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Arizona preview

Today’s game is both very important (for bowl eligibility) and very dangerous. And it just got more dangerous:

We all know how much COVID shortages messed with the Bears in 2020… the big question is: Who’s out?

But the game was dangerous before that for a few reasons:

  • It’s a road conference game in a place that has always caused the Bears trouble. There’s something about Tucson. The last time the Bears won in Tucson: 2004 (That’s not a typo)
  • Winless teams are dangerous. They’re desperate for a win and they particularly bring out their best for the teams that seem vulnerable. And while the Bears play the last couple of weeks has raised the status of the team, I can guarantee you Arizona sees Cal as one of their few remaining “good” shots at a win (remaining teams: Cal, Utah, @WSU, @ASU).
  • Winless teams are lull inducing. While I’m hopeful this won’t be the case, it’s not too hard to see the Bears looking past them to the critical USC game behind it.

With that caveat aside, let’s do the common opponent analysis:

  • Both lost @ Oregon, Cal in a nailbiter, UA got blown out.
  • Arizona went to boulder and got blown out, Cal blew out Colorado at home.
  • Both lost a nailbiter to UW, Cal on the road, Arizona at home.

Only the last game suggests these might be comparable teams.

But I think this game comes down to heart. Does Cal come out ready to play and with no excuses in the back of their mind? And a big part of me thinks Wilcox has this team in a place where that’s a real possibility. I could see the Bears starting like they did against Nevada, but that being so demoralizing for a team already tempted toward despair and the Bears win a blowout.

I could also see a game where Cal comes out flat, gets down something like 10-3 at halftime and then has to battle their way back with an offense short a couple of key guys due to COVID. And I could see that not going well.

But my official prediction is that it’s a dog-fight where some might accuse the Bears of coming out flat but really it’s the missing players and Arizona coming out ready to win. But come the 4th quarter, the Bears run game wears them down and wins going away: 30-20

N. Texas Preview

One of the biggest temptations after a game like last Saturday is to presume the team will always play every bit as good as they did last week in the upcoming week. To disabuse us of that temptation, here’s some recent Cal Bear post-upset history (going backwards in time):

  • 2018 – USC win in LA Coliseum: Beat Colorado, starting out fast but almost letting them back in the game.
  • 2018 – UW win at home: Lost to WSU in a close one that hinged on an interception thrown by McIllwain as the Bears were driving for the hopeful go-ahead score.
  • 2017 – Destroyed WSU 37 – 3 at home: Lost at home in double overtime to a struggling Arizona squad
  • 2016 – Won a defensive struggle over Utah at home: Lost to Oregon State (OSU!?!) on the road in OT.
  • 2015 – Won at Texas (turns out they weren’t very good, but we thought so at the time): Beat a rebuilding UW in Seattle

Big wins get harder to come by before that for quite a while, so we’ll stop there.

But here’s what that list says to me… that the 2018 did pretty darned well by itself. UW and WSU were very equally matched teams. To lose by one score on the road and win the other by one score at home seems about right. And there was no post USC hangover, despite having reached bowl eligibility.

Before that, things get a bit more dicey. Yet what those years says to me is that when you have a mediocre team, while occasionally they over-achieve, one should expect them to return to form the following week.

So is this a mediocre team?

Hard to say at this point. But I think what they are the ‘Earn It’ team they claim to be. They come prepared the best they can every week and try their best to win every week. There may be a few teams that they don’t beat either because the bounces don’t go their way or they’re just over-matched (either that day or in general), but overall, you can expect these Bears to live up to their potential… sometimes even more.

And if that’s the case, I don’t think the North Texas fighting oil fields (OK, that’s not actually right, they’re the “Mean Green”) will stand between the Bears and victory. They just don’t have the talent to compete. They have a good Quarterback, but that’s about it. They’re particularly weak on defense.

Now, perhaps that’s the recipe for a Cal disaster. Perhaps the Cal offense can even struggle against a weak defense if they’re not bringing their A-game. Perhaps some quality QB is finally going to break through and play just about every play perfectly. But the way I see it, even if we look at the realistic worst case scenario there (minus a large turnover margin) it results in something a mid-20’s close victory for the Bears.

More likely, the Cal offensive line will just grind away at the barely-mediocre (and that’s for a group of 5 team) run defense. It may take a quarter or two, but the Bears will eventually wear them down. Plus, the Mean Green like to play man coverage, and I suspect Garbers will have more confidence picking the right receivers in that situation.

On the other side of the ball, I just don’t see them being able to beat this defense. Even in the most troubling scenario, they will dink and dunk their way down the field as Cal plays conservative. But again, I doubt they go big. And if they try to play aggressive, the confusion of the secondary will result in multiple painful turnovers for the Mean Green.

And that’s what I’m going to predict. UNT comes in and plays VERY aggressive on both sides of the ball. They sell out to try and stop the Cal run game, and while they’re somewhat successful for a couple drives, eventually exhaustion takes over and the Bears open up some big holes for some big runs and scores. On the other side, multiple interceptions from an over aggressive UNT QB gives Cal lots of short fields and maybe even some pick-6’s.

Half time score may be within a TD or two, but by the end this is a laugher: Cal 45, UNT 13

UW Preview

(Posting note: This was written around noon. For some reason it wasn’t posted. So, don’t take the 8 PM posting time as accurate.)

As my pre-season predictions showed, I wasn’t sitting on a lot of confidence about the UW game before last week’s results. From the beginning I thought that if last year’s game had been replayed numerous times, Cal would have only won the game about a quarter of the time. A lot of things went right for the Bears that afternoon and a number of things didn’t go all that well for the Huskies.

And once I think that, it’s hard to imagine that Cal has a better shot in Seattle… a VERY tough place to play. The only hope would be that the Cal offense learned a lot between last October and now and/or the UW offense is even further hampered by the loss of their long-time starting QB (Browning).

Then we all watched both teams play last weekend, against remarkably similarly leveled FCS teams. While one game can be misleading, there’s no doubt that what we saw last weekend suggests UW is the better team. UW’s new QB (transfer Jacob Eason) looks *really* good. The Husky offense was firing on all cylinders.

As for the Bears offense? They looked rusty all the way around. Garbers showed a bit more ability to read defenses, but looked slow in his evaluations. Thankfully the offensive line gave him plenty of time to make his reads. But before we get too excited about that, his passing motion looked unrefined (to be charitable) and the number of errant balls was really troubling.

Then there were the drops by the WR’s and TE. Luckily there is some hope in that the route running and separation looked better than in the past. Perhaps it just takes a week for the rust to come off.

All of that offensive hand-wringing is a long way of saying, if Cal is going to win this game, they’re going to have to win it the exact same way as last year: An incredible defensive performance with a couple of “bounces” that go the Bears way.

And between what I saw from UW’s offense and the minor troubling issues I saw on defense (lack of a D-Line push, tackling was not at the same level as last year, more open receivers than last year, etc.) I have a very hard time believing Cal shuts UW down the way it did last year.

Bears lose a frustrating one: Bears 10, UW 23.

ESPN’s short-sighted thinking

A handful of years ago, the unthinkable happened when the Rose Bowl was moved from ABC to ESPN.  I made a big stink about it at the time, and indicated it was a big mistake by the Rose Bowl committee as the key to long term success is continued visibility.  The Rose Bowl would be wiser to accept a million or two less right now by insisting that the game be on broadcast TV, because in the long run, the number of viewers will stay high and ensure that their future contracts will still be for large viewing audiences.

I stand by that analysis.

But what I didn’t think of was the impact on ESPN.  It was easy to see the short term benefit to ESPN.  They would drive up their subscriber numbers by moving more content from ABC to ESPN.  More people would bite the bullet and get a cable plan with ESPN and ESPN would make more money.

However, what I’m now learning is the long term impact works out the same way.  By moving their games to ESPN, the casual fan stops watching their games.  And since the key to long-term success is turning casual fans into hardcore fans, ESPN is ensuring themselves a shrinking fan base by putting all of their content on channels only the existing hard-core fans get.

The chickens are coming home to roost.  ESPN’s subscriber numbers are WAAAAY down.

Cal and the Pac-12 really need to get their minds around this concept.  They’re going for the short term money and they’re listening to ESPN’s short-sighted thinking.  And in doing so, they’re ensuring that the next generation of Pac-12 football fans never tune-in and never show up at the stadium.  If the conference wants long term success, the #1 criteria in their TV negotiations should be visibility (both on TV and in the stadium), not dollars.

The dollars will flow naturally over time based on that visibility.

Oregon OTRH Podcast

Sorry that this is ridiculously late, particularly for a Friday came.  I’ve had this cold I just can’t kick and it’s knocked me down pretty good.  In any case, here it is:

Forgetting why we were down 24-3?

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

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

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

It all leaves me a little bit uneasy.

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

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

Texas Preview

I did not have time to do a preview post before getting on the plane this morning, so I will make this short:

My heart says the Bears lose this one.  Just too many heartbreaking losses on these big road games to ignore.  However, when even the rental car guy here in Texas is predicting a victory, I am going to overrule my heart and believe.

Bears win: 46-23

Cal could start 5-0

I know that’s “crazy talk” but it’s not as much as one thinks once one looks at the schedule.

Do this exercise, rank from most likely to beat to least likely to beat all the teams we play. This is what I’d come up with:

  1. Stanford: Cal is not built to beat this sort of team
  2. Oregon: For obvious reasons
  3. USC: Has always had Cal’s number and the game is in LA
  4. UCLA: Would be higher if the game was in LA, but Cal seems to have good luck against UCLA in Berkeley (not that it’s likely Cal wins this one).
  5. Washington: #3 team in the north (who tends to have Cal’s number).
  6. Oregon State: #4 team in the north
  7. Washington State: #5 in the north but appears to be on the rise and game is in Pullman where Cal tends to struggle.
  8. Arizona: Cal played them close last year and they’re #4 in the south, but game is in Tucson this year.
  9. Northwestern: Cal played them competitively last year and they’re not that good.
  10. BYU: Getting worse as an independent
  11. Colorado: Game is at home this year and they’re picked #6 in south.
  12. Sac. State: Easiest game by far.

Of course one could quibble about some of the ordering, but it would be hard to debate the general grouping (won’t beat Stanford, OU, USC, UCLA and UW; OSU and WSU are beatable but we’re underdogs; UA, Northwestern, BYU and Colorado are more beatable; and Sac State better be a gimmie.). And I think most would agree that while we probably don’t beat all of them, each of the bottom 6 teams are vulnerable and Cal has a shot at them.

Well, the 1st 5 games of the season are against those bottom 6, minus BYU. And if you’re not up for 5-0, the likely hardest one, a trip to WSU, is the 5th game, so 4-0 is not out of the question.

And it’s important to NEVER forget that key thing in football: momentum. Let’s say Cal goes and beats Northwestern. Then they come home and beat Sac State. Think about how much more confident that team is going into Arizona, particularly if UA loses to Nevada the week before. So Cal plays the game they couldn’t finish off in 2013 and are now 3-0 with Colorado coming to town, who could be as bad off as 1-3 at that point (more likely 2-2). So again, Cal wins, and they’re 4-0 heading to Pullman, a team that has two very losable non-conference games and Oregon before going to Utah, a game they could easily lose, so they could be 1-4 (but more likely 3-2). Who says the Bears won’t have the confidence to go win that one at that point? And when you’re 5-0, all of a sudden those games nobody thought you could win feel a lot more winnable.

What’s scary to me is it all seems predicated on going to Chicago and beating Northwestern. The Bears had better win that one, or rebound REALLY quickly and beat two of Colorado, Arizona and WSU (in addition to beating Sac State).

Because if they don’t, the rest of the schedule is full of those teams we don’t have a shot at… until we get to BYU at the end of the season.

USC OTRH Podcast

It looks like Thursday is my day. Here it is:

ARG!?! Comments re-enabled AGAIN

Generally I’m quite happy with WordPress, but there’s something about my installation that constantly causes me trouble. It randomly, without permission, changes the rules for comments so that you have to be a registered user to comment a handful of times a year. Seeing as how I’m the only registered user, it means that when this happens no one can comment and I never know it because I can always comment.

Commenting is turned back on. Sorry about that.

Oregon State OTRH Podcast

Late as per usual. But here it is:

CGB hacked?

Did a Northwestern fan/student (or perhaps Washington), hack the site? Why is their background now purple?

Fire Tedford


It may be a bit small to see in the picture, but that is $137 with my Cal hat and the ticket to the Utah game. It is what I brought on the trip for incidentals. It looks like I’ll have at least $120 left when I return home. However much is left I am donating to the Fire Tedford fund. Maybe the big donors are tapped out, but we can do this $100 at a time if we need to.

Predictions for the rest of the season

Here are my predictions for the rest of the season based on yesterday’s game:

  • ASU will fade after getting to 5-1 next week at Colorado. They’ll then lose 4 in a row (OU, UCLA, @OSU, @USC) and will finish either 7-5 or 6-6 depending on whether they can win their rivalry game. Heck, depending on whether WSU can get their scheme’s to click by mid-November, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities ASU doesn’t get bowl eligible (but they do).
  • The Bears will lose the majority of the rest of their games, however, they will beat at least one team that will surprise everyone. There’s too much talent on this team and for at least one game they’ll put it all together and beat Stanford or Oregon or OSU or Washington.
  • Final record: 4-8
  • Maynard will start the rest of the season.
  • Kline will never play. There’s NO WAY Tedford burns his redshirt over this. Heck, he might be under explicit orders from Sandy to not burn his redshirt at this point.
  • Bigelow will not see meaningful playing time at any point this season. Who ever of Isi and CJ who’s more likely to get 1,000 yards will get the majority of caries down the stretch.
  • Maynard will be locking on Keenan Allen even more so than in the past. They’ve got to get him to the NFL and he needs stats to make that happen.
  • Whoever is head coach next year will be in a GREAT situation for 2013 and will immediately turn the team around. (I’m not speaking to their longer prospectus, just 2013.)

Others care to share their predictions?

Nevada preview

(Side note: Sorry that my nice plan for a post-a-day of the 4-part series didn’t quite go as planned. My plan was Monday-Thursday on that and Friday would be for previews and the such. Unfortunately, both of the first two posts took a LONG time to put together, researching all the facts that I wanted to make sure were accurate and finding all the links I wanted.)

There’s two very different ways to look at the Nevada game:

The Old Blues are quaking in their boots right now. We got “destroyed” by the Pistol in 2010 and it was a blowout. Nevada has a QB who lit up the 2nd half of last year and if UCLA’s game last year showed anything, we haven’t figured out how to prepare for the pistol yet.

The less pessimistic know just how special the 2010 Nevada team was. Colin Kaepernick is currently the #2 QB at the 49ers and was the core of that team. Yeah, the new guy looks more than capable, but he’s no Kaepernick. That 2010 team went 11-1, beating unbeaten Boise State and upsetting their national title/BCS hopes in the process. All around, it was a special year for Nevada. 2011, was a return to what is normally considered good for Nevada, 7-5, with wins over Fresno State (much tighter than Cal’s win over them) and Hawaii and losses at the end of the season to Louisiana Tech and Utah State.

What’s also worth remembering was that the 2010 game was a lot closer than people remember it. Cal had pulled to within 3 points midway through the 3rd quarter and had all the momentum when Riley threw a really stupid interception for a touchdown. Cal still managed to kick a field goal later in the 3rd quarter to make it a 7 point game, but as the altitude wore on the defense Nevada put the game away midway through the 4th quarter and added a late TD to make the score worse than it was.

I feel confident that if that game was played at sea level, the Bears had better than a 50/50 shot at winning, even with a home Nevada crowd. Much better than that in Berkeley. Heck, even just moving the game to Saturday to give the Bears an extra night to acclimate might have made the difference.

Thus, I predict 3 things for this afternoon’s game:

  1. Cal’s defense will stifle Nevada. Any thoughts that Cal hasn’t figured out the Pistol will permanently be put to rest as Pendergast has had all off-season to clean up any remnants of problems.
  2. Cal’s offense will move the ball with easy. Heck, even in 2010 they put up 31 points, and that was with Nevada holding on to the ball a lot.
  3. The magnitude of the potential blowout will be covered up by a heavy dose of Isi and CJ. They’re going to wear down Nevada much like they did against WSU and OSU last season.

Final score: Cal 38, Nevada 16

Bears practice in Memorial for first time

A day after first anticipated, but days earlier than more recently projected, the Bears practiced for the first time in the renovated Memorial Stadium today.

I’ve been holding off on my renovated Memorial Stadium opus until closer to the first game, so I’ll be brief today…

This is a great day for Cal football. We are officially home. The tree-sitter protest started on December 2nd, 2006, so it’s been nearly 6 years that the team has been in some state of dislocation/disruption. All of that ends today and I find myself surprisingly emotional about it.

I went back to verify that it was indeed 12/2/06, because I took pictures. In my date-ordered picture archive, just before the tree-sitter pictures but on the same day were pictures of my kids at the FunZone before the game. Here’s a picture of my eldest son on that day next to a picture of him taken recently:
Gregory in 2006 and now in 2012
(Gregory as a spunky 3 1/2 year old when the tree-sitter protest started in December, 2006 and as a nearly 9 year old 1st Communicant in April, 2012)

Yeah, it’s been that long…

Personally, I feel like the kid on the left today. We’re coming out of a very dark tunnel and it’s as exciting as can be!

(More to come on just how long it’s been.)

Holiday trip report – pregame

We’ve got the family down in San Diego, well a suburb anyway. We drove down the afternoon of the 26th when the 5 month old went down for her afternoon nap. The one thing we didn’t anticipate was how bad the traffic on I-5 was going to be. Once the Bay Area traffic merged in at I-580 it was slow down after slow down for the next 100 miles. It was particularly bad at the point the San Jose crowd joins in.

We stopped for dinner in Coalinga, far earlier than expected because the slow downs had the baby up from her nap earlier than expected (and of course also we weren’t as far down the road due to the traffic).

To pile on to our misfortune, a bus load of people (literally, as in a tour group) were in front of us in line at the Burger King. Not being in a mood to stew in line, I checked the drive through line and noticed it was pretty short. I left the family inside, got into the minivan, got food from the drive through and brought it inside all before half the bus load was served.

Things improved dramatically from there. The kids got a chance to stretch out for a while and when we got back into the car the trafficked subsided dramatically. We made great time from there the only hiccup being my falling for the old cash price scam at the gas station. We got into San Diego at 11:30 PM, which is right about when we had hoped to, so we made pretty good time on the second half of the trip.

Yesterday we went to the San Diego Safari Park, not to be confused with the zoo down town. I think it is actually nicer than the zoo because of all the open areas for the animals. All 4 kids really liked it. We even saw some Texas fans dressed head to toe in Texas gear. I assume that was so they wouldn’t be captured and thrown back in the gorilla pen by mistake.

Today is game day. We’ll be heading to the stadium around noon with the hope of of having the tailgate fully operational by 1 PM.

As for the game itself, the more I think about it, I think it will come down to the quarterbacks. I don’t see either team establishing a run game if their passing game isn’t working. What I’ve seen of the Texas QBs and how I’ve seen Maynard improve gives me confidence that the Bears have a better than 50% shot at winning this one.

Posts coming…

After mass/church obligations:

  • On the road home podcast will be posted
  • First thoughts on the game
  • Re-watch/review of the game in the evening

Into the valley of death (EMFMV 2010 #8)

Cal wins a road game! For its next trick, how about playing top-ranked Oregon? Jason and Ken return with thoughts about Washington State, a preview of Saturday’s Oregon game (including how Cal can win! yes, we’re insane), bowl scenarios, Pac-12 scheduling, and more.

You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Identify the “secret word,” win a no-prize.

A bunch of kids tried their best (EMFMV 2010 #7)

Jason and Ken return with thoughts about the Oregon State loss, a preview of Saturday’s must-win Washington State game, a salute to Kevin Riley, a digression about what’s fair to criticize about college athletes and what isn’t, and much more. Also, Jason is loopy because he had just spent the day at the Giants parade. Cal’s Rose Bowl berth, you are OFFICIALLY on the clock.

You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Say the secret word, win a no-prize.