There was an interesting set of posts over at CGB about how many games the Bears will win in 2010 and they got feedback from everyone asking what they thought the percentage chance that the Bears win each game from a bunch of people. End result was that the consensus was 8-4 with a likely loss to USC, 50-50 shot at Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona and UW (slightly better than that for UW, but close enough), accounting for 2 losses, and us likely losing to one of ASU, UCLA, Stanford or Nevada (i.e. a 75% chance of beating each). That more or less get’s one 8-4.
That felt about right to me. Then just because I was trying to escape the pile of work in front of me I watched both the Stanford and Arizona highlights that Danzig and crew put together and I think I’m a lot more optimistic on this season. Let me break it down:
I’ll concede the loss to USC and the 50/50 on both Oregon and Arizona. That gets us two losses. But here’s what I can say with confidence is NOT going to happen, in order of my confidence:
- We’re not going to lose to ASU in Berkeley. No way, no how. That team has nothing of note to build on and things just look ugly for the “getting too tired” Erickson. Looks like 2007 was his last hurrah and even that was a heavily schedule aided hurrah.
- We’re not going to lose to UCLA in Berkeley. 95% sure of that. We beat them in Pasadena last year to break the curse and they haven’t beat us in Berkeley going back a LONG ways, even including some Holmoe time. Add to that history that they’ve only got slightly more going for them than ASU and it’s just not going to happen.
- UW is the most over appreciated team in the conference and the reason is that they beat Cal at the end of the season. If they had lost that game, nobody would think them any better than UCLA or ASU. But they beat Cal in a game the Bears never showed up for. That’s there entire resume minus beating a WAY over confident USC who was without their QB early in the season and Arizona having players who’s shoes shoot the ball 15 feet in the air. By the time they get to Berkeley after Thanksgiving having been beaten down with their tough road schedule and still having no hope of bowl eligibility, the Bears will handle them easily, particularly after the cautionary tale of 2009. Call me 90% confident of that win.
So that leaves Stanford, Nevada and Oregon State. To be fair, I could see the Bears losing two of those, but in the end I don’t think it’s going to happen. A loss to OSU is the most likely but something says to me that the OSU run of over-achieving has ended and the Bears will be hungry. Nevada is likely over-feared by Bear fans, which is a good thing, but the Bears notoriously do well during the non-conference games. That leaves only Stanford, which I think 7-1 vs. 1-2 speaks volumes for. Stanford is my #2 for most over-ranked team in the conference. Everyone will be onto their shtick in 2010 and Toby was more important than people realize. Luck won’t be so lucky in 2010.
So from my vantage point, they lose one of those three games, not two, and this is a 9-3 team, with upsides to 10-2 and 8-4 being the floor of acceptability.
Going back to the Stanford and Arizona videos. I really believe that Vereen is a better running back for the Cal system than Best. Best was spectacular, but he didn’t “grind it out”, which is what Tedford wants from his run game. I think the O-Line responded better to Vereen than they did to Best, not because they didn’t like Best (Best was dearly loved by the whole team), but because Vereen was the sort of back that got their testosterone pumping. His style had them hitting harder and playing harder. And that helped Riley too on the passing downs. That’s what I saw in those videos and I think it’s the key to 2010.
Add that to a new defensive scheme that won’t hang our secondary out to dry and a number of the weaker areas of the last couple years having a bit more experience on them, and I’m more optimistic than most.
So if we’re going to do an over/under for the 2010 season and 8-4 is the benchmark, put my money firmly on the over side. I don’t have delusions of a Rose Bowl run (OK, maybe in that part of me that’s truly delusional), but I do think this Cal Bear team is better than people think.