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Archive for October, 2014

Thoughts on new admission policy

It was announced Wednesday that by 2017-2018 80% of the Cal recruiting class must have a 3.0 high school GPA.

At the outset my opinion is one of gratitude.  Cal needs to set a high standard for its student athletes.  And a 3.0 GPA is a pretty good measuring stick point for students.

However, upon further thought, I fear a too arbitrary a system that prevents us from going after the right recruits.  The ultimate goal should be to recruit players who will succeed academically at Cal.  Obviously grades and test scores are a factor in predicting that, but they’re not the only metric.  80% means a class of 24 must have only 4 guys with less than a 3.0.  In a group of that size it’s not hard to find 5 or 6 guys who when you take a more qualitative approach give you reasonable belief they can exceed at Cal.  What do you do with guys who were getting mostly C’s in their freshman and sophomore years but at some point they turned a corner and are getting solid B’s and even a few A’s once they’re being recruited?  Or kids who have a 2.9 GPA but scored 1100’s on their SATs?

I’d be more in favor of an average GPA approach.  With the minimum threshold approach coaches don’t have any incentive to after those really special kids, with 4.0+ GPA’s and good athletic skills to boot.  In an average GPA approach, those kids are pure gold.  Aren’t those the kids Cal should most want?

So I applaud the University for being committed to academics, but I also think they should rethink their metrics and work to find ones that really meet the goals of finding student athletes who will succeed both academically and on the field.

What do others think?

Pac-12 review (9th week edition)

Clarity in the north is pretty strong at this point.  In the South, there are a lot of question marks with three 1-loss teams.

  1. Oregon 59 – Cal 41: (Oregon entry) Oregon’s defense leaves something to be desired, but at the same time, they’re still winning all their games by big margins, so it’s hard not to put them on top.
  2. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (ASU entry) ASU is asserting itself pretty strongly right now.  One has to be pretty impressed with how solidly they dispatched both Stanford and UW.  All of a sudden their blowout loss to UCLA is looking more and more like an anomaly brought on by having to start the backup QB in his 1st meaningful action.
  3. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: (UA entry) If I was taking the overall schedule view of things, it would be tempting to put Utah above Arizona, but two things prevent that: Arizona beat Oregon and Utah lost to WSU.
  4. Utah 24 – USC 21: (Utah entry) Call me surprised.  I really didn’t think Utah had it in them.  USC fans are even admitting that Utah is pretty good.  They’ve still got a lot more games against top opponents to go, so I’m a long way from jumping on their bandwagon.  Nevertheless knocking off both USC and UCLA is impressive.
  5. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (Stanford entry) Stanford seems to have FINALLY figured out they needed to do something radical to inject some life into their offense.  What they did really caught the Beavers off guard.  When combined with their stout defense, Stanford was able to fiddle around with lots of creative schemes and ideas.  However, don’t get too high on the Stanford offense.  The next opponent won’t be so caught off guard.
  6. Utah 24 – USC 21: (USC entry) Was their loss to Utah because USC continues to be erratic or was it because Utah is pretty good?  Hard to say, but my best guess is it is more about Utah than USC pulling a Boston College.
  7. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (UCLA entry) Seriously, is this the team that was a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 and go to the playoff?  That all looks pretty stupid now.  They could only beat Colorado by 3!?!  When you’re Cal, you’re happy with that.  Not when you’re hoping to win the division.
  8. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (UW entry) It ticks me off to no end that the Bears put up such a bad effort against such a weak team.  How could this be the only game this year that the Bears were blown out?  Washington is looking pretty weak.  If they don’t win on their trip to Colorado, they could seriously go into a tailspin and not get bowl eligible.  At the same time, it’s not impossible to think this team could win every one of their remaining games.  Such is life in the middle of the Pac-12 when all your remaining opponents are in the middle of the muck with you.
  9. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (OSU entry) I keep OSU above the Bears because their path to bowl eligibility is a lot more friendly than the Bears.  They can lose Saturday and still have 3 reasonable shots to win two.  (Eh, maybe ASU is out of reach, so maybe it’s only 2 reasonable shots.)
  10. Oregon 59 – Cal 41 (Cal entry) You can have one of the top 3 offenses in the conference, but if you’ve got the worst defense, you don’t end up in the middle.  You end up closer to the bottom.  The Bears better be hungry this weekend, particularly on defense, because they need to stop the slide both for bowl eligibility reasons and to gain some confidence back.
  11. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (CU entry) Congrats CU, you’re out of the basement.  WSU’s freefall continues, but you guys gave yet another team a scare.  It’s been longer since WSU did that, thus you guys get the nod.  It feels like you’re hungry and might just deliver at some point on my recently abandoned prediction you’d upset someone.
  12. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: I feel sorry for WSU.  This team is better than their record.  But the ball just keeps bouncing the wrong way.  But at this point the losses are piling up and the margin of losing is getting worse as the games continue.  The upset of Utah is looking more and more like an anomaly (for both teams) and must be feeling very distant to the Cougars.  Has this team lost hope?

Another full slate of 6 conference games this weekend and ALL of them are on Saturday.  No wonder the Bears don’t start until 7:30 PM.

Changing servers

I’ve finally had it with my web hosting company, so I’m switching to a new one. It’s a spectacularly painful process to do in a way that has the minimum impact to my users/viewers.

Today is the big day for moving ExcuseMeForMyVoice to the new server. It should be mostly invisible minus just one thing:

If you’re pointed to the old server, comments will be disabled. I’ve already imported all the content to the new server, so I don’t want any additional content on the old server. Your local DNS server should get the address for the new server in about a day.

If you’re still being pointed at the old server as of Friday 10/31, please e-mail me at blog AT excusemeformyvoice DOT com. If you are seeing problems on the new server, leave a comment in this post.

Oregon Game Thoughts

Sorry for the delayed posting. Been very busy preparing for a trip. Nevertheless, better late than never, here are various thoughts on the Oregon game:

  • Count me amongst those who are really disappointed in the lack of progress on defense. I see very little in the way of progress and worse, it seems like our weaknesses are getting more exposed every week.
  • The defense’s 3rd down woes are particularly disappointing. There’s just too many times the defense does fine on 1st and 2nd down and then proceeds to give up a big play on 3rd and long. The 3rd and 19 that ended up going for a long touchdown is inexcusable.
  • I also feel the problem is more scheme than talent. The guys on the field are big and fast enough to be a quality Pac-12 defense.
  • Although if there’s one thing that would suggest otherwise, it is the tackling. If I were the coaches, I’d be spending A LOT of time having my defense do a TON of tackling drills. Tell them to take out their frustrations on the scout team. They’re just not wrapping up and holding on and taking them down. I don’t mind it much when a great RB drags our guys a handful of extra yards. But I do mind it a ton when he bounces off and runs for another 20 yards and a touchdown.
  • And since we’re going all negative, what is with the kickoffs? Someone might be able to convince me what they’re doing is a good idea, but first they’d have to tell what in tarnations they are trying to accomplish! I mean seriously, it’s not a squib (is it just that our kicker stinks at those?), it’s not a chip… what is it? What’s it’s purpose?
  • Also troubling is the number of long plays the defense has given up in the last two minutes of the half the last few games. There have been just too many games where we were close, in a place were we’d feel going into the tunnel with that score, but then the Bears practically INSIST on giving up an extra touchdown before halftime. Somebody needs to remind the defense that points scored just before halftime count just as much as the rest of them.
  • On to a positive note, I liked the heart of this team. They came out the tunnel ready to fight and kept fighting for the whole game (well, with about 5-8 minutes left the inevitable end started to take it’s toll on both team’s effort).
  • Also, the balance we’re seeing on offense is good. I think the offense would be struggling a lot more if it weren’t for that balance. In fact, it seems when the offense gets stagnant, it’s when the playcalling gets a bit too predictable. Interestingly, it seems to happen when the Bears get a bit too committed to the run, particularly on 1st and 2nd down.
  • Goff is still young, but he continues to grow on me. I think he’s going to be an exceptional quarterback over the long haul and I won’t be surprised to see him playing on Sundays for many years.
  • It was nice to see Rubenzer used in a better way this game. To see him in for half of a series and throwing the ball was a good thing. The key to success with him, as I have been saying all along, is the belief that he will throw the ball a significant percentage of the time. This game will help validate that belief.
  • Another guy I’m pretty happy with is Lasco. Heck all the RBs. The two young guys have been playing well with Mohammed getting limited reps with the cast. But Lasco is leading the way and really impresses me with his toughness, his ability to get those extra 2-3 yards after impact, while still being a pretty speedy guy.
  • The wide receivers on the other hand, while not bad, haven’t been standing out like they had for some much of the first half of the season. Perhaps I got too used to highlight reel catches, but there have been more difficult catches missed the last few games than in the past.
  • Finally, could someone please tell the Cal cheerleaders that their pink pompoms ARE A SHADE OF RED and need to be put away permanently! (we haven’t won since they started using them.)

Oregon preview

After the last two weeks you won’t be seeing from me any delusions that the Bears are going to win tonight. It was really disappointing to see the Bears not win a game that was turning into a shootout. It has appeared that the Bears are built to win those sorts of games. Maybe it was just bad luck/bounce of the ball. Or maybe it was deceptively a shootout due to the turnovers. But my gut says that the less-than-horrible quality of UCLA’s defense was the main culprit in why the Bears weren’t able to hold-serve in the shootout last Saturday.

With that revelation, it’s hard to think the Bears can beat Oregon.

Cal’s defense has yet to show it can meaningfully stop anyone. We haven’t given up less than 31 points to anyone since Sac State. And while the defense is slowly improving, there’s no reason to believe that the trend ends tonight against Oregon’s high powered offense.

So the only question that remains is can the Bears score at will tonight and turn this into another shootout?

A very strong argument can be made that no, Cal’s offense will find itself more frustrated than successful against Oregon’s defense. While they haven’t been great, Oregon has yet to give up more than 31 all season, even in a loss. To compare, let’s look at how the last two defenses Cal played compares to Oregon’s defense:

…er… nevermind that. Can you believe Oregon, UW and UCLA have no common opponents yet? (minus playing each other, which doesn’t help from a comparing defenses perspective (because a team never plays their own defense).)

So I guess I’m stuck with comparing them qualitatively, and from that perspective my gut says that Oregon’s front 7 isn’t as good as UWs, but is probably about the same as UCLA’s, although they might just be a tad weaker. However, Oregon’s secondary is the fastest and likely the best of the three, even thought statistically they give up a lot of yards. A lot of that has to do with the scheme because they also give up the fewest points of the 3.

What that all leads up to is I don’t expect the Bears to “drop 50” tonight. If they improve on last week’s performance and everything goes their way, they could score 40+ in a shootout, but more likely in the 20’s or 30’s.

And frankly, I fear even the 40+ won’t even be enough. Unless something changes radically, or Kaufman has something up his sleeve (which all evidence of how vanilla he schemes suggests to the contrary), I expect Oregon to score in the 40’s.

So the Bears lose this one in all probability. The only question is whether the Bears can put up enough points to make a game of it.

Cal 30, Oregon 45

Pac-12 review (8th week edition)

More Pac-12 games means more clarity. With only Arizona and WSU idle last weekend we learned quite a bit more. It appears normalcy is returning.

  1. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (Oregon entry) Another year passes and yet another beat-down of Washington by Oregon. It’s only surprising in how consistent it is. Oregon is continuing to reassert itself after the Arizona game.
  2. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (ASU entry) I wouldn’t put too much into ASU beating Stanford so solidly. They did have the benefit of a bye that their opponent didn’t have. Plus, it’s clear that Stanford is not the team they were in the past. It’s a lot more difficult to have a top-notch team when you can’t score and you can’t even hold on to the ball to give your defense some rest.
  3. USC 56 – Colorado 28 (USC entry) USC seems to be settling back in as well and is putting their loss to ASU behind them. If they had beat just about anyone else in the conference by this much, they leapfrog ASU.
  4. Arizona (bye): Things get a lot tougher for Arizona moving forward. They’ve still got to play ASU and UCLA. But for now, their soft front schedule combined with the win over Oregon keep them high up the list.
  5. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (Utah entry) If Utah keeps winning games, they’ll start leapfrogging some of the teams in front of them. All of a sudden their loss to WSU is looking like the anomaly. But just like Arizona, I’m not quite ready to buy into the hype. Their tough games are still in front of them: USC, ASU, Stanford, Arizona. And with their win over UCLA looking less and less impressive each week, they could fall quickly if the losses start to come.
  6. UCLA 36 – Cal 34: (UCLA entry) UCLA escaped Berkeley with a win and stops the bleeding. The road ahead is not without it’s perils and they need to re-group and start winning more convincingly if they are going to rise up the list.
  7. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (Stanford entry) After having their way against WSU, Stanford is right back into disaster recovery mode. Never have I seen a team regress so thoroughly offensively in a season. This team could lose a lot more if they don’t fix the problems. Even some of the weaker teams that will struggle with Stanford’s defense might eek out a win just by default by getting on the scoreboard more than once.
  8. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (UW entry) I hope UW enjoyed beating up on the Bears last week, because there was little to be excited about after Saturday. They’ve got 3 more measuring games and they’re all in the next 4 weeks. Win most of them and UW can salvage the impression their a team on the rise. Lose and despite likely getting bowl eligible, this will be a team that is regressing.
  9. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (OSU entry) That was a tough loss for the Beavers to take. It was a very winnable game against a team one could argue they should have beat. They’re sitting in a similar spot as Cal. The resume isn’t that strong, the front half was too soft (frankly worse than the Bears) and the back half is full of games they won’t be favored in. It might just be that the winner of the Cal-OSU game is the only one of the two who will be bowl eligible.
  10. UCLA 36 – Cal 34 (Cal entry) Speaking of painful losses that were tough to swallow, the Bears now need to find at least one win from Oregon, OSU, USC, and Stanford. Not exactly a promising list, particularly considering they play OSU on the road.
  11. Washington State (bye): It’s going to take a couple of big wins for WSU to get out of the bottom two. At this point, there’s a pretty big gap between the middle and the bottom and it’s officially between #10 and #11.
  12. USC 56 – Colorado 28: (CU entry) OUCH! Colorado is in big-time collapse mode. You want to know why their coach was so upset as things fell apart in Berkeley? Because he knew the whole season hinged on that game. They needed the confidence going into OSU and they needed those wins to be able to believe they could win any of the remaining games on the schedule. I used to think they might pull off an upset or two. Now I think they’re the 2014 version of the Bears and things are going to get ugly quick.

A full slate of 6 conference games this weekend to look forward to! (Perhaps the chaos returns this weekend?)

UCLA thoughts

(I wrote this post Monday morning, but for some reason it didn’t post. Here it is now)

Sorry for the lack of game-day posts and the such. I was out of town this weekend. I got to watch the game last night and here are my thoughts:

  • Sorry, that was NOT AN INTERCEPTION! I’m actually surprised there’s less wailing and gnashing of teeth over this one. There is absolutely no way to view the replay of that and conclude his foot was not out of bounds before he gained possession. Why do they even have a referee in the booth? Why not just put a magic 8 ball?
  • Of similar import, was the lack of a spearing call on the 4th down conversion. I don’t care what the TV commentators say (“where is he supposed to hit him”), it doesn’t matter (as we’ve seen from calls in the past). Helmet to helmet against a receiver while he’s going down after catching the ball is a foul. That defender needs to lead with a shoulder. And if we get that foul, it’s 1st and 10 at the 24, not the 39, and Goff never throws the ball again, so no interception, and Cal probably wins.
  • That said, and perhaps this is why there isn’t more complaining, Cal was very lucky to be in that game. All the bounces went their way. Just as I still think that Cal could have beat UW if the game was played again, I think if we play UCLA again, we still lose it most of the time. Cal was out-manned for the most part.
  • The Cal offense needs to stop playing intimidated, in particular the play-calling. The pass routes that were working against CU, WSU and UA are still there, but for whatever reason the play-calling is going away from those sorts of plays. They need to be less concerned with a game-plan and more concerned with focusing on execution of the base offense.
  • In contrast, the defense needs to actually make some adjustments. While I’m not horribly disappointed with their fairly simple schematic structure, we’re getting eaten alive by the same plays over and over. The WR screens were killing the Bears on Saturday. They need MORE game-planning and more variety to keep offenses on their toes.
  • Back to the offense, I think Dykes needs to understand that we need to pass to open up the run game. Certain teams need to start with running to open up the pass, but Cal needs to do the opposite. He’s focusing/forcing the run game too often, too early. We should start with throwing the ball and then move towards running after the defense makes adjustments.
  • To the balance end, nice to see Rubenzer throwing the ball. He needs to throw 30%+ of the time he’s in there to keep defenses honest (probably a little bit higher than that until defenses take him seriously).
  • But I still like the heart of this team. This team is going to keep fighting through every game this season. I really believe that they *can* win any of the remaining games. I doubt they will win all of them, but I think Cal will win at least two more and calling which two to three it is, is a difficult task.
  • I’m glad to hear that Trevor Davis appears to be fine.
  • We need Brendon Scarlett back ASAP. Some of the defensive pieces are coming together, despite new injuries. But the one that there’s no replacing right now is Scarlett.

I’ll be going to this Friday’s game at Levi’s Stadium. Here’s hoping for the best!

(More posts to come this week)

UCLA Preview

Games like Saturday’s are the toughest for me to preview. I have to fight between my logical side and my emotional side. Thus today you will get a dialogue format preview:

Emotional Side (ES): The Bears can beat this UCLA squad! What is their most impressive win? Texas? (They’re 2-4) The squeaker over Virginia (who couldn’t even beat BYU)? Or is it the other squeaker over 3-3 Memphis?

Logical Side (LS): Come on, you know their best win is over ASU who just beat USC.

ES: Yeah, but ASU was without their starting QB and was starting the backup for the 1st time. Not exactly an overwhelming performance!

LS: OK, let’s not get carried away. We can’t judge teams just by their victories alone. You do realize the Bear’s best conference victory is over a team that is now 2-4? We’ve got to use qualitative methods too.

ES: But I’m not done. Cal beat WSU, who beat Utah, who solidly beat UCLA!

LS: You’re really resorting to the transitive property with games that were all close? Look, UCLA only lost one game that they shouldn’t have (to Utah) but otherwise they’ve won all the games the were supposed to and lost the one game they were likely to lose. There’s a reason they were picked at the top of the South. This is one talented team.

ES: Yeah, but UCLA hasn’t won in Berkeley since Clinton was in the White House. UCLA always lays an egg in Berkeley.

LS: But that was pretty much all under Tedford, who’s team and style was much better suited to beat UCLA. And you’re comparing old UCLA teams with different coaches. In those days, Cal would win easily in Berkeley and then lose the most frustrating close loss of the season the following year in Pasadena. I seem to remember last year’s game being anything but close. Or do you not remember that with how long it took to find a parking spot, the score was already 17-0 when you got to your seat?

ES: OK, I’ll give you that one.

LS: Well, and since we’re in a conceding mood, I have to think this game hinges on the UCLA defense. If they can do what Washington did to Cal, then UCLA wins easily. But if Cal can return to its previous form offensively, Cal could have a real shot at this one.

ES: Yeah, and the Cal defense is playing better now!

LS: Let’s not get carried away. Yes, they did a better job against UW than they did against any of their previous opponents. But UW hasn’t been exactly lighting up the scoreboard. Plus, there were a couple too many big runs the Cal defense gave up, something they hadn’t been doing. And UCLA will probably try to control this game with the run game, between Perkins and Hundley running both on designed plays and when the passing game breaks down. We’ve seen nothing from the Bears front 7 to suggest they can contain a running QB. Plus with both Scarlett and Piatt out, things look even worse.

ES: OK, maybe UCLA scores some points too, but you have to like Cal’s chances in a shootout. Cal has done really well in those sorts of games and the defense seems to come up with just enough in the 4th quarter to win those.

LS: Yes, that’s probably the best scenario for the Bears, but don’t forget that next to UW, UCLA is probably the best defense the Bears have seen. Even if they don’t stop the Bears, they might just be good enough to come up with those critical one or two stops late in the game that could find the Bears on the wrong side of a shootout.

ES: Look, I don’t care what you say. You can quote stats and logical arguments all you want, but the Bears can win this one!

LS: Yes, they could. They’ve got a reasonable shot, but when you’re looking at this one logically, there’s a reason the Bears are a 7 point underdog at home, and in the end, the logical side needs to be the one running this blog.

Bears lose a frustrating one: Cal 31 – UCLA 41

Pac-12 review (7th week edition)

After a week of huge upsets some of the recently slain re-asserted themselves. A power ranking is tough because you don’t want to have it swing overly strongly while reflecting properly who’s feeling in a good position and who’s reeling. I was more conservative last week than others and it shows this week in that my positions won’t change as radically as others despite the turn-arounds. To the list:

  1. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (Oregon entry) After last Saturday it’s looking more like Arizona is the cryptonite to Oregon’s program. They mostly returned to form in dispatching UCLA. While it’s not inconceivable to think they might lose again, they have to be the favorite to win the conference championship at this point.
  2. Arizona State (bye): ASU was sitting on the sideline this weekend, but none of what went down hurts the perception of ASU, so they hold their #2 spot even if who’s in front of them changes.
  3. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Yet again USC defies expectation, but this time in the positive direction. I toyed with putting them in the #2 spot, and with time I might, but the ASU loss is just too recent to put them above ASU.
  4. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (UA entry) Just as Cal learned, you can only play with fire so long before you get burned. They should have lost to Cal, instead they get their karma comeuppance against USC, a team they should have beat.
  5. Utah (bye): Utah also holds serve during their bye, although their win over UCLA lost a bit of luster after Oregon soundly beat UCLA.
  6. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (Stanford entry) Stanford answered the question that was on all ‘raid’ offenses minds. Can they be stopped even by the best defenses? Sadly for fans of ‘raid’ teams, the answer is a resounding yes. Stanford could easily go rocketing up this list if their offense could ever get in gear. However, if they continue to struggle on that side of the ball, they’ll continue to lose too many very winnable games, particularly against the elite in the conference.
  7. Washington 31 – Cal 7: (UW entry) I’m not going to give UW too much credit for their win, but if they keep winning, they too will rise up the list quickly. Nothing I saw in Berkeley last Saturday leads me to believe that is going to happen.
  8. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (UCLA entry) UCLA is officially reeling after the Oregon loss. Losing two in a row after being undefeated REALLY hurts. However, other than Stanford and UW, those who were below them didn’t do much better to rise up the list.
  9. Oregon State (bye): Oregon State hopefully used their bye week to work on incremental improvements all over the field. One gets the sense that the team is complete enough to have no glaring holes, but also not overwhelming enough in any category to be very scary. When you’re in that spot, perfection is the key to success.
  10. Washington 31 – Cal 7 (Cal entry) Cal is hurt both by it’s own loss, but also by its two active opponents not looking as good as would be needed to suggest Cal had played the best in the conference.
  11. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (WSU entry) While their effort against Stanford was stronger than Cal’s against UW (and Stanford having already dispatched UW) it’s tempting to put WSU above Cal, but head-to-head matters more and Cal keeps it’s lead for now. But another stinker in Berkeley could change all that.
  12. Colorado (bye): Colorado is closer to a conference victory than their record suggests. If they spent their bye week wisely, it may just what they need to pull off a couple of upsets. I doubt it comes on Saturday at USC, but in the weeks to come there are some winnable games.

A nearly full slate of conference games this weekend will bring even more clarity to the conference.

Washington OTRH Podcast

Well, it wasn’t exactly one for the record books, but that never stopped anyone from podcasting. Here my thoughts on the way home from the game:

Upon further review… touchdown CAL!

OK, I finally got a chance to watch the replay of the “fumble” that was returned by Shaq for a TD. Sorry, that was a touchdown for Cal. Goff is a quarterback, he often holds the ball in one hand. There’s nothing to indicate in the video that when he had it in one hand that he didn’t have control of it and he was WAAAAY over the goal line before he bumps into a helmet and the ball comes loose.

Cal got the short end of that call on the field.

(I know, know, crying over spilled milk, etc.)

OUCH! That one hurt

I’m pretty ticked off about that one. That game REALLY stunk! Who took last year’s players and put them in this year’s uniforms?

I’ll rant all night if I let myself, but I’m not going to. Here’s to hoping a good night sleep gives some distance and perspective.

Washington preview

Before the beginning of the season I predicted that it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities the Bears could start 5-0 even if they weren’t that good. When it came to actually predicting the games, I predicted a 4-1 start, but swapped the loss with Arizona and WSU from what actually happened.

Thus the #1 question we need to ask ourselves is are we getting ahead of ourselves? I warned us not to get too excited about a 4-1 start and yet, here we are at 4-1 and we’re getting all excited. Is that because we qualitatively like what we see? Or are we letting the hype get to us? Are we just as doomed going into the back end as we were when we started?

To answer that question, let’s think about what has changed from pre-season predictions:

  • Washington hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but won all the games it was expected to win and lost the one people thought they might (Stanford).
  • But Stanford isn’t as good as we thought.
  • Cal’s offense has clicked more than people thought it would.
  • But the defense has improved less than we hoped.
  • UW’s secondary has been more suspect than expected.
  • UW’s offense has been inconsistent. Good at times, but surprisingly stifled at times.

Looking more specifically at the games played, Cal and UW have no common opponents yet. But we do have one chain of games that links the two teams together. UW beat Hawaii on the road, 17-16 whereas Colorado, who played Cal pretty straight up, beat Hawaii 21-12 at home. Overall that suggests all 3 teams are at least in the same general grouping, quality wise.

So I see three scenarios for this game:

  • The UW secondary can’t do what no one else has been able to do… slow the Bear’s offense. At the same time Cal’s defense is relieved to finally be facing a more traditional defense and the defensive line asserts itself like it did against Northwestern and the Bears win big. (Unlike NW, there will be no 3rd quarter let-up this time.)
  • The same as the 1st but instead the Cal defense shows just how far it has to go and we’re in another shootout. But with UW just not built to score points like Cal, Cal wins the shootout down the stretch.
  • Cal’s offense runs into its 1st good defense and gets grounded. In this scenario, just like the inverse in a shootout, I just can’t see the Bears defense doing its part to win the game.

So it comes down to this, can the Bear-Raid put up the points this weekend? Because in both those scenarios, the Bears win. And the more I think about it, there’s nothing going on in Seattle right now that scares me. WSU’s defensive line was pretty stout and it didn’t hurt the Bears ability to put up 60.

Thus, not only am I sticking to the upset I called before the beginning of the season (although I guess the Bears are favored in Vegas as of this morning by 3.5 pts), I’m doubling down:

Bears 52, Washington 31

Pac-12 review (6th week edition)

I challenge anyone to find a Pac-12/10/8 weekend in the history of the conference that was more chaotic than last weekend. Another Hail Mary to win it. A missed field goal to lose it. One major upset in the South. And one HUUUGE upset of what was supposedly the best team in the conference. Plus Stanford blows an upset opportunity in the 4th quarter in South Bend. What else could have happened? To the rankings (as always in Power ranking format):

  1. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (UA entry) There’s two reasons to put Arizona up here: 1. They’re the only undefeated team left. 2. They just beat the #2 team in the country on their home turf. While Arizona firmly deserves this spot and I think is a real contender at this point in the south, my cautionary note is to not make too much of this. Arizona went 7-5 last year, but soundly beat Oregon. They clearly have Oregon’s number. My gut is that this upset will still be a head-scratcher at season’s end.
  2. Arizona State 38 – USC 34: (ASU entry) While it’s not hard to pick #1 this week, #2 is a real head-scratcher. ASU won on a Hail Mary, normally something that wouldn’t sit well with me, but since they’re 2-1 in conference and already have both UCLA and USC behind them, they’re sitting in a good spot. Plus, a Hail Mary finish quickly erases in their mind the disaster against UCLA.
  3. Utah 30 – UCLA 28 (Utah entry) Utah didn’t need a last minute heroics to beat the top-dog in the South. That makes them rise dramatically up the rankings. However, the loss to WSU and that they still have USC, ASU and Arizona in front of them makes it hard to lift them above #3.
  4. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (Oregon entry) Many have dropped Oregon further, but let’s not completely forget their resume up until now. They were #2 for a reason. And if you look at it with the fresh eyes of Arizona being the conference’s top dog (at least for the moment) then losing to them isn’t so bad.
  5. Utah 30 – UCLA 28: (UCLA entry) Really hard to know where to put UCLA. Again, don’t want to drop them too low considering how they played the week before, but this one hurts. It feels like they took Utah for granted looking forward to Oregon.
  6. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games. (yes, that’s exactly what I said last week, but it was so appropriate I figured why change it?)
  7. Arizona State 38 – USC 34 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Is it the team that went into Stanford Stadium and won a defensive battle or is it the team that lost to both BC and ASU? Maybe it’s a little of both, but in any case, one can’t put them too high in the ranking but one shouldn’t also put them too low as they are 2-1 in conference.
  8. Notre Dame 17 – Stanford 14: Something doesn’t quite feel right about putting Stanford this low for losing to #9 ND, but with 2 losses at this point and the bulk of their schedule still in front of them, one wonders if they don’t fall even further. They’re exactly the opposite of Cal. Cal must ask itself just how many points it has to score to win and Stanford has to ask itself how few it can give up.
  9. Washington (bye): Not much new for Washington but with some low teams rising strongly UW ends up falling. It’s gut check time in Seattle. If they lose to Cal on Saturday they’ll be trending towards the bottom.
  10. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (OSU entry) As Cal learned last year, it is harder to go up to Boulder and win than most people realize. As such one shouldn’t overlook the value of last Saturday’s win. It keeps OSU in the middle of the Pac and reminds everyone that no team can be taken lightly.
  11. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (WSU entry) The fact that WSU is way down here says a lot about the conference. They’re no slouch, but their 2-4 record just can’t justify putting them any higher. Mark my words, WSU is going to deliver a couple more upsets before the season is done.
  12. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (CU entry) Colorado is vastly improved over last year. Unfortunately for them, so is everyone else who was on the bottom of the conference last year. I’m not so sure they will pull any upsets this year, but if someone overlooks a trip to Boulder it could happen. Unfortunately for them, they could be the best 3-9 team in the country by season’s end.

Lots of bye’s this weekend with only 4 games. Friday night’s game (WSU @ Stanford) will be very telling. Heck, all 4 games will be telling/revealing.

UCLA tickets for sale

Unfortunately I can’t go to the UCLA game, so my tickets are for sale.

I have two regular reserved ($33) and 5 Youth (under 18 y.o. – $16) tickets. I’m in section C, in the 1st 2 rows above the concourse (which means extra leg room) and on the isle. 4 seats in the 1st row and 3 in the 2nd. While I have to admit that there are better locations around the bowl than section C, you won’t find a better seat to watch the game in that section and the prices are cheaper due to the location, particularly if you’re bringing kids (and it’s a 12:30 PM kickoff).

I can upgrade the youth seats to regular reserved and sell them at that price but I need to know by Saturday’s game (UW) so I can do it at the box office while down there, so let me know if you’re interested.

Either leave a comment or e-mail me at tickets AT excusemeformyvoice DOT com.

Post WSU first-thoughts

I was out of town this weekend. I tried to watch the game via 4G (I started with 4 bars and 4G with 3MB throughput), but my signal kept degrading to 3G with 2 bars. You just can’t watch video like that and the app kept crashing.

So I listened to most of the game on the radio, which is to see I haven’t seen most of it. (Starkey has gotten worse, is too non-linear and focuses on the wrong things.)

I’ll be watching it tonight, but in the mean time a few thoughts:

  • While the emphasis has been on WSU’s offense because of the stats, only 1 offense was 100% successful for TD’s in the 2nd half and it wasn’t the Wougs. As much as Cal’s defense was porous all night, they came up with 3 stops in the 2nd half, something WSU’s defense couldn’t do.
  • Something people forget about special teams returns for touchdowns is that the defense gets no rest. They have to go right back out on the field. That after the 2nd kickoff return they managed to force a punt should not be overlooked, exhaustion wise.
  • In the negative column, something overlooked is how little the Bears were able to rush for. Perhaps that is because the Bears were playing catchup for most of the game, but 62 yards on 18 attempts is pretty pathetic.
  • After the 1st 3 games we were all asking what was wrong with the Bears in the 2nd half. The last two games the Bears have been a 2nd half team (at least offensively).
  • Looking around the conference, what a week of upsets. Of the 6 games, 4 of them were upsets, two of the pretty big ones, one of them HUUUGE! That means two things to me:
    1. There’s a lot of parity in this conference and we as fans need to forget the back-loaded schedule thing. If Arizona can beat Oregon, so can we. There’s no reason to think UW, USC, UCLA and Stanford are out of reach either. That’s not to say Cal wins them all, but I’m no longer writing any of them off.
    2. I fear the conference won’t get a team in to the playoff, particularly if nobody in the conference can knock off Notre Dame.

More to come after I actually get to watch the game.

No liveblog tonight

I’m not going to have great Internet access tonight. You might see a peep or two from me, but no liveblog.

WSU preview

We’ve got a real interesting one tonight. For years WSU was one of the easiest teams on Cal’s schedule. WSU’s last good run was ending when Cal hired Tedford. He lost a shootout to them in 2002 and never lost again.

But WSU has been rebuilding and we need to resist the temptation to judge the team by their past. Leach has the Wougs on the right track and showed it in Berkeley last year jumping out to a 14 point lead over a shell-shocked Bears team. Cal actually inched back into it, only trailing 15-21 at half, but the defense just couldn’t hold through all the turnovers (5).

Cal actual won or tied a lot of the statistical battles last year. More yards. More yards per play. Matched WSU in 3rd down conversions and on total 1st downs (well, one short of that). But turnovers and penalties really hurt the Bears.

So what to expect from WSU this year? First off I wouldn’t judge them too much from their 2-3 record. Their 3 losses are to teams that are a combined 11-3 and they lost to none of them badly. Their defense looked really impressive last week in their come from behind win over Utah.

Overall I consider these teams fairly evenly matched and think the game will come down to Cal’s secondary. WSU likes to pass the ball… A LOT! 67 attempts against Cal last year and averaging 60 per game so far this season. They pass at the exclusion of rushing, averaging only 52 yards a game on less than 20 attempts a game. And they like to go 4 and 5 wide passing.

That’s the part that scares me. Cal’s secondary, which hasn’t been horrible from a qualitative perspective up until the Colorado game, showed its lack of depth when forced to defend 4+ receivers. There just aren’t enough experienced bodies to put on the field to cover that many guys. Frankly, what we have to hope is that Cal learned a lot from last week and will find the right combination of guys to slow WSU’s passing attack.

Frankly, it would really help for Stefan McClure to be back and healthy. He’s listed as questionable, which is not a positive sign.

The defensive line can provide some help by pressuring Halliday who in my opinion does get rattled a bit when pressured. He’s a rhythm QB and does not respond well when taken out of rhythm. The one qualifier to that is that he bounces back. Cal can’t expect to rattle him in the 1st quarter and expect it to affect him all game. They need to rattle him consistently throughout.

My gut says to call this game by the home field advantage, but so far, the Bears have looked just as good on the road. All of a sudden, that last minute loss to Arizona is looking a lot better after they knocked off Oregon in Autzen. And the Bears showed up great at Northwestern.

All of which leaves me very conflicted. The Bears can win this one and I’m sitting on a lot of hope. But there’s also this deep unease in the pit of my stomach. Which do I go with?

Let’s go with optimism: Cal 45, WSU 42.

Pac-12 review (5th week edition)

The 1st full week of conference play was revealing as it is every year. Only Oregon and Arizona were on a bye (in preparation for their upcoming Thursday night game). Let’s get straight into the rankings:

  1. Oregon (bye): Nothing happened this week that lowers Oregon’s position in the conference. If anything, WSU’s strong road performance against Utah minimizes the slight hit Oregon took when they won a close one in Pullman.
  2. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (UCLA entry) UCLA really exposed ASU on Thursday. They really destroyed what was supposed to be one of the top contenders to topple UCLA in the south division. UCLA is for real and has to be considered the top challenger to Oregon at this point.
  3. USC 35 – Oregon St. 10 (USC entry) USC let Oregon State hang around for a little while, but eventually their raw talent was just too much for the Beavers. The way I see things, there’s just no explaining how USC got man-handled at Boston College (a team that just lost to Colorado State I must add), so I’m going to just discount it at this point. However, if USC hadn’t beat Stanford, the position of them and Stanford at this point would be flopped.
  4. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (Stanford entry) Stanford’s wins aren’t exactly pretty but they keep winning. At some point one has to accept where they belong. Until proven otherwise (by another in-conference loss) Stanford is the contender to Oregon in the north.
  5. Arizona (bye): Arizona benefits in ranking by sitting on the sideline as UW and ASU go tumbling. There are only 3 undefeated teams in the conference and you just can’t put one of them below more than a couple conference teams with losses that stain their resume.
  6. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (UW entry) Washington had looked like they were putting things together, but now they just look inconsistent. They had their opportunities against Stanford and failed miserably. Overall, you can’t knock them too much having lost to the #2 team in the North, which prevents them from falling further.
  7. Cal 59 – Colorado 56: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games.
  8. Washington State 28 – Utah 27 (WSU entry) Speaking of teams that appear to be clicking finally, we left WSU for dead after they lost to Nevada. Since then they’ve won 2 of 3 and have looked pretty good doing so. Their dominance over what was supposed to be a pretty good Utah team in the 2nd half was striking and impressive.
  9. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (ASU entry) The only mitigating factor in ASU’s humiliation on Thursday was that they were without their starting quarterback. However, who really thinks that would have changed the outcome? Yes, ASU may have been more competitive, but they still would have lost. It looks like it is going to be another year of under-delivering on their promise in Tempe.
  10. Washington State 28 – Utah 27: (Utah entry) As I suggested, Utah wasn’t able to hold onto their high spot very long in the power rankings. They fell even more quickly than I expected. While it’s great for WSU to rise up out of the cellar, Utah lost to a team that is coming up out of the muck. Maybe in a few weeks with WSU continuing to roll this loss won’t look so bad. However, I saw their incompetence down the stretch and here’s guessing their are more losses coming. One thought: How bad must Michigan be?
  11. USC 35 – Oregon State 10: (OSU entry) Oregon State had a pretty wimpy non-conference schedule and they looked somewhat overwhelmed against USC. That’s how a 3-1 team ends up this low on the list.
  12. Cal 59 – Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: (CU entry) The buffs were on the bottom of the list last week and while their loss was entertaining, it does little to boost their ranking. Cal is not exactly the top contender in the conference. If it were, then perhaps CU could use that loss to gain some ground.

So the picture is getting clearer in both divisions. It’s UCLA with USC challenging in the south and Oregon with Stanford challenging in the north. Below that, there are a lot of teams that are pretty close together and it’s very hard to tell who will win on any given Saturday. Expect a lot of unpredictable results in the weeks to come.