(Written by kencraw)
I re-watched last year’s ASU game to help give me some better perspective on tomorrow’s game. For those who don’t remember, Cal started off last years game very cold. I mean that both metaphorically and physically. It was freezing at last year’s game!
But in addition to us all freezing in the stands and on the field, the Bears spotted ASU a 24-3 lead in the mid-2nd quarter. Nothing went right for the Bears early, including a botched punt reception that resulted in an easy TD for ASU. Goff was uncharacteristically inaccurate, particularly on his long passes and the ASU blitz heavy defense kept the offense otherwise off balance. It was ugly!
Luckily, almost the entire rest of the game went like this: Cal TD, ASU field-goal… Cal TD, ASU field-goal… over and over and over. Cal just didn’t have the man-power to stop the ASU running game without committing too many men to the box. And when the committed too many men to the box, ASU beat them with the deep pass. So Cal just kept everything in front of them until they got into the redzone and then forced ASU to settle for field goals. On the other side of the ball, Goff got his accuracy back, and Cal torched ASU again and again and again for 6 TD drives in 7 possessions to finish the game (minus the field goal to win it as time expired).
So does that tell us about this year’s game?
ASU has their run game working just as well as last year, perhaps even better. The difference is that Bercovici is no longer under center and Manny Wilkins is pretty inexperienced. His stats thus far suggest he’s accurate with his short passes (66% completion percentage) but doesn’t rack up the yards (795 yards per game against pretty weak opponents). This will allow the Cal defense to press a lot more and keep their men up in the box to defend against the run.
So here’s the question… how does ASU’s run game compare to Texas and SDSU? There’s no doubt that Cal gave up a lot of rushing yards against those teams, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like it was the run game that was the deal breaker for Cal. SDSU got enough mistakes out of Cal that they could play out their rushing game hand and win the game, but if Cal doesn’t make the plethora of mistakes it made, Cal wins that one too. And of course Texas put up a lot of yards too, but they couldn’t keep up with the Bears.
Is ASU’s rushing game that much more dominant?
I don’t think so, and that’s why I think the Bears are going to win this one. ASU’s defense is pretty weak and Webb and company should be able to do their usual ‘Drop 50′ that they do when they face a susceptible defense. But I don’t think we’re going to see the ASU offense dominate THAT much with the run game.
Cal wins by more than people would think: Bear 52, ASU 38