Again I’m struggling with getting these posted promptly. I record it on the way home and it only takes 10 minutes or so to post, but for whatever reason, it always seems to slip. Here it is:
Archive for September, 2014
(See my previous post for my overall feelings about the game. But, since it is now Sunday, it’s time for Wailing And Gnashing Of Teeth (WAGOT).)
As much as yesterday’s game was fun, really, there aren’t that many positives to take away. Here’s what I’d list in the positive column:
- The Wide Receivers at Cal right now are AWESOME. They’re fast, they’ve got GREAT hands and there’s so many of them, the defense can’t focus on any one receiver. This is by far the best unit on the team and arguably the best WR unit in the country. And they played that way yesterday.
- Lasco had a pretty good game. I really like his never go down, never give up attitude and how he drags players the extra yards. Not only does it turn 2nd and 7 into 2nd and 4, it also really wears down the defense over time. Mohammed has his pluses, but the reason the running game is working right now is Lasco.
- The O-line held up pretty well and except in scenarios when CU was able to focus on the run, opened up reasonably good running lanes. They also protected Goff pretty well.
- Gotta hand it to the defense on that final stand. 1st and goal from the 2 and they hold CU 4 times. They held so well the 1st 3 plays, CU decided to go sideways on 4th down and the Bears were ready to snuff it out.
- Minus letting the QB option go a little wild, the run defense was pretty good.
- Rubenzer was on the bench for the most part. I’m sorry, until he’s a credible thrower that the defense will respect as a thrower, there’s no reason to have him back there. That gig is up until he starts throwing.
But that’s really about it. This was no great Colorado team and the Bears struggled mightily. I’ve got a big list of negatives:
- The secondary was stretched to its limit when Colorado went 4 and 5 wide. We just don’t have the bodies back there for that. This unit has a lot of potential over time, the talent is there, but they’re not deep enough for the Pac-12 and the number of teams that like to go 4+ wide.
- Don’t we know how to defend slants and outs? Colorado ate us ALIVE with those. And it’s not that hard. You have two choices: You place your outside linebackers wider and deeper to get in the throwing lanes or you have your DB’s do press coverage. But I’m sorry, you just can’t give them a 5-10 yard buffer on 3rd and 6. It’s just too easy to complete short passes when they’ve got that sort of cushion. In the 3rd quarter the Bears played more press coverage, and had success, but they forgot it too much in the 4th.
- Goff was off his game. He had a LOT of errant balls, particularly down the field. The good news is he generally was picking the right places to pass the ball, but way too many of them sailed on him on the shorter routes and he was under throwing the ball down the field. He also wasn’t leading his guys enough on the downfield slants. This was a pretty weak game for Goff. We’re going to need better than that to notch more wins this season.
- Defensive conditioning is still an issue. Maybe they just need to get off the field more often, but this defense has looked really tired in the 4th quarter the last two games.
- On the gnashing of teeth front, these refs SUCKED in the 2nd quarter. They handed CU that 4th touchdown. I’m sorry, when a runner cuts back into the field after having just barely stepped on the line, the defense has every right to hit him until a clear whistle is blown (something the ref who threw the flag would not have been able to confirm, his whistle was too far away to count for that). And the pass interference, the ball was WAY over his head. It wasn’t even close. And it looked like the WR was giving as good as he was getting in their hand game/pushes. So even if it was catch-able, it was still a marginal call. (in fairness, I think we got a makeup call in the 3rd when they picked up the pass interference flag) I also saw them miss a pretty bad face mask.
- I’m really worried this fairly vanilla defense is going to get exploited pretty bad. We’re not doing a lot of trickery and the such. I know that they’re rebuilding and sticking to the fundamentals is a good way to get them on the right track. And maybe they’re holding a bit of their stunts and tricks for later in the season when the games get tougher and when the team is a bit more matured and ready for it. But I sure hope they’ve got more up their sleeve than what I’ve seen thus far.
Speaking more generally, we just can’t expect to win giving up 45+ points every game. The team tried to do that last year and couldn’t. If the Bears are going to win many more, it’s all on the defense.
(final note: one more post coming today… OTRH podcast)
Generally, I tend to focus on the X’s and O’s, strengths and weaknesses, projections for the future and that sort of thing, but today I’m going to start with something a little different:
That was FUN!
I started going to Cal football games to do something enjoyable. Back in those days, the team averaged about 3-8, but almost all of those 3 were at home, so a little more than half the 5-6 games I saw were winners. And every victory was something to be cheered. Even the near upsets when Cal was a big underdog was a positive despite the final score not coming out right. We weren’t burdened with higher expectations or a big stadium renovation that had to be paid by lots of butts in the seats (which requires winning).
In those days, games like last night were the best sort. Flawed, exciting, unpredictable… you never knew what was going to happen. Just when you thought Cal was doomed, a big interception got them back in it. Just when you thought Cal was going to win easy, they made a mistake (like the defense giving up an all too easy fade into the endzone). And in the end, those 3 victories a year at home kept us optimistic enough in those games to keep coming back even when they lost a heart breaker.
For most of the 2nd half yesterday I was able to slip back into that mindset of old and not let the haze of “we’re barely hanging with the worst team in the conference” to spoil what was a really fun game to watch.
So my prayer for this morning is that we all are able to enjoy the games again like that.
Let Sunday and Monday be for wailing and gnashing of teeth, but Saturday is to enjoy the game.
The Colorado game is the one fans have circled as the easiest conference game on Cal’s schedule this year. Said another way, this is Cal’s most likely opportunity to get a conference game victory.
However, with Cal’s strong performance against Arizona (albeit with a very disappointing end) most Cal fans have set their sights a little higher than “let’s just win ONE conference game.” I think there are a lot of fans who assume that Saturday’s game is in the bag.
And there’s good reason to feel that way. Colorado is 2-2 with wins over 0-4 UMass and 1-3 Hawaii (their lone victory is over Northern Iowa). Not exactly overwhelming victories. Plus, Colorado lost to a pretty mediocre Colorado State game. Looking back to last season the Buffs only won one conference game. Admittedly, that one win was over Cal, but ignoring that for a moment, Colorado is clearly the weakest team in the conference.
But if you’re looking for reasons to fear Colorado it starts with who that lone conference victory was over: Cal. And for those who haven’t entirely blocked out that game, you’ll remember they didn’t just win, they handily won. After Cal tied it 10-10 midway through the 2nd quarter, Colorado all too easily scored two more touchdowns before halftime and never looked back. Cal’s two late touchdowns were after the result was no longer in question.
If we’re looking to this season, because there’s no doubt Cal is an improved team from last year, the Buffs did hang pretty well with Arizona State last week piling up significantly more yards than ASU, but got sunk by 3 turnovers. (small side note: the significance of CU holding with ASU was called into question last night when ASU let UCLA kick the ever-loving crud out of them on their home turf).
However, when one looks at Colorado games, one has to remember one huge advantage they have and that is playing at 5000 feet. It’s a tall order to make the trip up to the mountains on a Friday night and be ready to play the next day at altitude. In addition to the huge conditioning disadvantage, the ball flies differently through the thin air, disrupting the over-the-top passing game of their opponent and throwing a wrinkle into special teams.
Thus, if you look at their wins that make you think they’re better than they are, almost all of them are at home. Where did they hang with ASU? At home. Where did they beat Cal? At home. But when they play a team that also plays at altitude (Colorado State), they struggle mightily even if it’s at home.
And of course, as just stated, the Cal game was in Boulder last year.
So as much as I’d like to try to find ways to think this is going to be a tough matchup, I just can’t come up with it. Cal might have even won last year’s game if it was in Berkeley and they definitely win tomorrow in Berkeley. It might not be a huge blowout, but it will be a win. This is particularly true when one adds that Colorado struggles in the 2nd half. That’s JUST what Cal needs right now.
Cal wins going away: Cal 45, Colorado 23
The number of games was small this weekend due to a bunch of byes and more conference play (two games anyway). That also means we’ll be able to start to have meaningful games to compare against each other as conference play gets underway in earnest. In a few weeks, the picture will be a lot clearer. As for the non-conference games, the conference went 4-0, which will be all for the good in conference perception as the year goes on.
Here’s the team-by-team breakdown (in power ranking order):
- Oregon 38 – Washington St. 31: (Oregon entry) This is the sort of win that would cost you positions in the ranking. WSU hasn’t shown us anything yet to justify why they’d hang with the best team in the conference. However, Oregon has such a commanding lead, that they keep their spot despite the underwhelming performance.
- UCLA (bye) We’ll know a lot more about the top of the conference after Thursday’s game between UCLA and ASU.
- Arizona State (bye): Same story as UCLA. I considered moving Washington above ASU, but in the end decided to leave things as they are due to the bye.
- Washington 45 – Georgia State: After two weak performances to start the season UW has started to click the last two weeks. The seem to be moving toward the top of the conference. They play Stanford next week, so we’ll have a good idea of who will be the challenger to Oregon in the north in short order.
- Utah 26 – Michigan 10: Hold onto your horses, Utah is 3-0 and has a “marque” non-conference victory under their belt. I put that in quotes because this is not your father’s Michigan team. Nevertheless, going into the Big House and winning convincingly, particularly when you loose your starting QB for a quarter, is pretty impressive no matter how down Michigan is. So they rise a few spots. I wouldn’t bet too hard on them holding this spot though.
- Stanford (bye): Stanford’s opponents aren’t looking very strong as they play more games. The lone positive related game was Boston College whipping Maine 40-10, which suggests their victory over USC was not as bad as it may seem (thus Stanford’s loss to USC not as bad).
- Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (UA entry) What do you do with a team you think got extremely lucky in winning against a team that has sat on the lower half of the power rankings? Minus the Utah rise, I left them about where they were. You’ve got to give them props for their determination and a win like that is something that builds confidence and resolve.
- USC (bye) USC finds itself surprisingly low on the list, but that’s what happens when you lay and egg and then have a bye. They need to take care of business against Oregon State this weekend to get back on solid footing. Then they have a chance to rise back up the list with ASU coming to town in 2 weeks.
- Oregon State 28 – San Diego State 7: Oregon State has sure had a weak non-conference schedule thus far. And some of their victories weren’t all that inspiring. That includes this week’s victory over SDSU, which can most generously be called “workman like”. In any case, that’s how a 3-0 team ends up this low on the list. Never fear OSU fans, they’ve got plenty of games in short order than can send the team rising up the list quite quickly.
- Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (Cal entry) Cal better wins some games soon or they’re going to find themselves quickly on the bottom of the list. Seeing as their next two games are against the bottom of the list, they won’t be rising too far on the list, even with victories.
- Oregon 38 – Washington State 31: (WSU entry) Considered leap-frogging Cal with such a strong performance against the top team in the conference. But seeing as how WSU never meaningful led the game and basically held with Oregon and then wilted when the chips were down, it’s hard to give them too much credit. However, if they put up some victories in the near future, this Oregon loss will not count much against them.
- Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: Colorado seems to have the same disease Cal does. They were pretty dominant early in this one but then stalled for the rest of the game. Luckily for them Hawaii didn’t have the horsepower to make a comeback, but this wasn’t exactly a compelling win.
The list didn’t change a lot this week, but expect a lot of changes next week as the conference games take their toll.
BearTalk let’s us know what we’d expect (an off-prime-time game on Pac-12 network).
Which leads me to a question… anyone know how much data the ‘Pac-12 Now’ app will use if I watch the game on 4G?
I’ve been thinking about when the last time the Bears lost such a heartbreaking game. Here are the candidates I came up with:
- 2010 Washington: This is the last time I truly felt punched in the gut the way I did Saturday night. Bears were leading most of the game, but lost on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line (after having stopped the prior couple plays at the goal line).
- 2007 Oregon State: The most iconic low moment of all the Tedford years. Riley goes down with no timeouts, Tedford throws down his headset and Cal was never the same again under Tedford.
- 1990 Big Game: The Bears were one roughing the passer penalty from victory in the most painful Big Game loss of my lifetime. (update @ 11:45a – It was the 1990 game I was thinking of, not 1991)
There are some others out there that were painful in a number of different ways, but those sit on top for me. However, one caveat for the future leads me to believe this one may fade with time. As I reviewed the games I disqualified a number of bad losses for various reasons:
- Cal had a shot to come-back after the disaster (2006 Arizona, etc.)
- Games where Cal got close in the end after getting way behind early, but couldn’t get over the hump (2008 Maryland, etc.)
- Games where Cal was the underdog (2004 USC, 2000 Big Game, etc.)
And that last one suggests there’s reason to believe this painful loss may fade with time. Cal was the underdog coming into this one. However, they weren’t a huge underdog and by the time things fell apart, I think we all felt Cal was the better team. So maybe not. Only time will tell.
Any other candidates for heartbreaking losses?
There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth today!
Before I head off to Church, a few thoughts…
- The Hail Mary was just the unfortunate end to what was an epic collapse. The offense did just about everything in their power to not this one slip away, but as Joshiemac points out, you just CAN NOT give up 36 points in the 4th quarter and expect to win. That’s on the defense.
- In all three games we’ve played, the 3rd quarter has been when things started going wrong. Yes this week we gave up 36 points in the 4th, but I feel like when we let Arizona back in the game was in the mid-3rd quarter. So far I’ve been unimpressed with Dykes playcalling and how he’s having the team play in the 3rd. The 3rd is the time to go for the kill. Dykes appears to already be in prevent mode and it’s WAAAAY too early for that.
- One of the things that a rebuilding team struggles with is the rare plays. The onside kicks. The Hail Mary’s. The coaching staff has much bigger fish to fry and they don’t spend a lot of time on those “extras”. I can’t fault them in principle for that. But it really, really, really hurt us. To that end…
- When there is a Hail Mary, you DO NOT PLAY THE RECEIVER!?!?!?!?! You turn around and play the ball. All of our DB’s were playing their guys and that was COMPLETELY why the play was successful. Hail Mary balls are in the air for a long time. You just play center field and knock the ball DOWN (a reminder to Bears of the past).
- How is it possible that the Bears played that 2nd attempt at the 1st onside kick so poorly? They already saw what AZ was going to do and yet they STILL only had 3 guys on that side of the ball. UN-BE-LEAVE-A-BULL!
- While I can understand the thinking, when they brought in Rubenzer on that last possession, I think you hand the ball off to the guy doing the sweep. You’ve trained the defense that when Rubenzer is in, he’s going to have the ball. OK, so you’re not ready to throw in that situation (stops the clock, etc.), but the guy coming across on the sweep/distraction would have had a lot more success than he did.
- If we got all the breaks in the 1st half (FG off the upright, etc.) we got ZERO breaks in the 2nd half. That interception was amazingly hard to comprehend. How often does that happen? With how hard it popped up, I was sure it hit the ground on 1st viewing (but it didn’t).
- I was frustrated how close to the box the outside linebackers were playing down the stretch. We got beat on seam passes over and over, and if the OLB’s were playing wider and deeper, that entirely goes away. If I had to say the one thing that doomed us in the game, this is it. Solomon had not touch. He was only good when he could rocket the ball in on slants and seam routes. Why didn’t we clog up those lanes and take them away?
- Also, why weren’t we switching up who was covering #1? Allensworth was struggling, so get someone else against him.
So obviously I’m frustrated. I saw so many different things in that 2nd half that really ticked me off.
But there’s a silver lining here. Cal can compete in these sorts of games. There’s a lot more winnable games down the road if the team continues to improve. My fear is this game becomes a big momentum killer. Dykes’ job is to turn this into extra motivation to go out and kick some butt. I want to see a VERY determined, ticked-off team next Saturday in Berkeley.
I’ll be live blogging the game at 7 PM. Come back and join the fun!
(Remember you have to go to the single-post view, not the main page, to see the live-blogging updates)
The first thing I do before writing my preview post is to read all the various pundits thoughts on the matchup. I was expecting the consensus to more or less say that Arizona is favored but look out for those up and coming Bears. Surprisingly, I saw very little of that. If anything, there seemed to be consensus that Arizona should be much better than Cal and win handily if they don’t overlook Cal.
Frankly, as Cal fans, we should hope that the Arizona players and coaches are soaking in every word of the praise.
The reality is we know as little about how good Arizona is as we do about Cal. There’s nothing on their resume that’s the least bit impressive. UNLV is 1-2, losing badly to Northern Illinois as well as Arizona. UTSA challenged Arizona pretty good, but the thought was that UTSA was better than their reputation having beat Houston soundly in week 1. But they got stomped by Oklahoma State in week 3 and frankly the Houston win isn’t looking that good either (they’re 1-2 as well).
Which brings us to Nevada, the most interesting game in the list. Nevada has some history of success in recent years, but last year was a step back for them (4-8). So the question is whether the 2014 Wolf Pack is a return to previous form, in which case Arizona’s win, while not overwhelming, would be evidence of a reasonably good team. And the answer to that question lies in how good WSU is (who Nevada beat), because it’s the only potential impressive win on Nevada’s 3 game schedule.
My conclusion from all this is that Arizona is a middle of the road Pac-12 team that isn’t firing on all cylinders, at least not yet.
In my mind that makes them vulnerable to the much improved Bears, particularly if they let the betting line and the pundits define what they think of Cal.
Thinking as a longtime Bear fan, the biggest thing that worries me about this game is that it’s in Tucson. The Bears have a history of not doing well in the desert. I’ve been to Wildcat stadium. It’s a tough place to play. The fans are relentless and mean and surprisingly LOUD.
If there’s good news in the above, the Bear Raid always uses the silent snap count, even at home, so perhaps the noise won’t have as much as an effect as I’d fear. It didn’t seem to matter at Northwestern.
On the positive side of the ledger is that the Bears had two weeks to prepare and the KNOW how important this game is. It’s not quite at the level of Northwestern, which was circled on their calendar for the last 12 months, but this Cal team knows that Saturday is a critically important game for the program’s future. Win this one and all the long negative streaks are over. Win this one and a lot of 2nd guessing will go away. And with two weeks to prepare, you can be sure every second of it was used to prepare for Arizona (instead of general work the 1st week and game preparation the 2nd). From that perspective, the early season couldn’t have setup better for the Bears (multiple weeks to prepare for both of the key early matchups).
But are the Bears good enough?
That one is tougher to call. I think the offense is good enough to score points and Arizona’s defense hasn’t been overwhelming. It’s the other side of the ball that concerns me more. Cal’s defense looked pretty good against Northwestern, but I really think that team is in bad shape. Can the defensive line be as disruptive against Arizona as they were against NW? Can the secondary keep the plays in front of them and not give up those 2 or 3 big plays that can sink an otherwise good effort? It’s likely the Bears defense will show it isn’t as good as we’d hope.
In the end, I think these teams are close enough to each other that effort will be the difference and these Bears are hungry. REALLY hungry. Hungry and ticked off and ready to play like their lives depend on it. And that’s going to be the difference.
Bears win: Cal 38 – Arizona 30
It could have been a GREAT week for the conference if it weren’t for USC who dropped a bomb so stinky one wonders how long it will be before they can play games again at that stadium. Straight to the review today (again in power ranking order):
- Oregon 48 – Wyoming 14: Not exactly the same level of opponent as the prior week, but Oregon did what they needed to do and remain the top team in the conference. I’d say the conference championship goes through Eugene except for the fact that the conference championship game will be played at Levi stadium.
- UCLA 20 – Texas 17: UCLA has to be riding a lot of confidence after that game. To have the backup QB come in and win the game for them was a huge confidence boost after two shaky wins the prior weeks. If there were someone else who was playing at a high level, UCLA wouldn’t be in the #2 spot, but with the problems below UCLA, they get the #2 spot by default.
- Arizona State 38 – Colorado 24: (ASU entry) I’d probably put ASU in the #2 spot if it weren’t for the fact their only proven QB went down last week with a foot injury and won’t make it back for their next game, a key match up against UCLA. Add the fact that they have yet to play anyone any good and it’s a leap too far for me to put them so high up.
- Washington 44 – Illinois 19: UW showed they’ve got resolve in their crushing win over the Illini. This feels like a team that wasn’t quite in rhythm the 1st two weeks but is now hitting their stride. We shouldn’t over value this one, but UW raises a long way up the list.
- Stanford 35 – Army 0: A very convincing win by Stanford. It sure looks like their defense is for real giving up 13 points in 3 games. However, they can’t go too much higher on the list, because they lost to the team that laid the stink bomb. I think Stanford is going to have a tough time winning games against good defenses.
- Arizona 35 – Nevada 28: It’s really hard to read Nevada this year. They’re obviously not terrible, but this is not a great Nevada team. Thus Arizona gets a bump up in the rankings because they are 3-0 and are starting to look a little less shaky than in the 1st two weeks.
- Utah (bye): Utah slips a bit on the bye due to Arizona, UW and UCLA surging.
- Boston College 37 – USC 31 What in tarnations is going on at USC? The only explanation I have for USC is that Stanford must not be that good when faced with a team with some defense. That’s the only thing that makes what happened on Saturday even remotely believable.
- Cal (bye): Couldn’t quite bring myself to put Cal above USC and thus Cal slips from the surge of UW and Arizona.
- Oregon State (bye): A surprising number of teams with a bye in the 3rd week, huh? Nothing changes with OSU’s resume while on the bye, so they still sit fairly low due to their less than impressive 1st two weeks. If there’s a team that might be too low, this is it.
- Arizona State 38 – Colorado 24: (Colorado entry) What’s more impressive, a road win over UMass or a home win over Portland state? I think it has to be UMass, and that’s why Colorado keeps its spot above WSU. Also, the lose to ASU wasn’t a blowout, which should give hope to the program they might be able to compete in some Pac-12 games this year.
- Washington State 59 – Portland State 21: Congras Wougs, you’ve got one in the win column. And it was not a bad showing even. However, with Nevada losing to Arizona, that loss continues to look worse and Rutgers isn’t tearing it up either. So while they’ve closed the gap, WSU still is on the bottom of the totem pole.
But overall, only one non-conference loss this week, which is generally good. However, the USC loss really hurts. The conference needs those sorts of games in the win column, particularly if USC does well in conference.
I understand why/how it happened, but the WORST thing about the new Pac-12 is that all games on the Pac-12 network are pretty difficult to go see at a sports bar. Almost all sports bars have DirecTV because overall it has the most sports channels, particularly the NFL. However, since DirecTV and the Pac-12 network can’t come to terms, it means that the Cal game is not available at most sports bars. So when a cheap bum like me who isn’t willing to pay for cable wants to watch a Cal game, I’ve got very, very, very few options.
Since this Saturday’s game against Arizona is on Pac-12 networks, that’s a very long way of saying, anybody know of a sports bar (or really any place I can reasonably go and watch the game) close to Roseville, that uses Comcast or Dish or any other provider that carries the Pac-12 network?
I seriously don’t understand how this keeps happening. The last comment made was Friday evening, so it turned off sometime after that. I was out of town all weekend. All I managed to do is get in a quick post on my smart phone on Saturday. I can’t possibly imagine what I would have done to turn off commenting.
I like wordpress, but in this case, this is all I have to say to say to them:
Comments are now re-enabled.
Got back from my weekend away a couple hours ago. The game is downloading as we speak. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch it later tonight. But in the meantime, here’s a review of the other games around the Pac-12.
The conference only lost one non-conference game (WSU to Nevada) but there were a lot of underwhelming performances against weak teams that still ended up in the win column. The lone conference game was a defensive nail biter. Here’s a review (in power ranking order):
- Oregon 46 – Michigan State 27: Oregon started the game strong, but MSU game roaring back in the 2nd quarter for a 24-18 halftime lead, which they extended to 27-18 early in the 3rd. However, it was all Oregon from that point out and they scored the game’s final 4 touchdowns to win 46-27. It’s by far the most impressive win of the conference so far this season and solidifies their position on top.
- USC 13 – Stanford 10: (USC’s entry) USC broke the tie with 2:36 left in the game, but Stanford managed to get down the field to the USC 22, at which point the USC defense took over, sacking Hogan on two consecutive plays and forcing a fumble on the 2nd, which USC recovered. Thus USC takes the #2 spot, leapfrogging Stanford.
- Arizona State 58 – New Mexico 23: ASU keeps beating up on weak opponents, which would incline me to put them lower. But a power ranking includes momentum, and this team is well positioned for a strong run in the next few weeks.
- USC 13 – Stanford 10: (Stanford’s entry) Logically, if the #2 team barely lost to the #3 team, they should just fall one spot to #3. However, early in the season it’s not that simple and the confidence blow costs them a spot. It would have been more spots if what lies below wasn’t so mediocre.
- Utah 59 – Fresno State 27: My gut tells me Utah won’t keep this spot, but when they beat Fresno State as convincingly as the #2 team in the power ranking, they deserve a bump up, particularly when other teams are under performing so much.
- UCLA 42 – Memphis 35: UCLA came into the season as a pundit favorite to win the Pac-12. So far they haven’t shown they’re worthy of the praise. I was tempted to drop them lower, but the bar below is pretty low.
- Cal 55 – Sac State 14: Beating up on an FCS team shouldn’t be over stated, but Cal did so quite convincingly. Frankly, if Northwestern hadn’t lost to Northern Illinois, confirming that NW is a mess of a team (and thus Cal’s win not that impressive), I might have been tempted to put them above UCLA. As of now, Cal sits at the bottom of the “both wins were solid” pile with UCLA sneaking in above them based on pre-season seeding.
- Arizona 26 – UTSA 23: Arizona take a big fall after struggling with UTSA. Now admittedly, UTSA is better this year than normal, having soundly beaten Houston the week before. But this is still no great team and the struggles put Arizona below the teams that don’t have a eyebrow raising (in a negative way) game.
- Oregon State 38 – Hawaii 30: The Pac-12 better hope that Hawaii is vastly improved from last year, because thus far they’ve been giving surprisingly good teams (or so we think) fits. As of right now, OSU and Washington have similar resume’s, but I give OSU the edge due to what appears to be a better defense.
- Washington 59 – Eastern Washington 52: The supposedly strong Huskies are stinking it up thus far about as bad as a team can and still be undefeated and thus at the bottom of the 2-0 pile.
- Colorado 41 – UMass 38: Colorado is out of the doghouse but just *BARELY*. I can’t imaging a more pathetic 1-1 resume. In fact, there are a number or 0-2 teams I would put in front of them. But considering what’s below, a weak 1-1 still gets them out of the cellar.
- Nevada 24 – Washington State 13: The wheels are falling off the bus in Pullman. While in fairness, the two teams they’ve played are better than a fair number of other opponents around the league, they’re still not exactly overwhelming opponents and WSU should have beaten both of them if they expect to be competitive in the conference.
At this point, there’s only 4 teams who’s results coupled with pre-season expectations would suggests the Bears couldn’t hang with them (Oregon, USC, ASU and Stanford). Since Cal doesn’t have to play ASU, one has to think that if the team can deliver on the promise they’ve shown thus far, a winning record (and not just barely 6-6) seems well within reach.
Wow! I did not see that coming. I have not yet seen anything but the box score, but based on that, this was quite a beat down.
Gotta feel good about the team going into the bye week, and with two weeks to prepare, one has to feel good about our chances against Arizona.
How do others feel about that matchup at this point?
It’s not hard to predict a winner of this game. You’d really have to be high on Sac State and low on Cal to predict anything but a Cal victory. I mean, just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong against a very similar caliber team (Portland State) last year and the Bears still squeaked out a victory.
So the question becomes, what sort of game should we expect.
I’m expecting the Bears to take a step back. Call this a “letdown game”. The Bears had the Northwestern Game circled on their calendar from the moment last year’s disappointing game ended. It got double and triple circled at the end of the season when it was clear that redemption for a miserable 2013 would only come in 2014.
And this was quite clear last Saturday. As an Oregon fan friend of mine said, “The Bears played the 1st quarter of the game like their lives depended on it.” Add to this various quotes from Dykes that he both played up the importance of the game and started game planning for Northwestern earlier than normal (two weeks into camp), and it’s quite clear the Bears were hyper-focused for the game.
Now, to be clear, I think this was wise. With Sac State next on the schedule and a bye after that, it allows the team to have that sort of singular focus on the Northwestern game.
However, as a result of that singular focus, I expect to see a flatter team tomorrow and more mistakes. I also expect to see a more generic game-plan, both because Dykes will want to hide the more creative aspects of his plans from future opponents and because they won’t have spent nearly as long optimizing the game-plan as they did for Northwestern.
Luckily, the Bears have the talent to easily beat Sac State.
Plus, Sac State is not the same team they were 2 and 3 years ago when they beat Pac-12 teams in huge upsets.
Let’s get down to the specifics… I expect the Bears to come out running the ball and until Dykes feels he’s gotten all the kinks worked out (or learned all he can), he’s going to keep running the ball. He’ll see this as a game to work on the area of the offense that still isn’t pleasing him.
The defense will be playing pretty vanilla coverages (again, don’t give future opponents too much revealing game-film) and as a result, the ‘giving 120% to try for the huge upset’ Sac State will probably have a little early success on offense.
So the 1st half will be a lower scoring affair than we’d expect and Sac State will likely score a couple times. Somewhere around 17-10 Cal at half.
But in the 2nd half, a tired Sac State team won’t be able to keep up with the more talented Bears and Cal will extend the lead in the 3rd quarter. By the middle of the 4th quarter, the backups will be in for both teams and Cal will comfortably cruise to the win, but overall people will be nervous about the slow start.
Final Score: Cal 41 – Sac State 20
The 1st week is in the books and the conference went 10-2. The only two losses were Colorado to Colorado State, quite surprising, and WSU to Rutgers, a mild surprise. Here’s breaking down each game/team (in power ranking order):
- Oregon 62 – South Dakota 13: Oregon starts the season in the pole position and their easy win over South Dakota doesn’t change anything. It’s a little bit disconcerting that Oregon gave up 370 yards to such a weak team, but at some point one is straining at gnats trying to find weaknesses. We’ll find out next week when they host Michigan State if they really deserve their spot at the top.
- Stanford 45 – UC Davis 0: Any shutout is impressive, even when it is UC Davis. I’m not sure Stanford will keep the #2 spot, but amongst the others who would contend for that spot, Stanford made the easiest work of their weak 1st week opponent.
- USC 52 – Fresno State 13: I watched part of this game and USC definitely has strong talent. They were a little bit sloppy and they most definitely lack depth, but this is a team that appears to be on the rise. They leap frog ASU and UCLA to take the #3 spot.
- Arizona State 45 – Weber State 14: Don’t let the 14 points fool you. It was 38-0 and then ASU clearly went into 2nd string mode. But Weber State might just have been the weakest team on the week 1 schedule for the Pac-12, so it excludes ASU from the top of the list.
- UCLA 28 – Virginia 20: UCLA didn’t live up to their hype in week 1, but let’s go a little easy on them. Cal fans know how tough it is to make the cross country trip for a 9 AM East Coast game. Nevertheless, the uninspiring offensive performance knocks them out of contention for the top spots in the power rankings after week 1. They’ll have a shot at redemption in weeks 3 and 4 when traveling to Texas and ASU in back-to-back weeks.
- Arizona 58 – UNLV 13: How good is UNLV? I mean, we know they’re not GOOD, but are they truly terrible, or are they middling enough that a 58-13 win for Arizona is something to be impressed with? Well, it’s hard to say, but it’s good enough for me to move Arizona up in the power rankings significantly. However, it won’t take much evidence for me to bump them down significantly if Arizona doesn’t perform strongly in the coming weeks.
- Oregon State 29 – Portland State 14: Oregon State under impressed me this weekend, particularly considering PSU was leading at halftime, 14-13. OSU keeps itself half way up the list based on pre-season expectations and a stronger 2nd half that helped them win the game.
- Cal 31 – Northwestern 24: Cal would have been a couple spots higher if they hadn’t let NW back into the game in the late 3rd quarter. However, despite starting the season at the bottom of the list, considering the quality of the opponent and the win coming on the road, Cal leap-frogs a number of teams after that win.
- Utah 56 – Idaho State 14:Utah didn’t do anything overly impressive against ISU, although one shouldn’t overlook the yards and points they put up. Nevertheless, there’s not much here that changes what one would think of the Utes. So they pretty much stay where they were, above the worst teams, but not quite in the middle. True, the worst teams now include UW and WSU and the middle for the pack includes Arizona and Cal, but overall the Utes more or less hold position.
- Washington 17 – Hawaii 16: A squeaker against a HORRIBLE Hawaii team? Not something that builds confidence. Washington thus tumbles more than any team and finds itself of the bottom of the list of teams that won their game. Not much of a chance for redemption until they host Stanford at the end of the month. Although if they keep playing the way they did on Saturday, they could lose one before then.
- Rutgers 41 – Washington State 38: Don’t under appreciate Rutgers. They have more talent and can play a better game than people give them credit for. Nevertheless, the late cross country game on Thursday for Rutgers put them in a pretty big hole and for WSU to be unable to find any meaningful defense is disconcerting. Thus this WSU team also goes tumbling in my estimation and here’s hoping they are as beatable as they looked in week 1 when the Bears make the trip to Pullman in early October.
- Colorado State 31 – Colorado 17: While I wasn’t expecting great things from Colorado this season, I was expecting more than a lost to CSU. In fairness, CU was leading late in the 3rd quarter and then the wheels came off the bus. Don’t completely write Colorado off yet, but this was not the start they were looking for and they FOR SURE are now looking up at the rest of the conference, particularly as long as Cal and Utah keep winning.
Overall, I think every team from Arizona down is beatable by Cal at this point. Not that Cal will win them all, but in all of them, based on the 1st week’s play, Cal has the talent and the team to win with a good effort.