Cal Football and anything that relates

Archive for the ‘Bowls/BCS’ category

Big news!

Two big pieces of news came in through the beat-writers for Cal yesterday:

  1. “First and foremost, coach Jeff Tedford announced that wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan, as well as free safety Thomas DeCoud, will not start today’s Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force because they violated team rules.”
  2. “backup quarterback Kevin Riley will see some limited playing time today. Tedford said Riley will probably play a series or two, because he wants to get him some experience in a bowl game.”

The first item I doubt will have a substantial impact on the game outside of a series or two. I suspect Tedford will put them back in pretty quickly as the infraction was “minor” according to Tedford. The more important aspect of this news is that it reinforces the idea that the 2007 Bears had crushing team chemistry and leadership problems down the stretch. I’m sorry, on teams that have good team leaders, you don’t get players breaking team rules enough so that the coach pulls them as a starter in their bowl game. That’s a sign of a coach and players not being on the same page.

The second news falls into the “Too little too late category”. While I haven’t been one to say that Longshore should be benched, I have been one to say that in the last few games of the season, Tedford should have been getting Riley playing time so that he’d be in a far better position to compete for the starting job in 2008. It sounds like Tedford is figuring that out now.

Bowl game preview

While I haven’t been blogging due to the birth of my third son, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about the Bears, their collapse and the upcoming bowl game. The more I thought about it, the more I realized a singular truth: The Bear’s success and failure have nothing to do with their opposition and everything to do with themselves and their own effort.

I could spend a ton of paragraphs talking about the triple option, but Ragnarok did a great job of it here. I could go over the Bears struggles against it in 2002 and their success against it in 2004. I could talk about the new aspects of Air Force’s attack including a more balanced attack. I could talk about Air Force’s mediocre to good defense and their weak schedule. But all of that, while usually important in previewing a game, is pretty much meaningless for the bowl game.


Because everything important is about the Bears getting their mojo back. The Bears have the potential to be great on both sides of the ball. If you’re worried that the Bears can’t play assignment defense, I’ve got some game film from the Oregon game to show you. If you’re worried the Bears can’t play the physical ball needed to beat a disciplined defense, I’ve got more game film from the Tennessee game to show you. But the problem is the team that beat both Tennessee and Oregon is the same team that more recently stunk it up against Washington who’s usually pathetic defense looked world class against the Bears and Stanford in a game that was as depressingly mediocre as the bowl the Bears have sunk to.

So, do the Bears get their mojo back? I think the honest answer is that I have no idea. That said, here’s my list of reasons why they may:

  • The report from beat writers like Jonathan Okanes is that the Bears practices have gotten back to the fun yet intense mode they were in fall practice.
  • The month break can heal a lot of emotional wounds
  • The month break can heal a lot of physical wounds
  • The time off gave Tedford and staff to focus on the lack of team chemistry that is hard to spend time on when practices are focused on game-planning.
  • Seniors want to go out on a good note
  • It’s the Bears last chance to prove themselves
  • The Bears seem to play better when they’re the underdog, something they’ve rarely been despite the tumble

On the other hand, there’s a few reasons that it may not happen:

  • Team chemistry is a difficult thing to repair no matter how much time is allowed
  • Almost nothing has changed since the Big Game (like injured players who are now available)
  • Lack of confidence can be masked for a while, but often re-appears at the first sign of adversity

So which Bears will show up tomorrow?

I’d like to believe that whatever has been wrong with the Bears will have been patched during the break but after listening to myself and my Big Game podcast it may just be that the passing of time helps one to forget just how bad the collapse has been. Add in that having a baby makes everything in the world look more rosy and I don’t trust my desire to be confident. Maybe it’s best summed up by the phrase…

The Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die… but the Bear does worry.

Road Trip to Fort Worth! Who’s With Me?

Cal will be playing in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in the ancestral homeland of Justin Forsett on New Year’s Eve. And who doesn’t love a helicopter?

The guy who sits behind me at Cal games is from Dallas, works for American Airlines, and flies in to all the home games. I suspect he’ll be cheering the Bears on, along with Forsett’s entire family.

Any guesses about how many other Cal fans will actually take the trip? I’d do it if you paid me… paid me large sums of money. But otherwise, um, I don’t think so.

Update on Bears in Bowl

Well the Thanksgiving weekend didn’t do any favors to Cal fans hoping for a good bowl. Although only two of the four criteria that would prevent the Bears from going to a bowl were even “in play” neither of them went the way of the Bears. Oregon’s loss to UCLA both hurt the likelihood that two teams make it to the BCS by effectively eliminating Oregon from consideration and ensured that UCLA would be bowl eligible since they now have 6 wins. It also means that UCLA still has a shot at 7 wins, which means they could still go to a higher bowl than the Bears, even if the Bears beat Stanford.

In fact, the only thing that went the Bears way was USC beating ASU as that ensured that both ASU and USC are still candidates for BCS bowls. The likely scenario at this point, assuming they both win their last game, is USC in the Rose and ASU in the Fiesta, particularly if Missouri beats Oklahoma in the Big-12 championship game giving the Fiesta bowl two at-large spots since Missouri will go to the BCS championship game.

What this all means is that if the Bears collapse continues in the Big Game, the Bears bowl fate rests in the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils. If they can beat Arizona, they’ll ensure Cal goes to a bowl by keeping Arizona from bowl eligibility. They’ll also bump the Bears up to either the Las Vegas Bowl or the Emerald “San Francisco Nut” Bowl by winning convincingly enough to ensure a Fiesta Bowl birth for themselves (otherwise it is the Armed Services Bowl in Forth Worth-”less”, TX for the Bears).

But lets not forget that all the Bears need to do is beat Stanford to go to a bowl. If the Bears win, the outcome of the Arizona-Arizona State game is only about positioning within the bowl line-up. Additionally, again assuming the Bears win, the outcome of the USC-UCLA game matters as well for positioning as a UCLA loss would mean the Bears go to a higher bowl than UCLA.

So those are your rooting orders for next Saturday:

  1. Root for Cal over Stanford (duh)
  2. Root for ASU over Arizona
  3. Root for USC over UCLA (I know it’s hard, but try anyway)

Will the Bears be bowl-less?

Ragnarok over at California Golden Blogs has been doing a great series on the probabilities of which bowl Cal ends up in. One of the possibilities is “no bowl”. The point of this post is to re-phrase the good work he has done in scenarios instead of percentages.

UPDATE at 7:30 AM on 11/20/07: I’ve been unsure about a rule that I heard about 7-5 vs. 6-6 teams and so I didn’t include it. Ragnarok found it and it can be located here on page 9 (although for 2006, one has to believe it applies to 2007). As such, it adds another criteria to avoid missin a bowl:

For Cal to end up not going to a bowl game, ALL of the following must happen:

  1. Arizona must be bowl eligible
  2. Cal must lose the Big Game (added on update)
  3. UCLA must be bowl eligible
  4. The Pac-10 must send only one team to a BCS bowl game

Breaking those down, Arizona has one game left against Arizona State that they must win to be bowl-eligible. They’ll of course be the underdog. Computers and others who don’t know the subtle details might think that Arizona, although an underdog, has a good shot at beating ASU, particularly after Oregon lost to Arizona having previously beat ASU. What that fails to consider is that Oregon lost their star QB during the Arizona game and their team completely fell apart. Also, ASU was in Oregon and Arizona was in Tuscon. Finally, the game is at ASU’s home stadium, so I don’t give Arizona much of a chance. In any case, whatever the odds, if ASU wins that game, the Bears are in a bowl no matter what.

Similar to Arizona being bowl eligible is Cal losing the Big Game. If Cal wins the Big Game, they’ll go to a bowl over any 6-6 team because of the above noted rule. Since the best Arizona could do is 6-6, if Cal wins the Big Game, they have to be selected before Arizona and therefore will go to a bowl game. This logic also applies to UCLA if they are 6-6. (Paragraph added on update)

UCLA has two games left and is 5-5 making them less clear cut than Arizona. With two games left they only have to win one to be bowl eligible at 6-6. However those games are against what have been the toughest teams in the Pac-10, Oregon and USC. I give UCLA almost zero chance against USC in the Coliseum, but the big catch here is that Oregon, who I’d normally say would blow away UCLA, has lost Dixon, their star QB. This is the big variable that is nearly impossible to predict. It’s definitely the “risky” of the two games. In any case, if UCLA loses both of these, which is definitely within the realm of possibility, Cal goes to a bowl.

As for the BCS bowls, this is the biggest unknown of the three criteria. Of course the Pac-10 gets one for sure, the Rose Bowl. Assuming ASU can’t win out and leapfrog enough teams to get into the championship game, what we’re talking about is the winner of the Pac-10 going to the Rose Bowl and likely the Fiesta Bowl liking a second Pac-10 team for their at-large berth(s). There are too many different scenarios to play out here and be comprehensive but the way I see it, if there are two 2-loss Pac-10 teams, the Pac-10 will get two BCS berths. The three candidates for that are Oregon, who has games left against UCLA and OSU, USC, who has games against ASU and UCLA and ASU, who has games against USC and Arizona. If you want to root for the scenario with the most opportunities for two 2-loss teams, root for USC to beat ASU who is currently a 1-loss team to date and then for those three teams to win the rest of their games. In that scenario Oregon ends up in the Rose Bowl because they win the Pac-10 tie-breakers and ASU is a VERY tempting opportunity for the Fiesta and USC is always a favorite for every BCS game. I could see them getting an offer from any of the four. (Please note that the BCS can only take two teams from each conferences, so all 3 can’t go.)

You’ll notice that both Arizona and UCLA factor into how many 2-loss or better teams there are. Because of this it’s tempting to view the first two criteria as mutually exclusive to the third. While there is definitely a lot of overlap, it is possible for the Pac-10 to have two 2-loss teams with both UCLA and Arizona being bowl eligible. The scenario is a USC meltdown: USC loses to both ASU and UCLA. That way ASU still has a game to lose be a 2-loss team (Arizona’s needed win) and Oregon can wins out (thus beating UCLA) without preventing UCLA from being bowl eligible. While it’s a bit odd, it’s not out of the realm of possibility and is a wonderful scenario for USC haters.

Whatever the scenario, if the Pac-10 gets two BCS bowls, even if both Arizona and UCLA are bowl eligible, Cal will get a bowl.

As for the scenarios where Cal doesn’t end up in the Armed Services Bowl in Fort Worth, TX, basically if two or three of the above criteria work out the way of Cal it’ll bump Cal up to either the Vegas or the Emerald “San Francisco Nut” Bowl depending on how the chips fall. Since the scenarios where only one of the three criteria come true seem to be small because of the BCS bid overlap, it seems likely that Cal will be in either the Las Vegas or Nut Bowl or sitting at home by my counting.

Rose Bowl selection rules

The more I read people’s comments, the more surprised I am about how little so many people know about the Rose Bowl selection process. So here goes:

  1. The Rose Bowl selects the winner of Pac-10 and the winner of the Big-10.
  2. The Pac-10 champion is determined by whoever has the highest winning percentage in their Pac-10 conference games (or said another way whoever has the most Pac-10 wins (assuming everyone plays their full Pac-10 schedule)).
  3. If two teams are tied for the highest winning percentage, the winner of their matchup wins the tie-breaker.
  4. If three or more teams are tied, if one team has beat all of the others amongst the tied teams, it wins the tie-breaker.
  5. If three or more teams are tied and none of them has beat all of the other tied teams, the team with the best record against the tied teams wins the tie-breaker. If two or more teams are tied for the best record, the lower teams are eliminated and tie-breakers number three and four are re-tried. (BTW, this tie-breaker only really matters if 4 or more teams are tied (assuming everyone plays their full Pac-10 schedule) so it can likely be ignored).
  6. If the above tie-breakers still do not break the tie, whoever lost to the highest place team in the Pac-10 is eliminated and the above tie-breakers are re-tried. (This one is best explained by an example: If Cal, USC and Oregon are tied because Oregon beats USC but losses to Washington and Cal loses to USC, whichever of Stanford (USC’s loss), Oregon State (Cal’s loss) and Washington (Oregon’s loss) finished higher in the Pac-10 will determine who is eliminated from the tie-breaker. If Stanford was that team, USC would be eliminated and Cal would go to the Rose Bowl based on the head-to-head tie-breaker over Oregon.)
  7. If after all of the above tie-breakers are exhausted, the team with the highest BCS ranking goes to the Rose Bowl.

I have ignored who goes to the Rose Bowl in the case that the Rose Bowl has an at-large berth due to one or both of the Big-10 and Pac-10 champion going to the BCS championship game… perhaps I’ll do that in another post if it looks like it will at all be of issue down the road.

The key things to remember off the top of your head is that it is still the Pac-10 champion who goes irrelevant of low BCS rankings (although a top-2 ranking of course changes things) and the tie-breakers for the Pac-10 representative in the Rose Bowl when there are co-champions are the traditional ones (head to head matchups first). If you don’t remember all the complicated 3-way and beyond tie-breakers, I wouldn’t worry about it, but people need to know the simple stuff.

The final note, and the reason I felt the need to write this, is that assuming no Pac-10 team goes to the BCS title game, it’s very unlikely at this point that the BCS rankings will determine who from the Pac-10 is in the Rose Bowl at this point particularly since the teams expected to be on top at the end of the season have lost to different teams down in the Pac-10 standings.

(For those who are interested, the Pac-10′s document on how the Rose Bowl representative is picked can be found here.)

Cal still in top 10… #12 in BCS

OK, let me make one thing clear. I’m not going to get into a ranking debate with anyone:

  • I’m not going to discuss whether our loss is higher quality than other top 10 teams.
  • I’m not going to discuss whether our wins are higher quality than other top 10 teams.
  • I’m not goint to discuss why Cal is #14 in the computers.
  • I’m not going to mention how Cal should be in front of Oregon since we BEAT them and are both 5-1. (OK, maybe that one I’ll make my point just once, but that’s it)

Nope, consider this a ranking debate free zone. All I want to discuss is whether the Bears have what it takes to beat ASU and USC as well as take care of business versus UCLA, Washington, WSU and Stanford… because that’s all that matters for going to the Rose Bowl.

Stinking San Jose St.

I was channel surfing this evening when I came across the Hawaii at San Jose St. game on ESPN. It was early in the 4th quarter and SJ St. was up 35-21. Could this be the final nail in the coffin for the final non-BCS team that still has a shot at a BCS game? I mean, I’m fairly confident that Hawaii will trip up at some point this season and won’t be able to pull a Utah or Boise St. but it’s always nice to see that happen sooner rather than later.

So I got pretty excited.

Well I don’t know what SJ St. had done earlier in the game to be up in the 4th quarter (actually, I do: 4 Hawaii interceptions), but what I witnessed was one of the most pathetic yet predictable collapses in recent memory. How does 3 and out, give up a surprisingly easy TD, 2 and fumble, give up a surprisingly easy TD and then completely lack the ability to get in field goal range before going to OT where you give up another surprisingly easy TD and then throw a INT two plays later, sound to you?

I wish I hadn’t seen it at all because I hate getting my hopes up only to see them dashed in a, and sorry for lacking better vocabulary but these are the most appropriate words, pathetic yet surprisingly easy and predictable collapse.