised.  I really didn’t think Utah had it in them.  USC fans are even admitting that Utah is pretty good.  They’ve still got a lot more games against top opponents to go, so I’m a long way from jumping on their bandwagon.  Nevertheless knocking off both USC and UCLA is impressive.
  5. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (Stanford entry) Stanford seems to have FINALLY figured out they needed to do something radical to inject some life into their offense.  What they did really caught the Beavers off guard.  When combined with their stout defense, Stanford was able to fiddle around with lots of creative schemes and ideas.  However, don’t get too high on the Stanford offense.  The next opponent won’t be so caught off guard.
  6. Utah 24 – USC 21: (USC entry) Was their loss to Utah because USC continues to be erratic or was it because Utah is pretty good?  Hard to say, but my best guess is it is more about Utah than USC pulling a Boston College.
  7. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (UCLA entry) Seriously, is this the team that was a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 and go to the playoff?  That all looks pretty stupid now.  They could only beat Colorado by 3!?!  When you’re Cal, you’re happy with that.  Not when you’re hoping to win the division.
  8. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (UW entry) It ticks me off to no end that the Bears put up such a bad effort against such a weak team.  How could this be the only game this year that the Bears were blown out?  Washington is looking pretty weak.  If they don’t win on their trip to Colorado, they could seriously go into a tailspin and not get bowl eligible.  At the same time, it’s not impossible to think this team could win every one of their remaining games.  Such is life in the middle of the Pac-12 when all your remaining opponents are in the middle of the muck with you.
  9. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (OSU entry) I keep OSU above the Bears because their path to bowl eligibility is a lot more friendly than the Bears.  They can lose Saturday and still have 3 reasonable shots to win two.  (Eh, maybe ASU is out of reach, so maybe it’s only 2 reasonable shots.)
  10. Oregon 59 – Cal 41 (Cal entry) You can have one of the top 3 offenses in the conference, but if you’ve got the worst defense, you don’t end up in the middle.  You end up closer to the bottom.  The Bears better be hungry this weekend, particularly on defense, because they need to stop the slide both for bowl eligibility reasons and to gain some confidence back.
  11. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (CU entry) Congrats CU, you’re out of the basement.  WSU’s freefall continues, but you guys gave yet another team a scare.  It’s been longer since WSU did that, thus you guys get the nod.  It feels like you’re hungry and might just deliver at some point on my recently abandoned prediction you’d upset someone.
  12. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: I feel sorry for WSU.  This team is better than their record.  But the ball just keeps bouncing the wrong way.  But at this point the losses are piling up and the margin of losing is getting worse as the games continue.  The upset of Utah is looking more and more like an anomaly (for both teams) and must be feeling very distant to the Cougars.  Has this team lost hope?

Another full slate of 6 conference games this weekend and ALL of them are on Saturday.  No wonder the Bears don’t start until 7:30 PM.

Changing servers

(Written by kencraw)

I’ve finally had it with my web hosting company, so I’m switching to a new one. It’s a spectacularly painful process to do in a way that has the minimum impact to my users/viewers.

Today is the big day for moving ExcuseMeForMyVoice to the new server. It should be mostly invisible minus just one thing:

If you’re pointed to the old server, comments will be disabled. I’ve already imported all the content to the new server, so I don’t want any additional content on the old server. Your local DNS server should get the address for the new server in about a day.

If you’re still being pointed at the old server as of Friday 10/31, please e-mail me at blog AT excusemeformyvoice DOT com. If you are seeing problems on the new server, leave a comment in this post.

Oregon Game Thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Sorry for the delayed posting. Been very busy preparing for a trip. Nevertheless, better late than never, here are various thoughts on the Oregon game:

  • Count me amongst those who are really disappointed in the lack of progress on defense. I see very little in the way of progress and worse, it seems like our weaknesses are getting more exposed every week.
  • The defense’s 3rd down woes are particularly disappointing. There’s just too many times the defense does fine on 1st and 2nd down and then proceeds to give up a big play on 3rd and long. The 3rd and 19 that ended up going for a long touchdown is inexcusable.
  • I also feel the problem is more scheme than talent. The guys on the field are big and fast enough to be a quality Pac-12 defense.
  • Although if there’s one thing that would suggest otherwise, it is the tackling. If I were the coaches, I’d be spending A LOT of time having my defense do a TON of tackling drills. Tell them to take out their frustrations on the scout team. They’re just not wrapping up and holding on and taking them down. I don’t mind it much when a great RB drags our guys a handful of extra yards. But I do mind it a ton when he bounces off and runs for another 20 yards and a touchdown.
  • And since we’re going all negative, what is with the kickoffs? Someone might be able to convince me what they’re doing is a good idea, but first they’d have to tell what in tarnations they are trying to accomplish! I mean seriously, it’s not a squib (is it just that our kicker stinks at those?), it’s not a chip… what is it? What’s it’s purpose?
  • Also troubling is the number of long plays the defense has given up in the last two minutes of the half the last few games. There have been just too many games where we were close, in a place were we’d feel going into the tunnel with that score, but then the Bears practically INSIST on giving up an extra touchdown before halftime. Somebody needs to remind the defense that points scored just before halftime count just as much as the rest of them.
  • On to a positive note, I liked the heart of this team. They came out the tunnel ready to fight and kept fighting for the whole game (well, with about 5-8 minutes left the inevitable end started to take it’s toll on both team’s effort).
  • Also, the balance we’re seeing on offense is good. I think the offense would be struggling a lot more if it weren’t for that balance. In fact, it seems when the offense gets stagnant, it’s when the playcalling gets a bit too predictable. Interestingly, it seems to happen when the Bears get a bit too committed to the run, particularly on 1st and 2nd down.
  • Goff is still young, but he continues to grow on me. I think he’s going to be an exceptional quarterback over the long haul and I won’t be surprised to see him playing on Sundays for many years.
  • It was nice to see Rubenzer used in a better way this game. To see him in for half of a series and throwing the ball was a good thing. The key to success with him, as I have been saying all along, is the belief that he will throw the ball a significant percentage of the time. This game will help validate that belief.
  • Another guy I’m pretty happy with is Lasco. Heck all the RBs. The two young guys have been playing well with Mohammed getting limited reps with the cast. But Lasco is leading the way and really impresses me with his toughness, his ability to get those extra 2-3 yards after impact, while still being a pretty speedy guy.
  • The wide receivers on the other hand, while not bad, haven’t been standing out like they had for some much of the first half of the season. Perhaps I got too used to highlight reel catches, but there have been more difficult catches missed the last few games than in the past.
  • Finally, could someone please tell the Cal cheerleaders that their pink pompoms ARE A SHADE OF RED and need to be put away permanently! (we haven’t won since they started using them.)

Oregon preview

(Written by kencraw)

After the last two weeks you won’t be seeing from me any delusions that the Bears are going to win tonight. It was really disappointing to see the Bears not win a game that was turning into a shootout. It has appeared that the Bears are built to win those sorts of games. Maybe it was just bad luck/bounce of the ball. Or maybe it was deceptively a shootout due to the turnovers. But my gut says that the less-than-horrible quality of UCLA’s defense was the main culprit in why the Bears weren’t able to hold-serve in the shootout last Saturday.

With that revelation, it’s hard to think the Bears can beat Oregon.

Cal’s defense has yet to show it can meaningfully stop anyone. We haven’t given up less than 31 points to anyone since Sac State. And while the defense is slowly improving, there’s no reason to believe that the trend ends tonight against Oregon’s high powered offense.

So the only question that remains is can the Bears score at will tonight and turn this into another shootout?

A very strong argument can be made that no, Cal’s offense will find itself more frustrated than successful against Oregon’s defense. While they haven’t been great, Oregon has yet to give up more than 31 all season, even in a loss. To compare, let’s look at how the last two defenses Cal played compares to Oregon’s defense:

…er… nevermind that. Can you believe Oregon, UW and UCLA have no common opponents yet? (minus playing each other, which doesn’t help from a comparing defenses perspective (because a team never plays their own defense).)

So I guess I’m stuck with comparing them qualitatively, and from that perspective my gut says that Oregon’s front 7 isn’t as good as UWs, but is probably about the same as UCLA’s, although they might just be a tad weaker. However, Oregon’s secondary is the fastest and likely the best of the three, even thought statistically they give up a lot of yards. A lot of that has to do with the scheme because they also give up the fewest points of the 3.

What that all leads up to is I don’t expect the Bears to “drop 50″ tonight. If they improve on last week’s performance and everything goes their way, they could score 40+ in a shootout, but more likely in the 20’s or 30’s.

And frankly, I fear even the 40+ won’t even be enough. Unless something changes radically, or Kaufman has something up his sleeve (which all evidence of how vanilla he schemes suggests to the contrary), I expect Oregon to score in the 40’s.

So the Bears lose this one in all probability. The only question is whether the Bears can put up enough points to make a game of it.

Cal 30, Oregon 45

Pac-12 review (8th week edition)

(Written by kencraw)

More Pac-12 games means more clarity. With only Arizona and WSU idle last weekend we learned quite a bit more. It appears normalcy is returning.

  1. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (Oregon entry) Another year passes and yet another beat-down of Washington by Oregon. It’s only surprising in how consistent it is. Oregon is continuing to reassert itself after the Arizona game.
  2. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (ASU entry) I wouldn’t put too much into ASU beating Stanford so solidly. They did have the benefit of a bye that their opponent didn’t have. Plus, it’s clear that Stanford is not the team they were in the past. It’s a lot more difficult to have a top-notch team when you can’t score and you can’t even hold on to the ball to give your defense some rest.
  3. USC 56 – Colorado 28 (USC entry) USC seems to be settling back in as well and is putting their loss to ASU behind them. If they had beat just about anyone else in the conference by this much, they leapfrog ASU.
  4. Arizona (bye): Things get a lot tougher for Arizona moving forward. They’ve still got to play ASU and UCLA. But for now, their soft front schedule combined with the win over Oregon keep them high up the list.
  5. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (Utah entry) If Utah keeps winning games, they’ll start leapfrogging some of the teams in front of them. All of a sudden their loss to WSU is looking like the anomaly. But just like Arizona, I’m not quite ready to buy into the hype. Their tough games are still in front of them: USC, ASU, Stanford, Arizona. And with their win over UCLA looking less and less impressive each week, they could fall quickly if the losses start to come.
  6. UCLA 36 – Cal 34: (UCLA entry) UCLA escaped Berkeley with a win and stops the bleeding. The road ahead is not without it’s perils and they need to re-group and start winning more convincingly if they are going to rise up the list.
  7. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (Stanford entry) After having their way against WSU, Stanford is right back into disaster recovery mode. Never have I seen a team regress so thoroughly offensively in a season. This team could lose a lot more if they don’t fix the problems. Even some of the weaker teams that will struggle with Stanford’s defense might eek out a win just by default by getting on the scoreboard more than once.
  8. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (UW entry) I hope UW enjoyed beating up on the Bears last week, because there was little to be excited about after Saturday. They’ve got 3 more measuring games and they’re all in the next 4 weeks. Win most of them and UW can salvage the impression their a team on the rise. Lose and despite likely getting bowl eligible, this will be a team that is regressing.
  9. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (OSU entry) That was a tough loss for the Beavers to take. It was a very winnable game against a team one could argue they should have beat. They’re sitting in a similar spot as Cal. The resume isn’t that strong, the front half was too soft (frankly worse than the Bears) and the back half is full of games they won’t be favored in. It might just be that the winner of the Cal-OSU game is the only one of the two who will be bowl eligible.
  10. UCLA 36 – Cal 34 (Cal entry) Speaking of painful losses that were tough to swallow, the Bears now need to find at least one win from Oregon, OSU, USC, and Stanford. Not exactly a promising list, particularly considering they play OSU on the road.
  11. Washington State (bye): It’s going to take a couple of big wins for WSU to get out of the bottom two. At this point, there’s a pretty big gap between the middle and the bottom and it’s officially between #10 and #11.
  12. USC 56 – Colorado 28: (CU entry) OUCH! Colorado is in big-time collapse mode. You want to know why their coach was so upset as things fell apart in Berkeley? Because he knew the whole season hinged on that game. They needed the confidence going into OSU and they needed those wins to be able to believe they could win any of the remaining games on the schedule. I used to think they might pull off an upset or two. Now I think they’re the 2014 version of the Bears and things are going to get ugly quick.

A full slate of 6 conference games this weekend to look forward to! (Perhaps the chaos returns this weekend?)

UCLA thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

(I wrote this post Monday morning, but for some reason it didn’t post. Here it is now)

Sorry for the lack of game-day posts and the such. I was out of town this weekend. I got to watch the game last night and here are my thoughts:

  • Sorry, that was NOT AN INTERCEPTION! I’m actually surprised there’s less wailing and gnashing of teeth over this one. There is absolutely no way to view the replay of that and conclude his foot was not out of bounds before he gained possession. Why do they even have a referee in the booth? Why not just put a magic 8 ball?
  • Of similar import, was the lack of a spearing call on the 4th down conversion. I don’t care what the TV commentators say (“where is he supposed to hit him”), it doesn’t matter (as we’ve seen from calls in the past). Helmet to helmet against a receiver while he’s going down after catching the ball is a foul. That defender needs to lead with a shoulder. And if we get that foul, it’s 1st and 10 at the 24, not the 39, and Goff never throws the ball again, so no interception, and Cal probably wins.
  • That said, and perhaps this is why there isn’t more complaining, Cal was very lucky to be in that game. All the bounces went their way. Just as I still think that Cal could have beat UW if the game was played again, I think if we play UCLA again, we still lose it most of the time. Cal was out-manned for the most part.
  • The Cal offense needs to stop playing intimidated, in particular the play-calling. The pass routes that were working against CU, WSU and UA are still there, but for whatever reason the play-calling is going away from those sorts of plays. They need to be less concerned with a game-plan and more concerned with focusing on execution of the base offense.
  • In contrast, the defense needs to actually make some adjustments. While I’m not horribly disappointed with their fairly simple schematic structure, we’re getting eaten alive by the same plays over and over. The WR screens were killing the Bears on Saturday. They need MORE game-planning and more variety to keep offenses on their toes.
  • Back to the offense, I think Dykes needs to understand that we need to pass to open up the run game. Certain teams need to start with running to open up the pass, but Cal needs to do the opposite. He’s focusing/forcing the run game too often, too early. We should start with throwing the ball and then move towards running after the defense makes adjustments.
  • To the balance end, nice to see Rubenzer throwing the ball. He needs to throw 30%+ of the time he’s in there to keep defenses honest (probably a little bit higher than that until defenses take him seriously).
  • But I still like the heart of this team. This team is going to keep fighting through every game this season. I really believe that they *can* win any of the remaining games. I doubt they will win all of them, but I think Cal will win at least two more and calling which two to three it is, is a difficult task.
  • I’m glad to hear that Trevor Davis appears to be fine.
  • We need Brendon Scarlett back ASAP. Some of the defensive pieces are coming together, despite new injuries. But the one that there’s no replacing right now is Scarlett.

I’ll be going to this Friday’s game at Levi’s Stadium. Here’s hoping for the best!

(More posts to come this week)

UCLA Preview

(Written by kencraw)

Games like Saturday’s are the toughest for me to preview. I have to fight between my logical side and my emotional side. Thus today you will get a dialogue format preview:

Emotional Side (ES): The Bears can beat this UCLA squad! What is their most impressive win? Texas? (They’re 2-4) The squeaker over Virginia (who couldn’t even beat BYU)? Or is it the other squeaker over 3-3 Memphis?

Logical Side (LS): Come on, you know their best win is over ASU who just beat USC.

ES: Yeah, but ASU was without their starting QB and was starting the backup for the 1st time. Not exactly an overwhelming performance!

LS: OK, let’s not get carried away. We can’t judge teams just by their victories alone. You do realize the Bear’s best conference victory is over a team that is now 2-4? We’ve got to use qualitative methods too.

ES: But I’m not done. Cal beat WSU, who beat Utah, who solidly beat UCLA!

LS: You’re really resorting to the transitive property with games that were all close? Look, UCLA only lost one game that they shouldn’t have (to Utah) but otherwise they’ve won all the games the were supposed to and lost the one game they were likely to lose. There’s a reason they were picked at the top of the South. This is one talented team.

ES: Yeah, but UCLA hasn’t won in Berkeley since Clinton was in the White House. UCLA always lays an egg in Berkeley.

LS: But that was pretty much all under Tedford, who’s team and style was much better suited to beat UCLA. And you’re comparing old UCLA teams with different coaches. In those days, Cal would win easily in Berkeley and then lose the most frustrating close loss of the season the following year in Pasadena. I seem to remember last year’s game being anything but close. Or do you not remember that with how long it took to find a parking spot, the score was already 17-0 when you got to your seat?

ES: OK, I’ll give you that one.

LS: Well, and since we’re in a conceding mood, I have to think this game hinges on the UCLA defense. If they can do what Washington did to Cal, then UCLA wins easily. But if Cal can return to its previous form offensively, Cal could have a real shot at this one.

ES: Yeah, and the Cal defense is playing better now!

LS: Let’s not get carried away. Yes, they did a better job against UW than they did against any of their previous opponents. But UW hasn’t been exactly lighting up the scoreboard. Plus, there were a couple too many big runs the Cal defense gave up, something they hadn’t been doing. And UCLA will probably try to control this game with the run game, between Perkins and Hundley running both on designed plays and when the passing game breaks down. We’ve seen nothing from the Bears front 7 to suggest they can contain a running QB. Plus with both Scarlett and Piatt out, things look even worse.

ES: OK, maybe UCLA scores some points too, but you have to like Cal’s chances in a shootout. Cal has done really well in those sorts of games and the defense seems to come up with just enough in the 4th quarter to win those.

LS: Yes, that’s probably the best scenario for the Bears, but don’t forget that next to UW, UCLA is probably the best defense the Bears have seen. Even if they don’t stop the Bears, they might just be good enough to come up with those critical one or two stops late in the game that could find the Bears on the wrong side of a shootout.

ES: Look, I don’t care what you say. You can quote stats and logical arguments all you want, but the Bears can win this one!

LS: Yes, they could. They’ve got a reasonable shot, but when you’re looking at this one logically, there’s a reason the Bears are a 7 point underdog at home, and in the end, the logical side needs to be the one running this blog.

Bears lose a frustrating one: Cal 31 – UCLA 41

Pac-12 review (7th week edition)

(Written by kencraw)

After a week of huge upsets some of the recently slain re-asserted themselves. A power ranking is tough because you don’t want to have it swing overly strongly while reflecting properly who’s feeling in a good position and who’s reeling. I was more conservative last week than others and it shows this week in that my positions won’t change as radically as others despite the turn-arounds. To the list:

  1. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (Oregon entry) After last Saturday it’s looking more like Arizona is the cryptonite to Oregon’s program. They mostly returned to form in dispatching UCLA. While it’s not inconceivable to think they might lose again, they have to be the favorite to win the conference championship at this point.
  2. Arizona State (bye): ASU was sitting on the sideline this weekend, but none of what went down hurts the perception of ASU, so they hold their #2 spot even if who’s in front of them changes.
  3. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Yet again USC defies expectation, but this time in the positive direction. I toyed with putting them in the #2 spot, and with time I might, but the ASU loss is just too recent to put them above ASU.
  4. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (UA entry) Just as Cal learned, you can only play with fire so long before you get burned. They should have lost to Cal, instead they get their karma comeuppance against USC, a team they should have beat.
  5. Utah (bye): Utah also holds serve during their bye, although their win over UCLA lost a bit of luster after Oregon soundly beat UCLA.
  6. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (Stanford entry) Stanford answered the question that was on all ‘raid’ offenses minds. Can they be stopped even by the best defenses? Sadly for fans of ‘raid’ teams, the answer is a resounding yes. Stanford could easily go rocketing up this list if their offense could ever get in gear. However, if they continue to struggle on that side of the ball, they’ll continue to lose too many very winnable games, particularly against the elite in the conference.
  7. Washington 31 – Cal 7: (UW entry) I’m not going to give UW too much credit for their win, but if they keep winning, they too will rise up the list quickly. Nothing I saw in Berkeley last Saturday leads me to believe that is going to happen.
  8. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (UCLA entry) UCLA is officially reeling after the Oregon loss. Losing two in a row after being undefeated REALLY hurts. However, other than Stanford and UW, those who were below them didn’t do much better to rise up the list.
  9. Oregon State (bye): Oregon State hopefully used their bye week to work on incremental improvements all over the field. One gets the sense that the team is complete enough to have no glaring holes, but also not overwhelming enough in any category to be very scary. When you’re in that spot, perfection is the key to success.
  10. Washington 31 – Cal 7 (Cal entry) Cal is hurt both by it’s own loss, but also by its two active opponents not looking as good as would be needed to suggest Cal had played the best in the conference.
  11. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (WSU entry) While their effort against Stanford was stronger than Cal’s against UW (and Stanford having already dispatched UW) it’s tempting to put WSU above Cal, but head-to-head matters more and Cal keeps it’s lead for now. But another stinker in Berkeley could change all that.
  12. Colorado (bye): Colorado is closer to a conference victory than their record suggests. If they spent their bye week wisely, it may just what they need to pull off a couple of upsets. I doubt it comes on Saturday at USC, but in the weeks to come there are some winnable games.

A nearly full slate of conference games this weekend will bring even more clarity to the conference.

Washington OTRH Podcast

(Written by kencraw)

Well, it wasn’t exactly one for the record books, but that never stopped anyone from podcasting. Here my thoughts on the way home from the game:

Upon further review… touchdown CAL!

(Written by kencraw)

OK, I finally got a chance to watch the replay of the “fumble” that was returned by Shaq for a TD. Sorry, that was a touchdown for Cal. Goff is a quarterback, he often holds the ball in one hand. There’s nothing to indicate in the video that when he had it in one hand that he didn’t have control of it and he was WAAAAY over the goal line before he bumps into a helmet and the ball comes loose.

Cal got the short end of that call on the field.

(I know, know, crying over spilled milk, etc.)

OUCH! That one hurt

(Written by kencraw)

I’m pretty ticked off about that one. That game REALLY stunk! Who took last year’s players and put them in this year’s uniforms?

I’ll rant all night if I let myself, but I’m not going to. Here’s to hoping a good night sleep gives some distance and perspective.

Washington preview

(Written by kencraw)

Before the beginning of the season I predicted that it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities the Bears could start 5-0 even if they weren’t that good. When it came to actually predicting the games, I predicted a 4-1 start, but swapped the loss with Arizona and WSU from what actually happened.

Thus the #1 question we need to ask ourselves is are we getting ahead of ourselves? I warned us not to get too excited about a 4-1 start and yet, here we are at 4-1 and we’re getting all excited. Is that because we qualitatively like what we see? Or are we letting the hype get to us? Are we just as doomed going into the back end as we were when we started?

To answer that question, let’s think about what has changed from pre-season predictions:

  • Washington hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but won all the games it was expected to win and lost the one people thought they might (Stanford).
  • But Stanford isn’t as good as we thought.
  • Cal’s offense has clicked more than people thought it would.
  • But the defense has improved less than we hoped.
  • UW’s secondary has been more suspect than expected.
  • UW’s offense has been inconsistent. Good at times, but surprisingly stifled at times.

Looking more specifically at the games played, Cal and UW have no common opponents yet. But we do have one chain of games that links the two teams together. UW beat Hawaii on the road, 17-16 whereas Colorado, who played Cal pretty straight up, beat Hawaii 21-12 at home. Overall that suggests all 3 teams are at least in the same general grouping, quality wise.

So I see three scenarios for this game:

  • The UW secondary can’t do what no one else has been able to do… slow the Bear’s offense. At the same time Cal’s defense is relieved to finally be facing a more traditional defense and the defensive line asserts itself like it did against Northwestern and the Bears win big. (Unlike NW, there will be no 3rd quarter let-up this time.)
  • The same as the 1st but instead the Cal defense shows just how far it has to go and we’re in another shootout. But with UW just not built to score points like Cal, Cal wins the shootout down the stretch.
  • Cal’s offense runs into its 1st good defense and gets grounded. In this scenario, just like the inverse in a shootout, I just can’t see the Bears defense doing its part to win the game.

So it comes down to this, can the Bear-Raid put up the points this weekend? Because in both those scenarios, the Bears win. And the more I think about it, there’s nothing going on in Seattle right now that scares me. WSU’s defensive line was pretty stout and it didn’t hurt the Bears ability to put up 60.

Thus, not only am I sticking to the upset I called before the beginning of the season (although I guess the Bears are favored in Vegas as of this morning by 3.5 pts), I’m doubling down:

Bears 52, Washington 31