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Archive for October, 2011


Cal at UCLA Liveblog

Ken will be joining you. I’ll be in a car for most of it.

Nooooooooooooooo! (EMFMV 2011 #5)

We’re finally back! We discuss the last four weeks of Cal football, break down the Utah win, look at the future schedule and predict Cal’s final record, discuss white helmets, AT&T Park, where we might sit next year, and more. Plus there’s a secret word of a sort.

You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Power rankings – New in week 9

I don’t know why, but something tells me I want to wade in to the water of weekly conference power rankings… but to do it, I need to have a more precise definition than what is generally out there. Frankly, I tried to find a consistent definition and couldn’t. The closest meta-definition is “how good the teams are right now”.

I’m going to modify that slightly. Here is my definition: If the team were to continue playing to the level they are right now, here is where they would end up at the end of the season in the conference standings.

And to the first rankings we go:

  1. Stanford: Hard to argue with how they’ve been playing. They’ve thoroughly destroyed every team they’ve played. Up until now the criticism was that they haven’t played anyone even remotely good. But as Washington demonstrates, perhaps that’s because everyone they’ve beat looks bad after having had to play the Cardinal.
  2. Oregon: Oregon is a little bit crippled right now with both Thomas and James out. Their ability to win despite those short-comings says very good things about both their depth and Kelly’s system. However, it makes them crippled enough that as they’re playing right now, I doubt they’d beat Stanford in Palo Alto.
  3. ASU: Arizona State has the schedule necessary to win out. That’s not so much because they’re a great team but due to a favorable schedule. Not having to play either Washington or Stanford from the north is definitely to their advantage. Despite still thinking less of them than where they land, With my definition of power rankings, it’s hard not to put them in 3rd place.
  4. USC: USC looked pretty mediocre earlier in the season. But their victories over the Bears and now Notre Dame would put them at the top of the 2nd Tier if it were not for ASU’s easy back-end schedule. My feeling is that if they got another shot at ASU, they’d win that game. The good news for them is they’ve got a chance to move up even further with Stanford on tap at home for Saturday. The bad news is there’s not enough reason to believe they can pull it off.
  5. Washington: I would have had this team up in the #3 spot before the weekend, but one of two things is true: either Stanford is incredibly good or Washington is not the top of the 2nd tier. Particularly with Oregon and USC (in LA) still on the schedule, this is an 8-4 team.
  6. Cal: Last week Cal would have been further down on the list. But after their performance against Utah, I think they’re on top of the “also rans”.
  7. Oregon State: This team is getting better every week. If they didn’t have such a tough end to the schedule they could be much higher on the list. They’re going to be dangerous to Cal when they play in 3 weeks, but that’s about their only chance to move up the list.
  8. Arizona: It could be just a one-week bump, but this team is playing a lot better with Stoops out of the way, which is a bit surprising to me. The difference between them and UCLA is pretty big and while I have confidence Arizona will beat both Utah and Colorado, UCLA is a different story.
  9. Utah: I think Utah will beat UCLA and that’s the key to their ranking as high as they do despite being 0-4 in conference play. They’ll get their turnover problems under control and have a shot at 3-6 in conference and bowl eligibility.
  10. UCLA: UCLA is in a free-fall, and if it weren’t for the fact that they got Oregon State before they came back from near-death and they already beat WSU, I’d have them lower. This team could even get to 4 conference wins if they can beat both Utah and Colorado, although I doubt they’ll win both those.
  11. WSU: I had expected much better things from WSU this year, but their close loss to UCLA (in what might have been UCLA’s best game of the year) and now getting bludgeoned by a resurgent Oregon State, I can only see one more possible win on the schedule (Utah). Even that game I expect them to lose. That said, I won’t be extremely shocked to see them come up and bite someone they’re supposed to lose to.
  12. Colorado: Poor Colorado. 13 games in 13 weeks against too many good teams. The non-conference slate of Hawaii, Cal and Ohio State were too much for them (the win versus Colorado State was the only good thing going). The misses in the Pac-12 North were the two lowest teams (WSU and OSU). And they don’t get the weaker teams in the South until the end of the season. The upside of that is that they have some upward mobility in the conference. The downside is there might not be any team confidence left by then.

Utah initial post-game thoughts

Here are some of my thoughts after the game:

  • This defense is getting better every week. It was obvious after the 2nd week of the season that this Bear defense was not going to be as good as we were expecting. The loss of talent of the “Big 3″ was harder to absorb than we all thought. But as it turns out, it looks like this defense might be every bit as good as last years was… we were just unfairly comparing the defense at the end of the season versus the team at the beginning of this season. Lest we forget, last year’s defense did give up 52 to Nevada’s offense in week 3 last season. It started coming on very strong after that, although the setback versus USC is still hard to swallow. But the point is, this year’s defense may just be taking a couple more games than last season to come on strong. Last week’s performance against USC was a vast improvement over the previous season and the Oregon game was half of what the previous season’s effort was (being half way through the season compared to last year). That performance yesterday had the feel of the UCLA and ASU games last year, when the defense turned the corner and never really looked back.
  • Another way to look at the above thought is all of you who are complaining about poor coaching at least need to limit it to the offense. There’s no doubt that the defensive coaching the last two years has been excellent and it’s easy to see how the defense continues to improve each week. Pendergast and his staff are doing great things.
  • Moving to offense, I saw one that looked to be significantly improving this week. It had the look of a unit that was getting back to the basics and having confidence in the players. It felt like the coaching staff did all the right things in the last week of practice and game planning.
  • Maynard had corrected all of his major problems from the prior weeks. While he had one pass that he was very lucky it didn’t get intercepted, my gut feel on that one was the wide receiver (Michael Calvin) didn’t run the right route, or at the very least the DB beat him to where he was supposed to be going. It wasn’t clear that was Maynard’s fault. But it wasn’t just the lack of stupid INT’s. Utah forced him to throw a lot of balls to the outside and Maynard was on target for almost all of them. There was a time or two he could have put a little bit more touch on the ball. There was a time or two he over-threw it a little bit. There were a handful of times he threw low forcing his receivers to go down to the ball to catch it. But overall, I thought this game was a substantial improvement. He also looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket. Plus, mark my words on this one: He’s going to escape the pocket up the middle in some game soon for a big gain. He had two plays where he was about to run for a big gain but got tripped up just as he was running for it.
  • Another player I’m really pleased with right now is Tavecchio. His kickoffs are good, his extra points are getting up quick, and he has yet to be the cause of a missed field-goal (he’s 11-of-13 and the two misses were both blocked at the line of scrimmage with too much penetration). I think he’s getting that senior season magic.
  • The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for this win. Maynard had time and the holes opened up for Sofele, while not great (particularly on the inside) considering how good the Utah front 7 is said to be, the offensive line made them look somewhat average.
  • Overall this felt like an offense that was getting back on track and should be in good shape to be at the top of the heap of all the “also rans”. We’ll see when Cal plays ASU, but the team might have been good enough to be the south winner, were we not in the North.

Utah OTRH Podcast

Nice to get back in the win column. Here are my post-game thoughts:

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

Here it comes…

One of the things wordpress (the blog software) provides is what search strings were used to link to the site. This morning every search term had a combination of the words “Fire” and “Tedford”.

While if Tedford gets the team back to winning it’ll be fine, there’s no doubt the seat is a bit warmer than it used to be.

Clarification at 10:45 AM: I’m not saying I’m jumping on the fire Tedford bandwagon. This post was just intended to be a statement of fact. I’m not quite sure what I think. Duke may have it just about right… Tedford has until the end of 2012 to show us he’s got the program back on track.

That was NOT what I was hoping for

Cal got stomped 9-30 by USC last night and boy was it painful:

  • How does a team turn the ball over 5 times at home?
  • How does a team put the ball on the turf at least 4 other times and get lucky enough to pick them back up? (I guess bad snaps aren’t considered fumbles because they don’t all show on the fumbles stat)
  • How does a team go scoreless in the 1st half against a defense that gave up 41 to an Arizona team that just fired their head coach?

The Cal offense did not come ready to play, it’s as simple as that. The defense gave a valiant effort. USC only marched the field to get a touchdown once as this log of scoring drives shows:

  • Cal 30 to Cal 22 for a field goal
  • USC 13 to the endzone
  • Cal 20 to Cal 12 for a field goal
  • Cal 37 to the endzone
  • USC 28 to the Cal 16 for a field goal
  • Cal 9 to the endzone

Doing the math, the average USC scoring drive started on the Cal 40 and fully 2/3rds started within the 30, 1/3rd in the redzone.

That’s not how one sets up the defense for success.

Here’s what I saw on offense that troubles me:

  • Bad defensive recognition by coaches: USC was playing these somewhat unconventional defensive formations with wide-spread defensive linemen and the outside line backers outside them (and remember USC plays a 4-3 where by default all the linebackers should be inside the defensive tackles). They were just BEGGING the Bears to run inside, a-la Oregon State’s upsets of the Trojans in recent years. Did the Bears run between the tackles? NOPE! We ran outside, right into those waiting linebackers. We also ran lots of slow developing run plays which play right into the hands of a talented but raw defense (gives them too much time to recover from mistakes).
  • Calling Mr. Ayoob: That’s who I kept thinking of when I saw Maynard throw. This guy is getting worse. He’s losing confidence and he only has a couple of throws he can do somewhat effectively (over the middle slants). His mis-throws are getting worse. He can’t hit a receiver in the flat to save his life. I’ve gone from seeing a QB who was raw with potential to one who seems to be regressing each week. He’s making truly bad decisions (see ALL 3 ints). He’s getting worse, not better, with his accuracy. It was really troubling.
  • Mistake prone: The rest of the offense didn’t make things easier on Maynard. Galas did a crummy job snapping him the ball. Botched handoffs put the ball on the ground. Too many catches dropped (although the receivers also bailed out Maynard on other occasions, so it’s not like the WR’s are on the negative side of the ledger). It makes getting into rhythm harder when balls are dropped or whatnot. It means the team is playing behind the chains.
  • Bad playcalling: Why does one pull out the fake punt on 4th and 7 on our side of the field? How many times do you think you’re going to fool the defense with the receiver screen to Keenan? Why did we give up on the run game (see 1st point about recognition) so early? Why weren’t we playcalling to Maynard’s strengths in the 1st half like we were in the 2nd half? And for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY WHAT’S WITH THE RUGBY PUNTS!?! (In fairness, we stopped doing them later in the game). There’s just too many baffling playcalling decisions these days.

As bad as the above seems, it wasn’t all bad. Maynard showed glimpses of his former self in the 2nd half. The offensive line did their job and probably would have opened up a nice run game if given the chance. Our WR’s continue to impress. But most importantly, the team had fight. They came out in the 2nd half and gave it a good go. Down by 14 (9-23) with 17 minutes to play and finally showing some offensive rhythm while the defense had started imposing its will on the USC offense, there was a moment where everyone realized the comeback was a possibility. That all ended with the interception with 6 minutes left deep in Cal territory (it was already getting a bit desperate), but at least this team keeps trying. Also, it was a pretty clean penalty game.

And of course I need to re-reference the defense in my “it wasn’t all bad” segment. They did a GREAT job and deserve praise. While McClure had his issues and was picked on, he didn’t do bad. When Marc Anthony comes back, the defense will be even better and it’ll be nice to have the depth (with some experience) that McClure gives us.

So where does this all leave us? Well, I’ll let everyone else speak for themselves, but it leaves me disappointed and worried, yet at the same time knowing all is not lost (yet). We all knew coming into this season that a 3-game losing streak with these 3 games was a real possibility. It’s frustrating because one of them was quite winnable, a second we played great for a half before locking ourselves in the woodshed and waiting for our beating and the 3rd, I think I’m not alone in thinking this team is capable of beating the USC team we saw last night despite not ever really threatening to last night. So yeah, it’s frustrating. But in the end, we have to remember what the expectations were for how we’d get to 6 wins and it didn’t include these 3 games. What matters is how many wins the team has in December. If the team can put those 3 games behind it (DANGER!) we now enter a stretch where if the Bears win 3 of 4, they’ll be bowl eligible.

All of these games are winnable, the Bears might even be considered a favorite in all of them. The Bears could probably win a couple of them even with something resembling the performance we saw last night. The other couple will take somewhat of an improvement, but there’s PLENTY of room for improvement that as long as Maynard doesn’t become Ayoob (DANGER!) and mistakes get cleaned up.

Frustrated and disappointed, but with hope. Sure feels like I’m an Old Blue.

I could really use an upset win right about now

One of the things that has made it easy to be a Bear fan over the years (I’m becoming a borderline Old Blue) is that low expectations coupled with winning a fair number of games at home made things liveable. But it was the occasional great game, the upset that we could all hang our collective hats on, that made the liveable, not just enjoyable, but addicting.

To some degree 2004-2006 “ruined” that with high expectations. There was hardly a game that could legitimately be called an upset in recent years. We were expected to be contenders in all games. While there were games we were worried about losing, we had reasons to think that every game on the schedule was not only winnable, but it would be a stretch to call that win an upset. It was all downside and very little upside.

Last year changed that by significantly lowing expectations for 2011. We all just wanted to get back to bowl eligibility. 7-5 would be a VERY positive sign. We all wrote off three games in our minds: Oregon, Stanford, USC. They were loses. It would be a BIG upset to win any of them.

It’s time for that big upset.

I need it. My Bear-fandom is starting to feel stagnant and predictable. I need that feeling like 2000 UCLA and 2003 USC (I still don’t forgive myself for missing that one in person). The last time we had something resembling that was the 2009 Big Game. Remember how great that was? Remember the glow afterwards?

It’s time to have that feeling again. USC has had our number since 2005 (they won in 2004, but it’s hard to look at that game as if USC dominated). We’ve gotten roughed up more times than I care to remember. Last year, just when it looked like there was hope, that the Carroll Juggernaut was broken, that USC was vulnerable, we got destroyed in one of the worst loses in recent memory. It was terrifyingly bad to watch on TV.

Really, I can’t come up with many reasons why the Bears should win this year. Oregon removed any doubt that our offense is going to be stellar. It’s pretty clear the offense is going to have inconsistency problems for a while. It also put the nail in the coffin that the defense, particularly the secondary, will return to last year’s form. If there was any hope left, it faded with Marc Anthony’s separated shoulder that has him doubtful for tomorrow’s game.

As for USC, their offense is beginning to gel despite inconsistency to date. The bye gives them time to rest and time to solve the problems they have on defense. Considering the team is loaded with talent, solving those problems is easier for them than others.

But you know what, inconsistent offenses occasionally have games that are stellar (what we need from the Bears tomorrow night) and some games that are horrific (what we need from USC). Defenses with lots of young talent occasionally have games where everything just clicks (what we need from the Bears) and games where they look horribly out of position (what we need from USC). There’s no reason we SHOULD win the game, but there’s no doubt we COULD see the big upset.

It’s time Bears. This borderline Old Blue would be thrilled to have my Old Blue experience “ruined” again and to see the team return to being a perennial Rose Bowl contender (and for the love of all that is Holy, an eventual trip to the Rose Bowl before I die). But for right now, all I want is that upset that keeps the Old Blues coming back game after game, year after year. It’s time.

GO BEARS!

Utah game not picked up on TV

Wow… just wow. The Washington State at Oregon State game got picked up and the Utah at Cal game did not. This is a sad, sad, sad day. The WSU-OSU game is the LEAST desired game in all of the Pac. It’s two tiny TV markets with teams with small followings. It almost doesn’t matter how good both teams are, it still never gets picked up.

Instead, we’re stuck waiting one more day on a start time for Utah and it’s quite clear Cal is no longer the media darling that gets lots of TV attention that it used to.

Top 5 reasons Thursday games stink

The more I think about it, the more I think Thursday games are the bane of all existence in College Football. They’ve got one upside: Money. Spreading out games over more than just Saturday means more viewing hours from fans of the game. But other than that, it’s all garbage:

  • Number 5: Lost bye week advantage. Theoretically, it’s an approximate 90% likelihood that with one bye, that each team will have one week where they’ve got the bye advantage (had a bye while their opponent didn’t) and one week where they’ve got the disadvantage (didn’t have a bye while their opponent did). The Thursday games tend to equalize things there for the bye advantage, because it’s likely your opponent will have a pre-Thursday bye just like the Bears (see Oregon) but it doesn’t significantly shrink the statistical likelihood the Bears will have a week with a bye disadvantage (although this year it doesn’t happen sans reason #4).
  • Number 4: Double Thursdays mean you’re going to get the bye shaft. After getting no bye advantage last Thursday, we’ll have a bye disadvantage against USC this week who has a pre-Thursday bye just like we did the first week.
  • Number 3: Difficult to get to home games. People who work in San Francisco won’t sympathize, but for the many Bear fans who come from far away for Cal games (I’ve found I’m not alone at traveling multiple hours to get to Bear games) a Thursday evening game is a real logistical challenge. And being a night game, as all Thursday games are, it also makes it not kid-friendly (who have school the next day (see reason number one as well)).
  • Number 2: It messes up practice schedules. I really think one of the keys to success in college football is consistency. That starts with practice. This year we’ll have 4 consecutive weeks (9/25 bye week through 10/22 Utah game) where the practice schedule will be unorthodox.
  • Number 1: It messes up the classes of our Student Athletes. Everyone remembers these are STUDENTS, right? They already make tons of compromises in the class scheduling to work around practices and travel schedules for Saturday games. For Thursday games they’re for sure going to miss additional class time and distracted, particularly on their return Fridays and with all the odd practice schedules during the week.

I’m sure these aren’t the only ones, others?

First Oregon post-game thoughts

Much more to come later, but I’ll sneak this in from work… Yes on Saturday:

  • Oregon made two great halftime adjustments: 1. Emphasizing rushing up the middle (with improved success) while nearly abandoning rushing on the edge. 2. Abusing our backup DB’s, particularly McClure with Marc Anthony out with a separated shoulder in the 2nd half. That was the difference in the game.
  • Why did Cal give up on the run game so early? It was pretty successful (in fact, it was one of the things I was most happy with) but it was entirely absent in the 2nd half.
  • My biggest concern: Redzone efficiency. Not the fake kind that includes field goals, I’m talking touchdowns.
  • Maynard’s inconsistency is troublesome, but won’t be what the season’s success hinges on.
  • I’ve never seen so many holding penalty flags… er… wait, no they didn’t throw ANY of them despite the fact that there was abusive holding by Oregon all game long.
  • To the Oregon fans who were booing at the game: YOU SUCK! Our players were actually injured (imagine Cal fans booing when James went down?) and you don’t know the pass-interference rules from a turd on the field. Show some class in the future.
  • Speaking of James, I always hate to see a player injured, but I was glad to escape the state of Oregon this year without losing someone big (2007: Longshore, 2010: Riley). I sure hope for Oregon’s sake the curse hasn’t been reversed.
  • My 2nd biggest concern: Inability to score in the 2nd half. Some of it can be chalked up to the situations, but I’m starting to see a troubling pattern.
  • Do we have a conditioning problem on defense? Think about when these big plays happen… it’s the 2nd half. Colorado, Washington, Oregon. Maybe coupling the previous point, it could be across the whole team.
  • Why is it the offensive line can open big holes most of the time, but when we really need 2 yards, they get abused. It’s part of our redzone problems, but it’s also why we’re throwing on 3rd and short so much. I’ve been pretty happy with the O-Line except for getting a good push on obvious rushing downs.
  • Despite all of the above issues, I still like this team a lot more than the last few years. We’re not one sack away from terrible (Bridgeford). The team has a lot more heart and fight (losing by 28 to Oregon is not as bad as it seems, just because of the way the score points in bunches, this is a 13 point loss to any other team). There’s a lot of good buried inside the bad. I still like our chances in most of the rest of our games particularly with so many at home and still feel confident we’ll go bowling this year.
  • Frankly, with the youth we have this year and how much raw talent I’m seeing, next year’s team I think will be pretty good and could make a run at the Pac-12 title.
  • No OTRH podcast this week.

Cal-Oregon deadblog. Ugh.

Yuck. (more…)

Steve Jobs, RIP

I know this is off topic for a Cal Bears blog, but seeing as how both Jason and I work in the technology industry, he even more closely than I in the Apple world, I felt it was OK to do a cross-link to my personal/Catholic blog:

http://thecrawfordfamily.net/blog/?p=661

(Jason here. Here’s my take on Steve Jobs, for Macworld.)

Don’t forget how good the Bears play the Ducks

OK, I know we’re all still in somewhat smarting from last year’s loss to Oregon. I know most of us have blocked the 2009 game out of our minds (but I’ll bring back the pain with a looking back posts in the next couple days). But it’s important to remember that this has been one VERY balanced series since the Tedford took over the helm in Berkeley:

2002: Didn’t play
2003: Cal loses a tough one in Eugene, 17-21, when some prankster… er… “computer glitch” turned off the lights in the stadium giving Oregon a 2nd halftime to regroup just as the Bears were sticking it to the Ducks.
2004: Cal wins 28-27 in an otherwise equal game that came down to a missed extra point by Oregon (and Oregon’s extra emphasis on 2-point conversions in future years had absolutely NOTHING to do with this game) and the inability of a wide open tight end to catch a perfectly thrown ball on 4th down that would have put the Ducks in easy field goal range at the end of the game.
2005: Cal loses 20-27 in the first overtime after a hurried field goal attempt by the Bears falls inches short at the end of regulation and would have won the game for the Bears.
2006: Cal lays the wood to Oregon, 45-24 in the one lopsided Cal victory where mistakes by Dennis Dixon doomed the Ducks from their first possession
2007: Cal comes away with their one road victory, 31-24, where Oregon was in position to tie in the final seconds of the game but an jarring Ezeff hit on the wide receiver forces a fumble through the endzone for a Cal touchback.
2008: Cal continues their winning streak to 3 games, winning 26-16 in a defensive struggle most memorable for the Cal turfs inability to drain water in a downpour (you think a team named the Ducks would do better on a flooded field).
2009: Cal gives up their one blowout loss 3-42, in a game where Cal recovered a fumble on the initial kickoff and never scored again in what might just be the most painful game I’ve personally witnessed.
2010: Cal loses for the first time at home in this series, a tight 13-15 loss where Oregon’s preemptive 2-point conversions (see earlier note) and Cal’s successive failed attempt to make up the difference was the difference in scoring, although a missed late field goal by Tavecchio will not soon be forgotten by Bear fans despite the fact that Oregon drove inside the Cal redzone in their last drive to run out the clock.

For those counting, the Bears and Ducks are 4-4 against each other, with one blowout to each team’s name and one road victory to each team’s name. Both times the road team won, they were the higher ranked team. However both times there was a blowout, it was the lower ranked team doing the damage. Of course both blowouts were in favor of the home team.

What does all this mean for Thursday night? NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Really… what could those teams possibly have to do with this year’s matchup? Nevertheless we all know that it does matter, right? Just like some teams play the Bears well (Washington, Oregon State), the Bears, with one exception, have played Oregon tough even when they were expected to lose.

Food for thought.

Implication of Saturday’s results

Now that all the Pac-12 teams Cal has played (Washington and Colorado) have completed their matchup against our future opponents, we’ve got some sense of what to expect from them.

Washington State truly looks to have turned the corner and although it was a last second comeback, they look like they’re in the middle of the pack. Thankfully we play them at AT8T, so I think the home field advantage will be enough for the Bears to be favored and win with a good effort, but that game does not look like the cakewalk it has been in past years.

Utah on the other hand, was no match for Washington. This both furthers my belief that Washington is one of the better teams in the conference with Price at QB and that Utah is going to have a tough time of it this year. While their 5 turnovers didn’t help, they were also one dimensional, only rushing for 17 yards against a run defense that frankly didn’t impress me all that much. With Utah coming to AT&T, this sure feels like a win with a reasonable effort by the Bears.

Although we’re now looking at 2nd order effects, USC continues to under impress me, particularly defensively. If the Bears can keep USC’s potentially potent but VERY inconsistent offense in check, I’m fairly confident we’ll have success on offense and could steal a game most people have assumed was a loss.

Update after late games:

Oregon State was much improved in their loss to ASU. They were even up 13-0 early before ASU woke up and laid the hammer down. Really, I’d like to play OSU next week before they have a chance to get better. We’ll see how good their team has gotten by November 12th. Somebody needs to tell coach Riley that he’s allowed to practice 20 times in the 4 weeks before games start. It’s the only explanation I have for why OSU always starts so slow, making us look bad in the non-conference and then getting better as the season wears on. Nevertheless, there’s nothing in OSU’s performance to date that suggests their trip to AT&T will result in a loss for the Bears, unless the Bears forget to play the game.

ASU is still the south front-runner and they might just win the south outright, instead of “virtual first” with USC not counting. However, that’s mostly because the south stinks, with the possible exception of USC. The fact that they miss both Stanford and Washington from the north means they could they could end up being 10-2 overall and 8-1 in conference. But considering their toughest games left outside of Oregon are either their trip to Utah or hosting Cal to end the season, that doesn’t speak all that highly of them. As for what I think, they’re definitely better than in past years and Erickson has them believing the hype, which is a much needed emotional boost for them. At the same time, I consider them to be vulnerable and still don’t consider the trip to Tempe to be a sure loss at this point.

UCLA was able to show a bit of fight in their game against Stanford last night, but they remind me of Cal at the end of last season, without the dominant defense. They’ve got enough talent to be much better than they are, but they lack a QB. Without a dominant run game, they’re pretty easy to slow down. To make matters worse, their defense is similar in that they’ve got enough pieces to have some fight, but not enough to keep them in games against good teams. The only challenge here is that we’ve got to play them in the Rose Bowl.

Stanford continues to look really good. They didn’t throw the ball much against UCLA. They just lined up in their 11 man running formations (two tight ends, two full backs and a tailback) and rammed in down the throat of UCLA. What is most impressive is now they can play such tight formations and the defense still can’t bottle them up. They get such a good push from their linemen and tight ends. To make matters worse, they’ve got the conference’s best QB for when they decide they’ve made the opponent look ridiculous in the running game. If there’s a weak spot, if you could call it that, at Stanford it’s the defense. They’re still on the better side of the Pac-12, but I didn’t see anything overly impressive against UCLA. If UCLA could throw the ball, they could have put up a lot more points.