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Archive for January, 2009

Emerald Bowl Articles

(Somehow, the below post never got published back in December, even though I wrote it on 12/29. I wanted to make sure I published it for historical record purposes, so I can keep track of all my published articles at here.)

Here are links to the two articles I wrote for for the bowl game:

Simply the Best
Cal’s Defense Comes Through Once More

They are both subscription articles.

Wrapping up bowl season

I do this post every year, comparing the conferences and their performance iin the bowl games. See here for last year’s post and note that I don’t always rate the Pac-10 that highly.

  1. Pac-10: 5-0
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • USC dismantled Penn St. in a game not as close as the score
    • Oregon eventually outpaced Oklahoma state
    • Cal out-ran Miami in defensive affair
    • Arizona out-muscled Utah runner up BYU
    • Oregon State shutdown Pittsburg despite lack of offense

    Anytime a conference goes undefeated it is pretty impressive. If there is a flaw here it is that the Pac-10’s schedule was pretty weak. If Oregon could have beaten someone like Penn St. and USC had beat either Oklahoma or Florida, it would have been more impressive.

  2. SEC: 6-2
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • Florida handled Oklahoma
    • Geogia controlled Michigan St.
    • Mississippi beat Texas Tech in a shootout
    • LSU destroyed Georgia Tech
    • Vanderbuilt held off Boston College
    • Kentucky survived East Carolina
    • South Carolina got blown out by Iowa
    • Alabama got thrashed by non-BCS Utah

    Some wouldn’t put the Alabama loss to Utah at the bottom of the list arguing that Utah finished #2, but I scoff at #2 Utah. They struggled with Oregon State and BYU. At the same time Alabama went UNDEFEATED in season play in the mighty SEC. Sorry, that’s a big hit no matter which way you slice it to the SEC. Luckily for the SEC, they’ve got some big wins over good teams, particularly the BCS championship game and solid victories over Texas Tech and Michigan St. to balance things out.

  3. Big-12: 4-3
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • Texas won “last possesion wins” battle over Ohio State
    • Nebraska beat Clemsen with 2nd half comeback
    • Kansas out hustled Minnesota
    • Missouri needed comeback to beat Northwestern in overtime
    • OK St. couldn’t keep pace with Oregon
    • Oklahoma was slightly overmatched against Florida
    • Texas Tech lost a shootout to Mississippi

    I felt all season that the Big 12 was the most over-rated conference in the country and the bowl season proved this out. This isn’t to say they’re horrible, just that they weren’t the jaugernaut everyone claimed they were with the most potent offenses in the country. Really, it was the conference with the weak defenses where the only team that was able to have a notable win was Texas who barely beat a fairly impotant Ohio State. Nevertheless, going 4-3, I can’t put them in the bottom half particularly with the tough schedule.

  4. Big East: 4-2
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • Rutgers asserted themselves over N.C. St.
    • West Virginia came back to beat North Carolina
    • South Florida destroyed Memphis
    • Connecticut handily beat Buffalo
    • Cincinnati was no match for Virginia Tech
    • Pittsburg could find any offense against Oregon State

    4-2 is not bad if it was not for the opponents. 2 of their 4 wins were over non-BCS schools and not particularly good ones at that. The other two wins were over middle of the conference BCS teams. Finally the two losses were to two teams that really should have been beat. Oregon State was in shambles offensively and Virginia Tech is one of the weakest ACC champs in a long time.

  5. Big-10: 1-6
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • Iowa dominated South Carolina
    • Ohio State couldn’t get last possession against Texas
    • Northwestern fell short in overtime against strong Missouri
    • Penn St. dismantled but resiliant against awesome USC
    • Michigan St. couldn’t handle a strong Georgia
    • Minnesota had no answer for Kansas spread
    • Wisconson destroyed by mediocre Florida St.

    Luckily for the Big-10, nobody thought much of them this season so their abysmal post-season record isn’t as troublesome. If the Big-10 has something going for it, it’s that it played all most all of the country’s best teams. With some lighter matchups they might have reached .500.

  6. ACC: 4-6
    (in order of impressiveness)
    • Florida St. ripped Wisconson
    • Virginia Tech. shutdown Cincinnati
    • Wake Forest rallied past Navy
    • Maryland outscored Nevada
    • UNC couldn’t hold off West Virginia
    • Miami’s 4th quarter turnover gave game to Cal
    • Boston College lost on llate Vanderbilt FG
    • Clemson couldn’t stay with Nebraska
    • Georgia Tech got destroyed by clicking LSU
    • North Carolina St. lost to lowly Rutgers

    On the one hand, that’s a lot of losses to a lot of mediocre teams. On the other hand, they did have to play 10 games. Imagine if the Pac-10 had to play 8 or 9 bowl games… there would be some losses on the bottom. Add in that there were a lot of close losses and it’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for the ACC. A few better bounces of the ‘old oblong and they might have been 7-3. Nevertheless I think what sinks the ACC is the lack of impressive wins to offset the many losses. Really, the ACC probably had the weakest bowl schedule, well, except for the Big East’s amazingly weak schedule, and they still couldn’t get to .500.

Overall, there’s not a single conference who’s performance struck me as dominating and deserving of bragging rights. The bottom 3 continue to lose ground on the top 3 conferences. While the Big-12’s performace was nothing impressive, it was a far cry from the performance of the bottom 3. As for the Pac-10, even one loss with it’s weak schedule would have dropped it from the top of my rankings for the bowl games. It’s not like it was the most impressive undefeated run through the bowls. Nevertheless, undefeated is undefeated and without a strong challeng from the SEC who’s record is not exactly spotless even when ignoring the two losses, the Pac-10 gets the nod.

What’s the goal?

(This post is a bit of a “brain dump” because I don’t know exactly what I want to say, but I feel oddly compelled to write it)

What’s the goal of Cal Football? Or perhaps more precisely what is each of our desire for Cal football?

Of course one could easily just resort to an answer like ‘to win the Rose Bowl’. Of course you can substitute or add your favorite level of on-the-field success whether that be as lofty as a national championship or meek as bowl appearances most years.

But why? What’s the point of all of this? What do we accomplish by seeing the team win? I mean, I don’t personally achieve anything, with the possible exception of perserverence, by watching Cal football games every year until they accomplish the above determined goal. So is it just a desire for the emotional high of witnessing something you’ve been desiring for years? And if it is, what are we willing to sacrifice to get that emotional high?

In thinking about this I started thinking about the sacrifices I’m making for this goal. For starters, every year I give a couple thousand dollars to the program so that I can sit in the stands and witness the specticle. For my family, it’s a HUGE percentage of our entertainment budget, so much so that it creates a minor strain come budget time. (Have I mentioned how much I love my wife and how supportive she is of my desires?)

But it’s not just money. There’s time, the 100’s of hours that have been poored into this blog over the last few years and in the side-job of writing for Rivals to get press passes and access to the players. Not to mention the time of actually going to the games or making time to watch them on TV when I don’t go to the games. Plus the wear and tear on my cars, which I put over 9000 miles on this year chasing the Bears around. Then there’s the emotional investment, that my heart genuinely hurts when I witness a heart-breaking game. There’s the hours I spending thinking about the games and the team.

So what is it that I desire for these sacrifices?

One thing my mind continually drifts to is the joy of taking my family to the games. It’s something that my boys and I cherish as a common activity. Some people go hiking or take the boat out on the lake. My family goes to Bears games. I must admit that this portion of it is huge for me. It’s a family activity, one we can cherish for years.

But the reality is that it was just as much a family activity when the Bears were 3-8 or even the dreaded 1-10. As such, it’s clearly not sufficient that the team just show up on Saturday and play. I enjoy myself a great deal more these days despite the fact that I’m not as close to the 50 yard line as I was 10 years ago and I have far less room than I ever did before.

So winning is important, there is no doubt about that.

But what else is important? Just that the games are fun to watch? How about the players and the coaches? What matters about them? Just that they win? Or perhaps just that the games are fun? What about integrity? What about promoting the school? What about giving 85 kids scholarships (really it’s more than that as the football program funds a bunch of other sports programs too), many of whom would have trouble affording college otherwise? What about the academic exemption that allow kids with less than perfect grades to attend Cal, is that important?

The more I think about it, the more I think it is a huge ball of intertwined spaghetti that can not be pulled apart. It’s ALL of it. It’s about family and about the team. It’s about winning and having a good time. It’s about the school and the fans. It’s about helping the players/students and about asking for something from them. It’s about all of us being part of something that is bigger than ourselves, something collective for us to put our hopes and desires into.

I guess my overall point is that while I like a winning Cal football team, it’s just as important to me that Tedford is a class act and that the kids playing on the field are getting a real education. It’s important that it build up the University. And to repeat, it is important that the team strive to win and take the steps to evolve and improve itself so that it does win in the long term. We all want a Rose Bowl before we die…

…but let’s not forget that’s not all we want.


Off-season blogging plans

Well, the football season is over. Here’s my off-season blogging plans:

  • Handful of season wrap-up articles in next few weeks
  • Pickup 2007 “looking back” posts on 2007 games, starting in February
  • coverage of signing day and the 2009 recruiting class
  • Cover spring ball/practice
  • Do a complete 2008 “looking back” series probably starting in April/May
  • When I feel like it, cover some basketball

So, you should see a post about once a week or so, but it won’t be nearly that consistent with some heavy sections and some light sections.

Just an FYI.

Pac-10 on top!

Well, with USC’s win over Penn St., the Pac-10 completed their sweep of the bowl games. True, not every game was a thing of beauty and not every opponent was each conference’s best, but the reality is that every conference will have that caveat to their performances.

All of those things aside, the Pac-10 is the only conference that went undefeated this bowl season (although many conferences still have games left, every conference besides the Pac-10 has already lost one).

I’m never going to be the guy who says the Pac-10 is the undeniable best and nobody can compete with us, because the reality is that it is never as simple as that. But what I will always say is that with the possible exception of the SEC, the Pac-10 is the most difficult conference to get through one’s conference schedule unfazed. From top to bottom, every team minus one or two is a team that it is going to take a reasonable effort to beat, even for the best in the conference and the top few are going to take the best’s best effort to beat. Add in that in the Pac-10 we play a full round-robin and as such 2 more conference games than many and 1 more than everyone else, and the Pac-10 is a tough and grueling place to win.

Plus, no where besides the Pac-10 do you see the diversity of offensive and defensive schemes that one sess in the Pac-10. You have to be balanced and flexible on both sides of the ball to win consistently.

All of this is a long way of saying that this bowl season proves once again that the Pac-10 is a very strong conference and our best deserve more recognition than they do for their accomplishments and final rankings.

Tedford signs contract extension

Jeff Tedford has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him at Cal through 2015… or at least through next year and the next contract extension.

“Jeff Tedford’s leadership of our football program has placed us among the nation’s finest in combining on-field success with academic and community excellence,” Sandy Barbour said. “He truly represents ‘Athletics Done Right.’ The Cal football program has become an integral part of the comprehensive excellence of the Berkeley campus. I’m pleased that we’ve agreed to this mutual long-term commitment.”

Well, all right.