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Archive for September, 2012


My time with the uber-weathy

For those of you who went to the game yesterday, I’m sure you noticed the numerous times they talked about the special things they were doing for season ticket holders. One of them was that 200 ticket holders were getting their seats upgraded to either the Field Club or University Club for that single game.

“That would be really cool”, I thought to myself. “But there’s no way they’re going to give those to any of us in the Gold Zone.”

So you’ll imagine my surprise when just before the end of the 1st quarter a lady came up to us, asked us if we were season ticket holders and gave us tickets to the Field Club. AWESOME!

We were in section G, row 10, seats 7-9 (there were only 3 of us at the game). That’s on the 45 yard-line.

The entrance to the clubs is not on the concourse level, but the “ground floor” plaza level, so we went down the stairs. Outside the club entrance, there are tents where you show your tickets and they give you wrist bands for entrance into the clubs.

Field Club is the lowest of the 3 clubs, yet season tickets cost between $2700 and $4100 a year. That’s just a *slight* increase from the $225 (and only $125 for the kids) I’m paying in the Gold Zone.

When you enter the club, there’s this very fancy large room with concessions around the perimeter, and two bars in the middle. And I really do mean the word bars. I had assumed that they would just have a couple of beer options. Not at all. It’s a full bar that could mix up most hard drinks. I think they all still come in paper cups however…

I toyed with the idea of getting a drink (when else would I ever get a chance?) but decided against it.

The room is surrounded by lots of televisions, covering not just the Cal game, but many of the other football games going on. I didn’t see it, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had some of the baseball going on as well.

From the club, you can enter the stand at the bottom and go up from there into your seats.

The seats are standard ballpark affair down in the Field club. I think they’re more plush up in the Stadium club and then the University Club is something entirely different and for the truly uber-uber wealthy. The spacing didn’t feel any more generous than a normal stadium, but that’s obviously more than we get in the Gold Zone (excepting me in the 1st row and the extra space that gives me). I actually felt boxed in as the only way we were getting in and out of our seats was to ask the 6 people between us and the isle to stand up, which I hate doing.

(As a quick aside, yesterday morning I had the temptation to bring a tape measure and try to get over to section EE to measure it. Oh how I wish I had, so I could have measured the Field Club seats!)

Row 10 is pretty low, but at the 45 yard-line it’s not nearly as bad. I would still want to be up at row 18-20 at a minimum. I’m very glad I didn’t take the seats in EE in row 8 when I was picking my season tickets. That said, the 45 yard-line is s SWEET place to be.

Considering how many open seats there are in the section, it’s a strong temptation to figure out how I could pay to sit there. But it’s just SOOOO out of range, the temptation doesn’t last long. Of course if it was significantly cheaper, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one considering upgrading.

But it is VERY nice and if you’re someone who has that sort of disposable income, it is definitely worth considering. They’re definitely going to take care of you if you do.

ASU OTRH podcast

OK, not quite 2010 Washington off-the-rails, but also not my happiest podcast ever. Enjoy:

Predictions for the rest of the season

Here are my predictions for the rest of the season based on yesterday’s game:

  • ASU will fade after getting to 5-1 next week at Colorado. They’ll then lose 4 in a row (OU, UCLA, @OSU, @USC) and will finish either 7-5 or 6-6 depending on whether they can win their rivalry game. Heck, depending on whether WSU can get their scheme’s to click by mid-November, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities ASU doesn’t get bowl eligible (but they do).
  • The Bears will lose the majority of the rest of their games, however, they will beat at least one team that will surprise everyone. There’s too much talent on this team and for at least one game they’ll put it all together and beat Stanford or Oregon or OSU or Washington.
  • Final record: 4-8
  • Maynard will start the rest of the season.
  • Kline will never play. There’s NO WAY Tedford burns his redshirt over this. Heck, he might be under explicit orders from Sandy to not burn his redshirt at this point.
  • Bigelow will not see meaningful playing time at any point this season. Who ever of Isi and CJ who’s more likely to get 1,000 yards will get the majority of caries down the stretch.
  • Maynard will be locking on Keenan Allen even more so than in the past. They’ve got to get him to the NFL and he needs stats to make that happen.
  • Whoever is head coach next year will be in a GREAT situation for 2013 and will immediately turn the team around. (I’m not speaking to their longer prospectus, just 2013.)

Others care to share their predictions?

The ‘off the rails’ post

I try very hard to keep an even keel about things. I go to Cal football games to enjoy myself. I can’t read the various message boards after the bad losses because the negativity is SSOOOOOO amazingly overwhelming that it just sucks the life out of me. While I also don’t want to be accused of being a ‘sunshine pumper’ I refuse to let this blog become a place of continuous and overwhelming negativity.

Thus I give you my ONE get-it-off-my-chest, airing my inner-demon, off-the-rails post:

Can anyone think of an example of such an epic collapse?

I’ve seen lots of coaches get fired over the last 10+ years of watching college football closely, but I can’t think of any examples of a coach with this long of a sustained run of bowl games (9 out of 10), who all of a sudden is at risk of a 1-win season.

It’s particularly galling considering that there are none of the excuses one might have for a weak year. The new QB, a ‘young team’, big injury problems, bad recruiting, etc… the Bears have none of those, at least to the degree that there’s any reason to put the blame on those things.

I feel like the 28 year-old stock-exchange traders in 2008

Remember those stories a couple years back about how there was a huge crop of stock traders, who had never seen a recession before, but because of the extended run-up, were surprisingly high up in their companies and making multi-million dollar decisions in an environment they had ZERO experience with?

That’s how I fee watching this collapse. Holmoe was something very different than this. The team was bad to start with, he never really got them moving forward, and you only give a coach so long to get the program moving in the right direction. I admit I was a bit surprised he fell to 1-10, but it wasn’t exactly a long fall from 3-8.

This has caught me off-guard. I’ve never seen a team quit. I’ve never seen such a regression. I’ve never seen a coach quit.

I’m not so sure I feel sorry for Tedford

Speaking of the coach quitting, I’m pretty appalled with Tedford right now. I still believe that he did something remarkable in Berkeley over his tenure and this will always be the house that Tedford built, but he’s quickly burning through any goodwill I had for him.

We’re not paying him 2.5 million a year for this sort of a lack of effort. I’m pretty sure that fabled cot of his hasn’t seen anyone lay down on it in a long time and is covered in dust, not blood and sweat.

I can have a lot of sympathy for a guy who’s giving it his all but just doesn’t have it in him. Heck, I still like Holmoe! I think it’s great he moved up to being an AD, a job he seems more suited to, and wish him the best at BYU. He was a sub-par football head coach but he is a very nice guy by all accounts.

But I have NO SYMPATHY for someone who’s not trying, particularly when they’re collecting a big salary. Tedford looks to me like a guy who is just showing up to collect his big paycheck. I’m not so sure he’s a nice guy who wants to do it the right way anymore. His team’s APR scores don’t reflect that. His team’s on the field performance doesn’t reflect that. They reflect a lazy man who doesn’t really care and is bilking donors for millions of dollars.

This team could REALLY go 1-11

If they put up the sort of effort they did today, particularly considering the two most winnable games are on the road, it’s not unreasonable to think this team goes 1-11. Utah and WSU will be licking their chops looking for their own meager victories to save them from the dreaded basement.

Considering the talent on this team, that’s disgusting.

ASU isn’t very good

I keep reading in various places that we lost to a pretty good ASU team. I call

BS!

ASU wasn’t very good. ASU fans should be worried sick that the ridiculous performance the Bears put up today managed to get to 17-20 4th quarter score. ASU wasn’t very good. It’s part of why the loss was so appalling.

Keenan Allen is part of the problem

Is he really as good as we all talk about him being? The guy is dropping passes. The guy has the worst traction on the field EVERY WEEK, worse than any other player on either team. I’m not so sure he runs very crisp routes. He’s not getting that open (not nearly as much as the other receivers that Maynard is ignoring). Yeah, there’s no doubt he’s still fast and big and doesn’t go down easy, breaking through arm tackles, but is he really that good?

I don’t think so.

And yeah, I know he was sick yesterday. I’m basing this on his body of work for the season, not yesterday alone.

The Faustian bargain that sank Tedford

Speaking of which, I think the package deal that got Tedford Keenan Allen, may just have been the moment where he lost his mojo and eventually his job. It’s ironic that it was for a wide-receiver, as the last time he had ‘team chemistry’ problems, 2007, it was a wide receiver (Desean Jackson) who was rumored to be at the center of it.

You get this feeling that a big part of the reason Tedford has lost this team, that they don’t seem to “get” what he’s trying to teach them, has to do with the fact that Maynard is under center. I still believe that Maynard has more potential than many give him credit for, but there are plenty of other QB’s on the roster with potential.

It just feels like part of the deal with Keenan Allen was that he had the right to insist on his brother as QB as long as he was close to as good as the rest. Tedford has never named a new starter at the end of Spring practice. Heck, did he ever do it with an established starter? Why all of a sudden with Maynard did he?

The whole situation reeks.

Sorry, there weren’t 51k people there today

There seems to be some disagreement as to how many people were at the game yesterday. Of course everyone agrees that the stated number is ticket sales, but many thought it didn’t look much more empty than previous 50k games.

But that was back when the stadium held 72k and the donor sections were packed to the gills, making the empty sections look emptier by comparison. With a half empty set of donor seats and only 63k capacity, that south endzone and the corners looked VERY empty. I wouldn’t be surprised if only 40k, heck maybe even 35k, were there.

The fans have been deciding on Tedford’s contract with their feet and it’s not pretty.

The whole situation is not pretty.

Firing Tedford discussion embargo lifted

OK, I am officially lifting the embargo on the ‘Fire Tedford’ discussion. Today’s performance was dreadful. What’s worse is that it was both uninspired and uninspiring. You’d think a coach on the hot seat would have a little more fire in his belly. Tedford seems woefully uninterested in how terrible this team is.

Arizona State Preview

A friend of mine at work and I have played around with the idea of a software program that identifies games to bet on where the odds are poorly set. We both believe that buried in the statistics are the keys to make money.

However, we disagree as to what part of the season is most ripe for making money. He thinks there is lots of money to be made in the first couple weeks of the season. People put way too much emphasis on things like returning “starters” when what really matters is playing time. (He’s an Oregon fan and has seen how their aggressive player rotations have netted players with lots of experience but who aren’t officially “starters”.)

While I see what he’s after, I think there are just too many unknowns in the first couple weeks. Instead I think the best time is late September and early October. By this point in the season there is enough real data to start making meaningful conclusions. At the same time, teams have had such VASTLY different schedules, the ability to make the right conclusions from the data requires a lot of work to adjust the statistics based on the competition.

Which brings us to Arizona State…

What would Cal’s record be right now if they had played the teams that Arizona State has played? Of course the Bears would have beat Northern Arizona, but frankly the other 3 are a bit harder to judge. Cal probably beats Illinois too, as they look pretty bad. Missouri is the tough one. They could be pretty dang good and be similar to Cal and having played a tough schedule. But since ASU lost to them, let’s assume the Bears do too. That leaves only Utah, which I won’t comment on yet.

Point being, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Bears to have fared similarly, at least record wise as ASU with their schedule.

Flipping the table, how would ASU have done against Cal’s schedule? This has a fair amount of question marks in it too. Would they have beat Nevada? Well, there’s a good reason to believe they might have. At the same time, Nevada is good enough that it’s possible they could have lost. What about Ohio State and USC? Frankly, I have every reason to believe they would have lost those games just as Cal did.

The point of this exercise, is that it is not out of the question to think that had ASU faced Cal’s schedule they’d be 1-3 as well and if Cal had faced ASU’s schedule they’d be 3-1. That would of course include Utah, which is a harder team to judge at this point, but they most definitely look very beatable right now.

Vegas, by the way, is unsure of itself. Most of the lines started with ASU as a 1-2 point favorite and it switched to being a Cal 2-2.5 point favorite.

All of the above was a long way of saying the basic statistics point to this game being even, based on the limited and very divergent information we have.

That’s when it really is all about one’s opinion.

My opinion is that the Bears are a team with a lot of potential and their 1-3 record is the result of playing below potential against Nevada, the Ohio State game having been a tough one with some breaks not going the Bears way and USC, well, they’ve just got our number.

I think they’ve got enough potential that if they play up to that potential against ASU, I think they win it somewhat easily. ASU has looked great against pretty weak opposition, but I think they’re a team with lots of weaknesses to exploit. They won’t dominate in the trenches like they have in all of their 3 victories and their skill players aren’t so good that they will find a way to be successful without that sort of domination. Missouri demonstrated that. ASU became mistake prone and sputtered when they no longer had the talent advantage.

Despite that, I’m not sitting on a lot of confidence in my opinion, because I’m not so sure the Bears will play up to their potential today.

Part of me thinks this could be a VERY big breakout game for the Bears. They know they’re much better than their record and their going to go out there and avenge the loss to Nevada and rise above the last two tough games. They’ve got something to prove and frankly, when a Tedford team has felt that way against a beatable foe, the team has generally rose to the occasion. (It’s when the Bears are true underdogs that they seem not to rise to the occasion.) Add that to being at home and wanting to get back on the right track and the Bears could play the way we wanted them to versus Nevada. Call this re-opening Memorial Stadium – take II.

At the same time, I’m a bit worried that the USC loss took something out of this team. That loss was clearly a tough blow for the team and it would not entirely surprise me if that game was the one that will doom the season and the Bears will never come out sharp and confident again.

So which is it?

Call me an optimist: Bears 38, ASU 24

I thought Cal fans were bad

Stanford fans are FREAKING OUT today.

It continues to amaze me how binary sports fans are in their emotions… at least that’s the way it seems online. The team is either great or horrible, there’s very little in between.

Stanford is a rebuilding team this year, who could have not known that? Who could have not realized that the win over USC did not instantly change reality? When you’ve got a young QB, he’s going to struggle. He’ll struggle both in the odd game you don’t expect and he’ll struggle on the road. This is just a fact of life.

Even Andrew Luck went 5-7 in his first year. Err… looks like he went 8-4 (and lost the bowl game, 8-5) in his first year. It was 2008 when Stanford went 5-7.

So today it is Washington’s turn to act triumphant and invincible. They have finally arrived, having beaten #8. They’re a north division contender, don’t you know. That is of course until 8 days from now when they travel to Oregon.

If my reading of the tea-leaves is any good (and I thought that Washington was going to give Stanford a good game, so I’m not entirely off), Oregon will win that one solidly. At that point there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Seattle.

And so the roller coaster goes.

Welcome CGB refugees

“Wifeisatroj” comments in a previous post:

With CGB in new-format-turmoil, now is your chance to shine! Never mind that new fangled graphical look, stick with tried and true. With solid content.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks the new format over there is terrible. I wonder how much it has affected their traffic?

Take comfort that EMFMV will stick with the tried and true format we’ve always had.

I feel somewhat sorry for the leadership over there, and it furthers my resolve that unless I was being paid, I can’t imagine myself ever blogging on for-profit site. (not that anyone is offering) Twist tried to put a happy face on it over at CGB, but I get the feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under them.

And the thing is, CGB is not popular because of SB Nation. Sure, there’s a few things they’ve done that have facilitated CGB’s popularity, but overall, the popularity comes from what their writers and contributors have done. I’d feel pretty under-appreciated if I were them.

Stadium crew doing great

For something completely different:

I had noticed how bit in diameter the field-goal net poles were and thought it odd. The old ones were small and since there are people sitting behind them, it’s important they be small. It didn’t obstruct my view, so I never mentioned it either here, in the podcasts or to the University.

But apparently others did.

The result is that the poles are being taken down for Saturday’s game and there will be no net until they figure out an alternate solution.

This is an example of how the staff around the new Memorial Stadium are committed not just to building it, but getting it right in the long term.

While on the subject, I did notice that at The Horseshoe, the net was suspended by wires stretching across the stadium and there was no pole. That might just be the best solution.

Can I make a suggestion?

Can we take a 4 game break from talking about how hot Tedford’s seat is?

I was thinking about how surprised I’ve been with how topsy-turvy the commenting has been on the other sites. There’s been very little moderation. Everything is either awesome and great or DOOOOOOMED! People are WAAAY over reacting to losses. People are saying we’re going to go 2-10, or “at best” 3-9, MAAYBE 4-8 with a miracle.

There just doesn’t seem to be any ability to take the bad games in stride and remember that all mediocre teams have good games and bad games and sometimes the best teams in the conference make mediocre teams look worse than they are. That’s what makes them the best.

Just to throw out a few of examples of that:

  • Cal lost to USC 30-9, right? So we’re doomed to 2-10… wait THIRTY!?! That was last year’s score… yet the team went 7-5.
  • Cal lost to Nevada 52-31, right? … OK, you’ve caught onto my game. :) But in 2010 after that loss the Bears still went 5-7. A disaster yes, but not 2-10.
  • Or how about that cross country trip against a ranked team, and lost 17-35? The Bears went 10-3 that season (2006).

And while there was wailing and gnashing of teeth after those losses, the overall outlook was never as bad as it has been this weekend. Why?

The only conclusion I could come to is that Tedford’s seat is getting hot. And I get it. We’re all sick of mediocrity and there’s little reason to believe at this point that Tedford will rise above it, particularly in the next year or two.

And part of that is it’s very hard to fire a coach who has been so beloved in the past. It takes a real act of will to cast him off. The way we emotionally accomplish that is by over-emphasizing our negative emotions to build up the strength to do it.

It will likely come to that at some point, perhaps at the end of this season, perhaps at the end of next season.

But I’d kinda like a chance to enjoy the games, between now and then. And if we can just all forget that Tedford is on the hot-seat for a few weeks, we might just be able to enjoy the games. I suggest 4 games, until after the Big Game. After the Big Game, Tedford will have either bought himself another season with lots of wins or his seat will be plenty hot and it’ll be time to have the REAL discussion on whether he gets fired.

In the mean time, we might be able to enjoy watching our mediocre Bears in what will likely be some close and exciting games. They may not win them all, but it’ll be exciting. Isn’t that why we watch the games, for some excitement and enjoyment?

Upcoming opponents

Here are my thoughts on our remaining opponents and our chances against them:

Arizona State:

Arizona State has been getting a lot of hype for their turn-around and generally with good reason. However, I think it’s been a little TOO glowing. Who have they beat? 2-2 Illinois who have “epic” wins over Western Michigan and Charleston Southern, 2-2 Utah who actually has a somewhat interesting nail-biter win over BYU and Northern Arizona. Their loss was to Missouri who’s had a rough schedule and is 2-2 themselves.

This ASU team reminds me a bit of when Erickson took over and went off on a good run. They had an easy early season giving them too much hype. With the game in Berkeley, I think the Bears have a good shot at this:

Outcome: Marginal win

UCLA:

Which UCLA is the “real” UCLA? The team that beat Nebraska or the team that lost to Oregon State? It’s worth noting that Nebraska hasn’t won a meaningful game yet, with wins over Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Idaho State. OK, that’s not the worst lineup, but it’s also not great and it’s hard to tell how much of Nebraska’s 16 ranking was due to their reputation or their play. In a related fashion, how good is Oregon State? More on that later, but in summary, with only two games so far, both against teams with question marks, it’s hard to tell.

Nevertheless, I think UCLA is the #2 team in a weak South division and will provide a formidable challenge. The Bears have had their number in Berkeley for too long to ignore across multiple coaches.

Outcome: Marginal win

Washington State:

I still believe WSU is on the right track as a program, but it’s clear that Leach’s system won’t take hold over night. Furthermore, they’re VERY susceptible to the comeback as they have NO way to run down the clock (and seem to refuse to try) and their defense is easily beat for big gains. The loss to Colorado last night was embarrassing and will be a real confidence hit for them, particularly considering they’re going to lose the next two, to Oregon and Oregon State before facing Cal.

Outcome: Likely win

Stanford:

It’s hard not to look at the back-to-back USC games and assume this is a loss. And while it may very well be, let’s remember that Stanford has USC’s number and Cal clearly doesn’t. Let’s also remember that USC had huge injury problems against Stanford which were resolved against Cal. Let’s remember who played at home and who played at the Coliseum. Let’s remember the outcome of last year’s USC games and how the Bears played Stanford tight anyway. Plus, this year’s Big Game is in Berkeley.

As for Stanford on their own merits, they started off shaky against a worse-than-Nevada San Jose State, and have improved dramatically since. Yet other than the USC game, they haven’t really been tested. We’ll know more after their next 3 games against UW, Arizona and Notre Dame. It doesn’t hurt that they’ll be finishing a 3 of 4 on the road stretch when they come to Berkeley. All that said, hard to ignore the USC games.

Outcome: Marginal loss

Utah:

If this game was in Berkeley, it would be an easy call. The question is how the Bears play on the road at altitude. Utah looked terrible last night against Arizona State and frankly other than BYU haven’t played well. On paper I think the Bears win this one.

Outcome: Marginal win

Washington:

Even more so than Oregon State, not a lot on their resume to judge them by, either good or bad. A middling win over San Diego State, blown out by LSU and an easy win over Portland State. What can you take from that? Not much really. The game is in Berkeley and the Bears have played UW close here. Yet we’ve lost 3 in a row to the Huskies. The Friday night game helps the home team as well.

Outcome: Toss-up

Oregon:

Oregon looks incredible. By far the best team in the conference. Their dominance of an over-ranked Arizona last night was impressive. Particularly notable is the defense, which will stifle the Bears. I’d love to believe we could repeat our 2010 performance, but there’s no way.

Outcome: Assured loss

Oregon State:

Riley has the Beavers hungry again, that’s for sure. Yet they’ve only played two games both against teams that were thought highly of yet were untested. But no matter what level of spin you want to put around it, Oregon State is undefeated and their defense looks reminiscent of the ones that stifled Cal over the last decade. With the game on the road, hard to be too optimistic.

Outcome: Somewhere between marginal and likely loss

Summary:

What’s notable is that there is only one likely win on my list. So for the pessimistic amongst us, this season could go really, really, poorly. However, there’s plenty of marginal wins, 3, that put the Bears at 5 wins overall if they win all the ones I think they’re supposed to. Win the toss-up against UW and the Bears are bowl eligible and pull the upset over Stanford and the Bears are 7-5.

Again, it’s all about what your perspective is. Are you just looking at this season and the trending? If so, then there is reason to be optimistic. But if you’re looking for a team that truly gives us something to be happy about, that shows Cal is pushing back into the upper echelons of the conference, then you’re guaranteed to be disappointed.

I will say this: With so many winnable games coming up, the Bears better play well and win them, or Tedford won’t be here in January. They also better get to 6 wins before the Oregon game if they truly hope to be bowl eligible. I’d hate to be headed to Corvallis needing a win.

The reasons we lost to USC

I think it really boils down to four things:

  1. Poor offensive line play
  2. Under utilization of Bigelow
  3. Maynard’s poor play
  4. Poor redzone execution

That will doom you in about any game versus a reasonable opponent. You just can’t make 6 trips inside the opponent’s 22 yard line and only come away with 9 points, particularly when you’re not breaking big plays either because your best break away running back (Bigelow) is on the bench and your quarterback is missing open receivers for big gains.

Maynard struggled against USC

In my previous post I indicated that for the most part I felt like, relative to our post-Nevada/S. Utah expectations, the Bears have improved.

I still mostly stand behind that, but there’s one very notable player who didn’t: Maynard.

Maynard was 18 for 33 (54.5%) for 173 yards, or 5.2 yards per attempt. Not horrific numbers, but also not good. He was also sacked 7 times, which while plenty of blame for that goes to the offensive line, there were 2 or 3 of those that a better QB would have avoided.

The statistic that was most notable was that only one player had more than two receptions: Keenan Allen. Maynard was locked on him like teenage boy seeing his first stripper.

Treggs: 1 reception. Harper: 1 reception. You can’t tell me those guys were never open. Heck, we don’t have to look at the statistics, watch the TV coverage… they pointed out multiple plays were Maynard didn’t see WIDE open receivers, Treggs at least three times for what were sure touchdowns (twice he was wide open in the endzone and the 3rd was a longer play were he was 15 yards behind the defense).

Then there were the misthrows. He missed a number of guys with bad throws yesterday, more than the last couple games combined. Generally his problem is the ball sailing and lacking good touch.

Not to overstate, this was not his worst performance, nor was it the reason the Bears lost. But it was still a definite step back from the tOSU game.

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s really hard to tell. USC has a way of making Cal, and particularly our quarterbacks, look bad. The Bears have rebounded from bad USC games with much better performances afterward. We sure as heck saw it last year from Maynard. After USC he had a 65% completion percentage or better in every game except UCLA and WSU (where the percentage was a bit deceiving in an otherwise good performance).

My bet is it’ll be a lot like last year. Maynard will rebound, but we’re likely to see a regression game or two. When it hits him and whether it affects the outcome of the game is anyone’s guess.

Initial USC postgame thoughts

First set of thoughts after the game…

  • Bigelow comes in for one drive, gets 4 caries for 30 yards, gives some life to the running game and then… DISAPPEARS FOR THE REST OF THE GAME. What. the. heck!
  • This was a pretty typical “good” loss to USC. Outmatched for the most part, and yet the Bears do their best to hang in, but are ultimately doomed by a lack of offense.
  • Speaking of which, 6 trips deep into USC territory, 9 points. That is just never going to get it done. What USC does best against Cal is win the redzone battle.
  • Just like last week this game can be viewed very differently depending on what your perspective is. Here’s a few:
    • If you’re wondering if Tedford has this team where it should be after 11 years at the helm then there’s nothing other to be than disappointed. The 2012 Bears are NOT conference contenders. There’s just no other way to say it.
    • If you wanted to see Cal make the next step after coming close against tOSU, then this game is a disappointment. USC was better than tOSU and the Bears played similarly against both. Cal got fewer breaks and didn’t have as good of luck, but overall it was a similar performance.
    • However, if you assumed the Bears were going to come home from the brutal 2-game road trip with an overall record of 1-3, but wanted to see the Bears in a position to win games after that stretch, then this game feels like a continued step in the right direction. D’Amato got some of his mojo back. The defense has cleaned things up. The offense is having better execution. This team probably would have beat Nevada and can beat a lot of the teams in the conference. It’s not unreasonable to hope/expect this team to get to 4-3 after the next 3 games (ASU, UCLA, WSU).
  • The key is going to be team chemistry and emotion after this loss. It doesn’t have the same positives as the tOSU game. Tedford and the coaching staff, and the leaders on the team have a big task in front of them to say: The season starts now.
  • But it bears repeating, where. in. the. name. of. all. that. is. good. was BIG-E-LOW!?!

Halftime thoughts for the USC game

Various thoughts on the first half of the USC game…

  • D’Amato: There’s no doubt he’s got the shanks and it’s all inside his head. Nice to see him get a chance to kick a short one to get some confidence back. While we should definitely bias against kicking, but I wouldn’t completely give up on him yet.
  • The 2 interceptions have saved this from being a much more lopsided game. That’s both good defense and a bit of luck.
  • At the same time, the run defense is a real problem. Very intermitant play. Some good plays, but also WAAAY too many plays getting blown off the ball and seeing it go for lots of yards.
  • Offense hasn’t been horrible, but also has been too inconsistent as well. Too many botched plays. Also, the offensive line is loosing the battle at the line of scrimmage. Considering that deficit, the rest of the offense isn’t doing half bad.
  • WHERE THE HECK IS BIGELOW!?! This is where I get pretty frustrated with Tedford and his staff. They act like they get it, but yet then they never seem to ACT on what they get. Bigelow’s carries so far: ZERO! Unbelievable.
  • Touchdowns, not field goals. That has to be the mantra when playing a better team and so far we’ve got two redzone possessions and two field goal attempts.
  • The Bears are going to have to play a much better 2nd half to win this one, but it’s not entirely out of reach yet. Scoring on their first drive is pretty important to swing momentum and then the run defense has to improve.

Oh, one more thing… why couldn’t we have the good luck of the Furd in when we match up against USC? They played them without their kicker or their lauded center. Both are back to face Cal. Ugh.

That said: No excuses, win this game!

tOSU Trip Blog: final thoughts

A few things I didn’t comment on in my rush to get the blog posts out while hurrying around on the road:

The Ohio State marching band

Of course tOSU is known for their marching band and I was pretty excited to see them perform. One of the things I love most about college football is the marching bands and am impressed by the level of professionalism and musical talent I see out of so many different bands, particularly our beloved California Marching Band, but also UCLA, USC (as long as they’re not playing that one STUPID, STUPID, STUPID song) and others. Then there is of course the antithesis of talent, the Stanford band, but that’s a post for another day.

There were two things of note that made the tOSU band special in my mind. The first was how sharp their formations were. Everything was very precise. They were able to pull off things like two lines crossing through each other very well and without affecting other areas. I remember Texas A&M doing the same thing, but they did it by sharply sticking to 90 and 45 degree angles. tOSU was able to do it with lots of different angles and groupings. They made designs with broad arcs and curves as well as stellar straight lines.

The second special thing was how creative they were. Sure they started with the script Ohio that is their trademark, but they did a lot more, some of which was clearly a first-time thing for this game. Their halftime show was particularly impressive along this lines with their tribute to NASA and the various spaceships they made, again demonstrating their ability to have complicated designs with high precision.

Interestingly, the music itself was not as notable. While it was on the better side as far as bands go, it was also on the quiet side, which was surprising considering the size of the band.

In any case, I liked the tOSU band and very much understand why they are lauded. The script Ohio is a great tradition.

The Buckeye Bounce

If there is one thing I will never forgive tOSU for, it is “The Buckeye Bounce”. If you don’t know what it is, you can see a youtube clip of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHrierJkGw0.

The reason I hate them for it is they played it ALL the time, and it got stuck in my head. It was like the above mentioned USC song.

To make matters worse, later that night I heard the same dang song at the Stanford game via the TV. Contain the virus! IT’S SPREADING!

I will give it this, it had a great effect on the crowd. Whenever the PA folks thought they needed to whip up the crowd, which was a lot, they busted it out and it worked very well. Along those lines, Cal could use their own equivalent. It worked much better than the dumb “Make some noise” meters they show on the jumbotron.

More about The Horseshoe

I didn’t really say all that much about the stadium other than it was cozy… It’s really two separate structures. Originally just the horseshoe shaped part was made, and then they added an entirely separate structure at the end of the horseshoe by the south endzone. This creates two walkways into the stadium, one for each team.

Of note: the students are in the endzone. Cal students, please remember how increasingly rare and wonderful your 50-yardline seats are.

The stadium actually has 3 level for concourses even though it is only a two-deck stadium. Being so used to poor stadiums, I thought the bottom concourse would be the only one with food, but later found out they had concessions on all 3 levels. Which was nice from the upper deck.

The upper deck was pretty steep as far as upper decks go. We were pretty high up off the field. Our view was fine, a bit like my 2nd from the top row seats at AT&T last year.

The stadium is showing signs of age, both in the seating area and in the concourses. I have a feeling a face-lift upgrade isn’t too far away.

The nicest part (or most notable depending on how you look at it) of the stadium was the entrance on the north end, the middle of the original horseshoe. Here’s a picture of it:
Entrance to Ohio State

You can’t really see it in the picture, but those three entry ways have some pretty nice stained glass pictures. The center is the “O” and the two outside ones are pictures of game action.

It was pretty nice. It had that same feel that the new Memorial gives you. Both nice and with a strong connection to our history.

Best mp4 players for TVs

Looking for some advice…

Now that I’m getting most of the games via mp4 files, I’m looking for a good/easy way to view them on the TV. Any recommendations on boxes/solutions that will play mp4 files, ideally from a windows share?

Cheap but functional… no need for attached storage, I already have an always up computer in the house that can host the files.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

tOSU Trip Blog: The flight home

After the game Saturday afternoon, we headed up to Cleveland. Let me say one last thing about Columbus… I’ve never had it so easy getting in and out of a stadium, which is particularly surprising considering it had 105K people there, none who left before the end of the game. There was no meaningful traffic leaving the stadium.

We headed to Cleveland because I didn’t book by return trip from Springfield, MA, but from Cleveland. Unlike the beginning of the trip when there was a reason to over-shoot Columbus to see my brother, there wasn’t much of a reason to head back to Massachusetts just to get back on a plane. (Well, one small reason: to keep my brother company on the ride… oh well!)

What made this trip interesting flight wise, was I was never in the same airport twice. I went from SFO to Detroit to Springfield, then drove to Columbus, then Cleveland to Chicago to Sacramento.

Cleveland was a very stinky town. It didn’t help that we parked over a drain grate and the car smelled like sewage all evening. It was also more humid than the rest of the trip, assumably because of the proximity to Lake Erie.

As a side note, I’ve been to Lake Erie before, sailing in the Bemis youth national sailing championship out of Mentor Harbor, OH, which is just up the road from Cleveland. I almost took my brother there to see the site of the regatta, but we were running out of gas. That trip as a teenager also meant that I only added one trip to my list of state’s visited (West Virginia) this trip.

The 1 hour flight from Cleveland to Chicago continued the good trend of half empty flights, yet again getting a whole row to myself (nobody likes to sit next to me… I wonder why?). That good luck ended on the jam-packed flight from Chicago to Sacto.

Today’s flights were on Southwest and it’s amazing to me how much everyone has gotten on the check-in early bandwagon. I actually checked in from The Horseshoe the day before because I forgot at 8:30 AM, a full 24 hours before, to check-in. Nevertheless, it was only 11:30 AM, a full 21 hours before the flight and 110 people had already checked in (out of about 170 on this larger 737-800). Since Southwest has the first-come-first-served model, I was worried I wouldn’t get an isle or window seat, but I was able to get one in the back.

The worst part of said flight was not any of that but the delay. They came on the intercom shortly after they had started priority boarding (in other words the lady in the wheelchair had already been taken on the plane) to say they had a mechanical problem and they were going to try and fix it. We may need to change planes (which we all implicitly knew meant it could be a long delay). Stay put and don’t leave the gate area!

That not leave the gate area was the frustrating bit. There weren’t nearly enough seats and they came back every 10-15 minutes to tell us the same thing. Over an hour later, when we could have all gone to the nearest restaurant/bar/whatever to relax while we waited, but instead were sitting patiently with seats for only a third of us, the finally boarded us.

Not exactly the worst disaster ever, but still a bit frustrating.

I did take the layover opportunity in Chicago to record a OTRH podcast, so look for that either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

The flight got into Sacramento at around 1:45, just over an hour late and I was pretty tired, still being on Eastern time feeling like it was nearly dinner time. I also was feeling more on the positive side of the ledger of whether it was a missed opportunity or a positive sign.

Overall a good trip and I’d recommend a trip to Columbus when the opportunity presents itself to all Bear fans.

D’Amata… are we being too harsh?

40, 18, 25, 47… those are the field goals that Vince D’Amata has kicked in the first two games. He was 4 of 5, missing a chip shot in the Nevada game. He hasn’t missed an extra point yet.

Let’s remember that when we consider bashing Tedford for continuing to give D’Amato chances to kick field goals. It’s not like the guy was struggling before yesterday. Missing two in a row does not a meaningful trend make.

Also let’s remember that all of his kicks were from 40+ yards yesterday. It’s not like he was missing 25 yard chip shots.

Of course, there’s no doubt D’Amato had a bad game. And there’s reason to be concerned whenever your kicker starts to struggle. There’s no doubt that those missed 9 points cost us the game. Yet remember there were other things that similarly could be considered as crucial to the loss.

So it frustrates me how people exaggerate how bad a situation is because of the impact on the outcome. If we had won by 7 what would the reaction be? Sure, it would still be a concern. Yet it wouldn’t be a ‘bash Tedford for sending him out a third time and what the heck kind of horrible player is D’Amato’ affair.

Brendan Bigelow

What a break out game for Bigelow! CJ Anderson better watch his back, because he’s still no Isi and with Bigelow asserting himself, frankly demanding more playing time, CJ is going to get relegated to power rushing formations.

It was pretty disappointing not to see Bigelow in the game on that final drive.

I’ve watched Bigelow with excitement since he arrived on campus, but he never seemed to really have the vision and didn’t seem to execute very well. Nevertheless there was no denying his speed and his ability to make a cut. But it just wasn’t coming together.

Until today.

Expect to see a lot more of Bigelow in the future. He’s got the look of a Jahvid Best in the making.