It’s time for my annual act in futility of doing game-by-game predictions. Here are last year’s predictions. Other than missing the Nevada game (I seem to have a soft spot in my crystal ball in regards to non-conference road games), I was perfect, at least as far as the winner was concerned, until the Oregon game, when the wheels fell off the prediction bus and cracked my crystal ball. Frankly I underestimated how good Oregon would be last year (remember, they were short Masoli and nobody knew how good Thomas was going to be). The same goes for Stanford who I thought would stink without Gerhardt. And we just won’t mention The Game That Should Not Be Named to end the season.
Here goes my shot at this year:
Fresno State @ Cal => 13-24: I was pretty nervous about this game when the schedule first came out, and while I still feel there’s a lot of risk here, my confidence level is growing. Fresno State is not the team they were a decade ago. Although I think the neutral site will work to FSU’s advantage, I think Cal’s defense will be too much for the Bulldogs and Cal’s offense will get just enough done to win without there being too much doubt.
Cal @ Colorado => 24-27: As indicated above, my crystal ball stinks when it comes to non-conference road games. Therefore, as much as I’d like to believe we’re going to win this game, I mean, we CRUSHED them last year, I think their new head coach, playing at altitude and buffaloes desire to prove that they belong in the new Pac-12 will have Cal fans boiling over when we lose this one in as frustrating fashion as @Maryland and @Nevada.
Presbyterian @ Cal => 3-52: OK, there’s not much to doubt here and I can’t even think of a good/tasteful joke as a Catholic to relate how this historically protestant school will lose… so I’ll just leave it as “Cal wins”.
Cal @ Washington => 27-17: You can call me a Washington naysayer because I just don’t see anything in them that scares me. They *barely* beat us last year and we were a crippled shell of a team on offense. Yeah, yeah, I know they beat a supposedly good Nebraska team in the bowl game, but that was a letdown game if I’ve ever seen one. Yes, I also remember they’ve beat us both times that we’ve played them since Sark took over, but the 2009 game was a case of a letdown game for Cal in UW’s AND Locker’s best game of the season. This year the game is early, they’re short Locker and I think Cal comes out strong and wins this one.
Cal @ Oregon => 17-42: There’s a part of me that would like to believe that Cal can put together another defensive performance like last year. There’s a part of me that thinks Oregon is over-rated this year. There’s a part of me that thinks Cal’s revamped offense will get it done. But after that part of me is done talking to the Easter Bunny, I come back to reality. This one is going to be ugly and I only hope it doesn’t kill our chances for the following week.
USC @ Cal => 24-17: How is a Thursday night game at AT&T against a not-bowl eligible USC going to go? Your guess is as good as mine. USC will have had a bye week, so they won’t be coming into this on 4-days practice (sadly for us). Cal will have had an odd full week, playing the 2nd of back-to-back Thursday night games. Additionally, the sheep-skins should be undefeated at that point, with the teams on the schedule to that point being either over-rated or weak. I’m going to go with the pessimist in me and say the Bears lose this one in what will have a defensive struggle feel to it.
Utah @ Cal => 20-31: If Ted Miller has us winning this game in his best and worst case scenarios for both Utah and Cal, that’s good enough for me. Seriously though, I think Cal will be hungry after two tough losses to get back on track and they’ll be in no mood to let the new kid on the block push them around. The two extra days of practice won’t hurt either. Utah should be showing the signs of how a Pac-12 conference will wear on you and will have just come back from an oddly schedule cross-country non-conference game at Pittsburgh. Finally, I’m sure the bowl loss in 2009 will keep the older Bears on the intense side, not wanting a repeat of that debacle.
Cal @ UCLA => 42-21: Can you believe that Herb Herbstreet picked UCLA to win the Pac-12 South (minus USC)? Neither can I. Cal has owned this series ever since 2008 and Neuheisel hasn’t done anything to get UCLA back on track and I don’t see anything that would make me think this is his year for anything other than collecting an unemployment check. Bears win this one easily, particularly if UCLA can’t win some of their push games leading up to the Cal game (I could see them being as good as 3-4 and as bad as 1-6).
WSU @ Cal => 17-27: If you’ve been counting, the Bears will be 5-3 coming into this game. They’ll be very hungry for that 6th win this year. At the same time, WSU will be just as hungry and still be hoping to reach bowl eligibility having started out 3-0 but having lost the last 5. Needing to win 3 of their last 4 against Cal, ASU, Utah and UW (something they’ll believe they can do), they’ll come to play. Nevertheless hunger can only make up for so much of a talent differential and while this one will start close, Cal will win this one going away.
Oregon State @ Cal => 13-31: Oregon State’s stock has been plummeting faster this summer than my stock options in HP and I think for good reason (sadly, on both counts). Riley has made miracles happen in Corvalis, but last year he ran out of magic. Things look even more dire this year with injuries galore over the off-season. The Bears are sick of losing to this team (yes, it has been since 2006) and I think with bowl eligibility out of the way, the Bears play loose and fast in this one. Buy your tickets now: this will be the most cathartic win of the season.
Cal @ Stanford => 24-34: It pains me to say anything other than the Bears will bring back the Ax in 2011, but despite the Bears feeling much better about themselves at 7-3 at this point, I think the former-Harbaughs will still win this one. Sorry Bears.
Cal @ ASU => 28-31: This might be the hardest game of the season to predict. It’s after the rivalry game for both teams. Being a ASU naysayer, ASU will be long out of Pac-12 south contention by this point. The Bears generally have had ASU’s number, but that’s been a lot more iffy when the game is in the desert. ASU should already be bowl eligible, but Erickson might be playing for his job. Seeing as how I think I might have been a bit too optimistic, having the Bears win at UW, and beating both Utah and Oregon State, I’ll even things out by having a loss here.
That puts our final record at 7-5, which feels about right to me. But at the same time, I only see 3 games where the Bears are pretty likely to lose: Oregon, Stanford and USC. If this team was 9-3, it wouldn’t shock me. On the negative side, the risk is if UW and Oregon State don’t go our way. The ASU game could be pretty important to save us from two consecutive years of lacking bowl eligibility.