Cal Football and anything that relates

UCLA Preview

(Written by Ken Crawford)

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 Ken Crawford)

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 Ken Crawford)

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 Ken Crawford)

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 Ken Crawford)

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 Ken Crawford)

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

Pac-12 review (6th week edition)

(Written by Ken Crawford)

I challenge anyone to find a Pac-12/10/8 weekend in the history of the conference that was more chaotic than last weekend. Another Hail Mary to win it. A missed field goal to lose it. One major upset in the South. And one HUUUGE upset of what was supposedly the best team in the conference. Plus Stanford blows an upset opportunity in the 4th quarter in South Bend. What else could have happened? To the rankings (as always in Power ranking format):

  1. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (UA entry) There’s two reasons to put Arizona up here: 1. They’re the only undefeated team left. 2. They just beat the #2 team in the country on their home turf. While Arizona firmly deserves this spot and I think is a real contender at this point in the south, my cautionary note is to not make too much of this. Arizona went 7-5 last year, but soundly beat Oregon. They clearly have Oregon’s number. My gut is that this upset will still be a head-scratcher at season’s end.
  2. Arizona State 38 – USC 34: (ASU entry) While it’s not hard to pick #1 this week, #2 is a real head-scratcher. ASU won on a Hail Mary, normally something that wouldn’t sit well with me, but since they’re 2-1 in conference and already have both UCLA and USC behind them, they’re sitting in a good spot. Plus, a Hail Mary finish quickly erases in their mind the disaster against UCLA.
  3. Utah 30 – UCLA 28 (Utah entry) Utah didn’t need a last minute heroics to beat the top-dog in the South. That makes them rise dramatically up the rankings. However, the loss to WSU and that they still have USC, ASU and Arizona in front of them makes it hard to lift them above #3.
  4. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (Oregon entry) Many have dropped Oregon further, but let’s not completely forget their resume up until now. They were #2 for a reason. And if you look at it with the fresh eyes of Arizona being the conference’s top dog (at least for the moment) then losing to them isn’t so bad.
  5. Utah 30 – UCLA 28: (UCLA entry) Really hard to know where to put UCLA. Again, don’t want to drop them too low considering how they played the week before, but this one hurts. It feels like they took Utah for granted looking forward to Oregon.
  6. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games. (yes, that’s exactly what I said last week, but it was so appropriate I figured why change it?)
  7. Arizona State 38 – USC 34 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Is it the team that went into Stanford Stadium and won a defensive battle or is it the team that lost to both BC and ASU? Maybe it’s a little of both, but in any case, one can’t put them too high in the ranking but one shouldn’t also put them too low as they are 2-1 in conference.
  8. Notre Dame 17 – Stanford 14: Something doesn’t quite feel right about putting Stanford this low for losing to #9 ND, but with 2 losses at this point and the bulk of their schedule still in front of them, one wonders if they don’t fall even further. They’re exactly the opposite of Cal. Cal must ask itself just how many points it has to score to win and Stanford has to ask itself how few it can give up.
  9. Washington (bye): Not much new for Washington but with some low teams rising strongly UW ends up falling. It’s gut check time in Seattle. If they lose to Cal on Saturday they’ll be trending towards the bottom.
  10. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (OSU entry) As Cal learned last year, it is harder to go up to Boulder and win than most people realize. As such one shouldn’t overlook the value of last Saturday’s win. It keeps OSU in the middle of the Pac and reminds everyone that no team can be taken lightly.
  11. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (WSU entry) The fact that WSU is way down here says a lot about the conference. They’re no slouch, but their 2-4 record just can’t justify putting them any higher. Mark my words, WSU is going to deliver a couple more upsets before the season is done.
  12. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (CU entry) Colorado is vastly improved over last year. Unfortunately for them, so is everyone else who was on the bottom of the conference last year. I’m not so sure they will pull any upsets this year, but if someone overlooks a trip to Boulder it could happen. Unfortunately for them, they could be the best 3-9 team in the country by season’s end.

Lots of bye’s this weekend with only 4 games. Friday night’s game (WSU @ Stanford) will be very telling. Heck, all 4 games will be telling/revealing.

UCLA tickets for sale

(Written by Ken Crawford)

Unfortunately I can’t go to the UCLA game, so my tickets are for sale.

I have two regular reserved ($33) and 5 Youth (under 18 y.o. – $16) tickets. I’m in section C, in the 1st 2 rows above the concourse (which means extra leg room) and on the isle. 4 seats in the 1st row and 3 in the 2nd. While I have to admit that there are better locations around the bowl than section C, you won’t find a better seat to watch the game in that section and the prices are cheaper due to the location, particularly if you’re bringing kids (and it’s a 12:30 PM kickoff).

I can upgrade the youth seats to regular reserved and sell them at that price but I need to know by Saturday’s game (UW) so I can do it at the box office while down there, so let me know if you’re interested.

Either leave a comment or e-mail me at tickets AT excusemeformyvoice DOT com.

Post WSU first-thoughts

(Written by Ken Crawford)

I was out of town this weekend. I tried to watch the game via 4G (I started with 4 bars and 4G with 3MB throughput), but my signal kept degrading to 3G with 2 bars. You just can’t watch video like that and the app kept crashing.

So I listened to most of the game on the radio, which is to see I haven’t seen most of it. (Starkey has gotten worse, is too non-linear and focuses on the wrong things.)

I’ll be watching it tonight, but in the mean time a few thoughts:

  • While the emphasis has been on WSU’s offense because of the stats, only 1 offense was 100% successful for TD’s in the 2nd half and it wasn’t the Wougs. As much as Cal’s defense was porous all night, they came up with 3 stops in the 2nd half, something WSU’s defense couldn’t do.
  • Something people forget about special teams returns for touchdowns is that the defense gets no rest. They have to go right back out on the field. That after the 2nd kickoff return they managed to force a punt should not be overlooked, exhaustion wise.
  • In the negative column, something overlooked is how little the Bears were able to rush for. Perhaps that is because the Bears were playing catchup for most of the game, but 62 yards on 18 attempts is pretty pathetic.
  • After the 1st 3 games we were all asking what was wrong with the Bears in the 2nd half. The last two games the Bears have been a 2nd half team (at least offensively).
  • Looking around the conference, what a week of upsets. Of the 6 games, 4 of them were upsets, two of the pretty big ones, one of them HUUUGE! That means two things to me:
    1. There’s a lot of parity in this conference and we as fans need to forget the back-loaded schedule thing. If Arizona can beat Oregon, so can we. There’s no reason to think UW, USC, UCLA and Stanford are out of reach either. That’s not to say Cal wins them all, but I’m no longer writing any of them off.
    2. I fear the conference won’t get a team in to the playoff, particularly if nobody in the conference can knock off Notre Dame.

More to come after I actually get to watch the game.

No liveblog tonight

(Written by Ken Crawford)

I’m not going to have great Internet access tonight. You might see a peep or two from me, but no liveblog.

WSU preview

(Written by Ken Crawford)

We’ve got a real interesting one tonight. For years WSU was one of the easiest teams on Cal’s schedule. WSU’s last good run was ending when Cal hired Tedford. He lost a shootout to them in 2002 and never lost again.

But WSU has been rebuilding and we need to resist the temptation to judge the team by their past. Leach has the Wougs on the right track and showed it in Berkeley last year jumping out to a 14 point lead over a shell-shocked Bears team. Cal actually inched back into it, only trailing 15-21 at half, but the defense just couldn’t hold through all the turnovers (5).

Cal actual won or tied a lot of the statistical battles last year. More yards. More yards per play. Matched WSU in 3rd down conversions and on total 1st downs (well, one short of that). But turnovers and penalties really hurt the Bears.

So what to expect from WSU this year? First off I wouldn’t judge them too much from their 2-3 record. Their 3 losses are to teams that are a combined 11-3 and they lost to none of them badly. Their defense looked really impressive last week in their come from behind win over Utah.

Overall I consider these teams fairly evenly matched and think the game will come down to Cal’s secondary. WSU likes to pass the ball… A LOT! 67 attempts against Cal last year and averaging 60 per game so far this season. They pass at the exclusion of rushing, averaging only 52 yards a game on less than 20 attempts a game. And they like to go 4 and 5 wide passing.

That’s the part that scares me. Cal’s secondary, which hasn’t been horrible from a qualitative perspective up until the Colorado game, showed its lack of depth when forced to defend 4+ receivers. There just aren’t enough experienced bodies to put on the field to cover that many guys. Frankly, what we have to hope is that Cal learned a lot from last week and will find the right combination of guys to slow WSU’s passing attack.

Frankly, it would really help for Stefan McClure to be back and healthy. He’s listed as questionable, which is not a positive sign.

The defensive line can provide some help by pressuring Halliday who in my opinion does get rattled a bit when pressured. He’s a rhythm QB and does not respond well when taken out of rhythm. The one qualifier to that is that he bounces back. Cal can’t expect to rattle him in the 1st quarter and expect it to affect him all game. They need to rattle him consistently throughout.

My gut says to call this game by the home field advantage, but so far, the Bears have looked just as good on the road. All of a sudden, that last minute loss to Arizona is looking a lot better after they knocked off Oregon in Autzen. And the Bears showed up great at Northwestern.

All of which leaves me very conflicted. The Bears can win this one and I’m sitting on a lot of hope. But there’s also this deep unease in the pit of my stomach. Which do I go with?

Let’s go with optimism: Cal 45, WSU 42.

Pac-12 review (5th week edition)

(Written by Ken Crawford)

The 1st full week of conference play was revealing as it is every year. Only Oregon and Arizona were on a bye (in preparation for their upcoming Thursday night game). Let’s get straight into the rankings:

  1. Oregon (bye): Nothing happened this week that lowers Oregon’s position in the conference. If anything, WSU’s strong road performance against Utah minimizes the slight hit Oregon took when they won a close one in Pullman.
  2. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (UCLA entry) UCLA really exposed ASU on Thursday. They really destroyed what was supposed to be one of the top contenders to topple UCLA in the south division. UCLA is for real and has to be considered the top challenger to Oregon at this point.
  3. USC 35 – Oregon St. 10 (USC entry) USC let Oregon State hang around for a little while, but eventually their raw talent was just too much for the Beavers. The way I see things, there’s just no explaining how USC got man-handled at Boston College (a team that just lost to Colorado State I must add), so I’m going to just discount it at this point. However, if USC hadn’t beat Stanford, the position of them and Stanford at this point would be flopped.
  4. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (Stanford entry) Stanford’s wins aren’t exactly pretty but they keep winning. At some point one has to accept where they belong. Until proven otherwise (by another in-conference loss) Stanford is the contender to Oregon in the north.
  5. Arizona (bye): Arizona benefits in ranking by sitting on the sideline as UW and ASU go tumbling. There are only 3 undefeated teams in the conference and you just can’t put one of them below more than a couple conference teams with losses that stain their resume.
  6. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (UW entry) Washington had looked like they were putting things together, but now they just look inconsistent. They had their opportunities against Stanford and failed miserably. Overall, you can’t knock them too much having lost to the #2 team in the North, which prevents them from falling further.
  7. Cal 59 – Colorado 56: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games.
  8. Washington State 28 – Utah 27 (WSU entry) Speaking of teams that appear to be clicking finally, we left WSU for dead after they lost to Nevada. Since then they’ve won 2 of 3 and have looked pretty good doing so. Their dominance over what was supposed to be a pretty good Utah team in the 2nd half was striking and impressive.
  9. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (ASU entry) The only mitigating factor in ASU’s humiliation on Thursday was that they were without their starting quarterback. However, who really thinks that would have changed the outcome? Yes, ASU may have been more competitive, but they still would have lost. It looks like it is going to be another year of under-delivering on their promise in Tempe.
  10. Washington State 28 – Utah 27: (Utah entry) As I suggested, Utah wasn’t able to hold onto their high spot very long in the power rankings. They fell even more quickly than I expected. While it’s great for WSU to rise up out of the cellar, Utah lost to a team that is coming up out of the muck. Maybe in a few weeks with WSU continuing to roll this loss won’t look so bad. However, I saw their incompetence down the stretch and here’s guessing their are more losses coming. One thought: How bad must Michigan be?
  11. USC 35 – Oregon State 10: (OSU entry) Oregon State had a pretty wimpy non-conference schedule and they looked somewhat overwhelmed against USC. That’s how a 3-1 team ends up this low on the list.
  12. Cal 59 – Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: (CU entry) The buffs were on the bottom of the list last week and while their loss was entertaining, it does little to boost their ranking. Cal is not exactly the top contender in the conference. If it were, then perhaps CU could use that loss to gain some ground.

So the picture is getting clearer in both divisions. It’s UCLA with USC challenging in the south and Oregon with Stanford challenging in the north. Below that, there are a lot of teams that are pretty close together and it’s very hard to tell who will win on any given Saturday. Expect a lot of unpredictable results in the weeks to come.

Colorado OTRH Podcast

(Written by Ken Crawford)

Again I’m struggling with getting these posted promptly. I record it on the way home and it only takes 10 minutes or so to post, but for whatever reason, it always seems to slip. Here it is:

Sunday morning WAGOT’s

(Written by Ken Crawford)

(See my previous post for my overall feelings about the game. But, since it is now Sunday, it’s time for Wailing And Gnashing Of Teeth (WAGOT).)

As much as yesterday’s game was fun, really, there aren’t that many positives to take away. Here’s what I’d list in the positive column:

  • The Wide Receivers at Cal right now are AWESOME. They’re fast, they’ve got GREAT hands and there’s so many of them, the defense can’t focus on any one receiver. This is by far the best unit on the team and arguably the best WR unit in the country. And they played that way yesterday.
  • Lasco had a pretty good game. I really like his never go down, never give up attitude and how he drags players the extra yards. Not only does it turn 2nd and 7 into 2nd and 4, it also really wears down the defense over time. Mohammed has his pluses, but the reason the running game is working right now is Lasco.
  • The O-line held up pretty well and except in scenarios when CU was able to focus on the run, opened up reasonably good running lanes. They also protected Goff pretty well.
  • Gotta hand it to the defense on that final stand. 1st and goal from the 2 and they hold CU 4 times. They held so well the 1st 3 plays, CU decided to go sideways on 4th down and the Bears were ready to snuff it out.
  • Minus letting the QB option go a little wild, the run defense was pretty good.
  • Rubenzer was on the bench for the most part. I’m sorry, until he’s a credible thrower that the defense will respect as a thrower, there’s no reason to have him back there. That gig is up until he starts throwing.

But that’s really about it. This was no great Colorado team and the Bears struggled mightily. I’ve got a big list of negatives:

  • The secondary was stretched to its limit when Colorado went 4 and 5 wide. We just don’t have the bodies back there for that. This unit has a lot of potential over time, the talent is there, but they’re not deep enough for the Pac-12 and the number of teams that like to go 4+ wide.
  • Don’t we know how to defend slants and outs? Colorado ate us ALIVE with those. And it’s not that hard. You have two choices: You place your outside linebackers wider and deeper to get in the throwing lanes or you have your DB’s do press coverage. But I’m sorry, you just can’t give them a 5-10 yard buffer on 3rd and 6. It’s just too easy to complete short passes when they’ve got that sort of cushion. In the 3rd quarter the Bears played more press coverage, and had success, but they forgot it too much in the 4th.
  • Goff was off his game. He had a LOT of errant balls, particularly down the field. The good news is he generally was picking the right places to pass the ball, but way too many of them sailed on him on the shorter routes and he was under throwing the ball down the field. He also wasn’t leading his guys enough on the downfield slants. This was a pretty weak game for Goff. We’re going to need better than that to notch more wins this season.
  • Defensive conditioning is still an issue. Maybe they just need to get off the field more often, but this defense has looked really tired in the 4th quarter the last two games.
  • On the gnashing of teeth front, these refs SUCKED in the 2nd quarter. They handed CU that 4th touchdown. I’m sorry, when a runner cuts back into the field after having just barely stepped on the line, the defense has every right to hit him until a clear whistle is blown (something the ref who threw the flag would not have been able to confirm, his whistle was too far away to count for that). And the pass interference, the ball was WAY over his head. It wasn’t even close. And it looked like the WR was giving as good as he was getting in their hand game/pushes. So even if it was catch-able, it was still a marginal call. (in fairness, I think we got a makeup call in the 3rd when they picked up the pass interference flag) I also saw them miss a pretty bad face mask.
  • I’m really worried this fairly vanilla defense is going to get exploited pretty bad. We’re not doing a lot of trickery and the such. I know that they’re rebuilding and sticking to the fundamentals is a good way to get them on the right track. And maybe they’re holding a bit of their stunts and tricks for later in the season when the games get tougher and when the team is a bit more matured and ready for it. But I sure hope they’ve got more up their sleeve than what I’ve seen thus far.

Speaking more generally, we just can’t expect to win giving up 45+ points every game. The team tried to do that last year and couldn’t. If the Bears are going to win many more, it’s all on the defense.

(final note: one more post coming today… OTRH podcast)

Colorado Sunday morning key thought

(Written by Ken Crawford)

Generally, I tend to focus on the X’s and O’s, strengths and weaknesses, projections for the future and that sort of thing, but today I’m going to start with something a little different:

That was FUN!

I started going to Cal football games to do something enjoyable. Back in those days, the team averaged about 3-8, but almost all of those 3 were at home, so a little more than half the 5-6 games I saw were winners. And every victory was something to be cheered. Even the near upsets when Cal was a big underdog was a positive despite the final score not coming out right. We weren’t burdened with higher expectations or a big stadium renovation that had to be paid by lots of butts in the seats (which requires winning).

In those days, games like last night were the best sort. Flawed, exciting, unpredictable… you never knew what was going to happen. Just when you thought Cal was doomed, a big interception got them back in it. Just when you thought Cal was going to win easy, they made a mistake (like the defense giving up an all too easy fade into the endzone). And in the end, those 3 victories a year at home kept us optimistic enough in those games to keep coming back even when they lost a heart breaker.

For most of the 2nd half yesterday I was able to slip back into that mindset of old and not let the haze of “we’re barely hanging with the worst team in the conference” to spoil what was a really fun game to watch.

So my prayer for this morning is that we all are able to enjoy the games again like that.

Let Sunday and Monday be for wailing and gnashing of teeth, but Saturday is to enjoy the game.

Colorado preview

(Written by Ken Crawford)

The Colorado game is the one fans have circled as the easiest conference game on Cal’s schedule this year. Said another way, this is Cal’s most likely opportunity to get a conference game victory.

However, with Cal’s strong performance against Arizona (albeit with a very disappointing end) most Cal fans have set their sights a little higher than “let’s just win ONE conference game.” I think there are a lot of fans who assume that Saturday’s game is in the bag.

And there’s good reason to feel that way. Colorado is 2-2 with wins over 0-4 UMass and 1-3 Hawaii (their lone victory is over Northern Iowa). Not exactly overwhelming victories. Plus, Colorado lost to a pretty mediocre Colorado State game. Looking back to last season the Buffs only won one conference game. Admittedly, that one win was over Cal, but ignoring that for a moment, Colorado is clearly the weakest team in the conference.

But if you’re looking for reasons to fear Colorado it starts with who that lone conference victory was over: Cal. And for those who haven’t entirely blocked out that game, you’ll remember they didn’t just win, they handily won. After Cal tied it 10-10 midway through the 2nd quarter, Colorado all too easily scored two more touchdowns before halftime and never looked back. Cal’s two late touchdowns were after the result was no longer in question.

If we’re looking to this season, because there’s no doubt Cal is an improved team from last year, the Buffs did hang pretty well with Arizona State last week piling up significantly more yards than ASU, but got sunk by 3 turnovers. (small side note: the significance of CU holding with ASU was called into question last night when ASU let UCLA kick the ever-loving crud out of them on their home turf).

However, when one looks at Colorado games, one has to remember one huge advantage they have and that is playing at 5000 feet. It’s a tall order to make the trip up to the mountains on a Friday night and be ready to play the next day at altitude. In addition to the huge conditioning disadvantage, the ball flies differently through the thin air, disrupting the over-the-top passing game of their opponent and throwing a wrinkle into special teams.

Thus, if you look at their wins that make you think they’re better than they are, almost all of them are at home. Where did they hang with ASU? At home. Where did they beat Cal? At home. But when they play a team that also plays at altitude (Colorado State), they struggle mightily even if it’s at home.

And of course, as just stated, the Cal game was in Boulder last year.

So as much as I’d like to try to find ways to think this is going to be a tough matchup, I just can’t come up with it. Cal might have even won last year’s game if it was in Berkeley and they definitely win tomorrow in Berkeley. It might not be a huge blowout, but it will be a win. This is particularly true when one adds that Colorado struggles in the 2nd half. That’s JUST what Cal needs right now.

Cal wins going away: Cal 45, Colorado 23

Pac-12 review (4th week edition)

(Written by Ken Crawford)

The number of games was small this weekend due to a bunch of byes and more conference play (two games anyway). That also means we’ll be able to start to have meaningful games to compare against each other as conference play gets underway in earnest. In a few weeks, the picture will be a lot clearer. As for the non-conference games, the conference went 4-0, which will be all for the good in conference perception as the year goes on.

Here’s the team-by-team breakdown (in power ranking order):

  1. Oregon 38 – Washington St. 31: (Oregon entry) This is the sort of win that would cost you positions in the ranking. WSU hasn’t shown us anything yet to justify why they’d hang with the best team in the conference. However, Oregon has such a commanding lead, that they keep their spot despite the underwhelming performance.
  2. UCLA (bye) We’ll know a lot more about the top of the conference after Thursday’s game between UCLA and ASU.
  3. Arizona State (bye): Same story as UCLA. I considered moving Washington above ASU, but in the end decided to leave things as they are due to the bye.
  4. Washington 45 – Georgia State: After two weak performances to start the season UW has started to click the last two weeks. The seem to be moving toward the top of the conference. They play Stanford next week, so we’ll have a good idea of who will be the challenger to Oregon in the north in short order.
  5. Utah 26 – Michigan 10: Hold onto your horses, Utah is 3-0 and has a “marque” non-conference victory under their belt. I put that in quotes because this is not your father’s Michigan team. Nevertheless, going into the Big House and winning convincingly, particularly when you loose your starting QB for a quarter, is pretty impressive no matter how down Michigan is. So they rise a few spots. I wouldn’t bet too hard on them holding this spot though.
  6. Stanford (bye): Stanford’s opponents aren’t looking very strong as they play more games. The lone positive related game was Boston College whipping Maine 40-10, which suggests their victory over USC was not as bad as it may seem (thus Stanford’s loss to USC not as bad).
  7. Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (UA entry) What do you do with a team you think got extremely lucky in winning against a team that has sat on the lower half of the power rankings? Minus the Utah rise, I left them about where they were. You’ve got to give them props for their determination and a win like that is something that builds confidence and resolve.
  8. USC (bye) USC finds itself surprisingly low on the list, but that’s what happens when you lay and egg and then have a bye. They need to take care of business against Oregon State this weekend to get back on solid footing. Then they have a chance to rise back up the list with ASU coming to town in 2 weeks.
  9. Oregon State 28 – San Diego State 7: Oregon State has sure had a weak non-conference schedule thus far. And some of their victories weren’t all that inspiring. That includes this week’s victory over SDSU, which can most generously be called “workman like”. In any case, that’s how a 3-0 team ends up this low on the list. Never fear OSU fans, they’ve got plenty of games in short order than can send the team rising up the list quite quickly.
  10. Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (Cal entry) Cal better wins some games soon or they’re going to find themselves quickly on the bottom of the list. Seeing as their next two games are against the bottom of the list, they won’t be rising too far on the list, even with victories.
  11. Oregon 38 – Washington State 31: (WSU entry) Considered leap-frogging Cal with such a strong performance against the top team in the conference. But seeing as how WSU never meaningful led the game and basically held with Oregon and then wilted when the chips were down, it’s hard to give them too much credit. However, if they put up some victories in the near future, this Oregon loss will not count much against them.
  12. Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: Colorado seems to have the same disease Cal does. They were pretty dominant early in this one but then stalled for the rest of the game. Luckily for them Hawaii didn’t have the horsepower to make a comeback, but this wasn’t exactly a compelling win.

The list didn’t change a lot this week, but expect a lot of changes next week as the conference games take their toll.

WSU Game set for 7:30 PM on Pac-12 network

(Written by Ken Crawford)

BearTalk let’s us know what we’d expect (an off-prime-time game on Pac-12 network).

Which leads me to a question… anyone know how much data the ‘Pac-12 Now’ app will use if I watch the game on 4G?

Which games were worse?

(Written by Ken Crawford)

I’ve been thinking about when the last time the Bears lost such a heartbreaking game. Here are the candidates I came up with:

  • 2010 Washington: This is the last time I truly felt punched in the gut the way I did Saturday night. Bears were leading most of the game, but lost on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line (after having stopped the prior couple plays at the goal line).
  • 2007 Oregon State: The most iconic low moment of all the Tedford years. Riley goes down with no timeouts, Tedford throws down his headset and Cal was never the same again under Tedford.
  • 1990 Big Game: The Bears were one roughing the passer penalty from victory in the most painful Big Game loss of my lifetime. (update @ 11:45a – It was the 1990 game I was thinking of, not 1991)

There are some others out there that were painful in a number of different ways, but those sit on top for me. However, one caveat for the future leads me to believe this one may fade with time. As I reviewed the games I disqualified a number of bad losses for various reasons:

  • Cal had a shot to come-back after the disaster (2006 Arizona, etc.)
  • Games where Cal got close in the end after getting way behind early, but couldn’t get over the hump (2008 Maryland, etc.)
  • Games where Cal was the underdog (2004 USC, 2000 Big Game, etc.)

And that last one suggests there’s reason to believe this painful loss may fade with time. Cal was the underdog coming into this one. However, they weren’t a huge underdog and by the time things fell apart, I think we all felt Cal was the better team. So maybe not. Only time will tell.

Any other candidates for heartbreaking losses?

Sunday morning thoughts

(Written by Ken Crawford)

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth today!

Before I head off to Church, a few thoughts…

  • The Hail Mary was just the unfortunate end to what was an epic collapse. The offense did just about everything in their power to not this one slip away, but as Joshiemac points out, you just CAN NOT give up 36 points in the 4th quarter and expect to win. That’s on the defense.
  • In all three games we’ve played, the 3rd quarter has been when things started going wrong. Yes this week we gave up 36 points in the 4th, but I feel like when we let Arizona back in the game was in the mid-3rd quarter. So far I’ve been unimpressed with Dykes playcalling and how he’s having the team play in the 3rd. The 3rd is the time to go for the kill. Dykes appears to already be in prevent mode and it’s WAAAAY too early for that.
  • One of the things that a rebuilding team struggles with is the rare plays. The onside kicks. The Hail Mary’s. The coaching staff has much bigger fish to fry and they don’t spend a lot of time on those “extras”. I can’t fault them in principle for that. But it really, really, really hurt us. To that end…
  • When there is a Hail Mary, you DO NOT PLAY THE RECEIVER!?!?!?!?! You turn around and play the ball. All of our DB’s were playing their guys and that was COMPLETELY why the play was successful. Hail Mary balls are in the air for a long time. You just play center field and knock the ball DOWN (a reminder to Bears of the past).
  • How is it possible that the Bears played that 2nd attempt at the 1st onside kick so poorly? They already saw what AZ was going to do and yet they STILL only had 3 guys on that side of the ball. UN-BE-LEAVE-A-BULL!
  • While I can understand the thinking, when they brought in Rubenzer on that last possession, I think you hand the ball off to the guy doing the sweep. You’ve trained the defense that when Rubenzer is in, he’s going to have the ball. OK, so you’re not ready to throw in that situation (stops the clock, etc.), but the guy coming across on the sweep/distraction would have had a lot more success than he did.
  • If we got all the breaks in the 1st half (FG off the upright, etc.) we got ZERO breaks in the 2nd half. That interception was amazingly hard to comprehend. How often does that happen? With how hard it popped up, I was sure it hit the ground on 1st viewing (but it didn’t).
  • I was frustrated how close to the box the outside linebackers were playing down the stretch. We got beat on seam passes over and over, and if the OLB’s were playing wider and deeper, that entirely goes away. If I had to say the one thing that doomed us in the game, this is it. Solomon had not touch. He was only good when he could rocket the ball in on slants and seam routes. Why didn’t we clog up those lanes and take them away?
  • Also, why weren’t we switching up who was covering #1? Allensworth was struggling, so get someone else against him.

So obviously I’m frustrated. I saw so many different things in that 2nd half that really ticked me off.

But there’s a silver lining here. Cal can compete in these sorts of games. There’s a lot more winnable games down the road if the team continues to improve. My fear is this game becomes a big momentum killer. Dykes’ job is to turn this into extra motivation to go out and kick some butt. I want to see a VERY determined, ticked-off team next Saturday in Berkeley.