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Archive for November, 2014

BYU preview

I’m running late, so this will be a quick one:

It’s very hard to get a read on this BYU team.  They clearly stunk after they lost both their starting QB and RB.  But the last few games one (or both) of two things have happened:

  1. The replacements have found their groove
  2. The competition they’ve played has been VERY subpar

I honestly don’t know which one it is.

What I do know is that BYU is very big on both lines for a mid-major (ish) team and the Bears better be ready to be physical today to win on this wet, windy day where passing is not going to be as easy.  More than on a fair weather day, rainy days are won on the line of scrimmage.

Frankly, that scares the crud out of me.

Let’s hope the lines that showed up versus Oregon State show up and BYU is not as up for the challenge as their beating up on weak opponents the last few weeks suggest.

Cal wins an ugly one: Cal 27, BYU 23

Thoughts on Big Game officiating

Now that I’ve been able to see video of all of the controversial plays at the Big Game, including the ones that occurred after I had left the game, it’s time for a post on the officiating…

One of the benefits of being the Cal Bears longest standing blogger is that I have a plethora of documented evidence of how I’ve reacted to various events over the years.  So I can say with confidence and have evidence to back it up, that I’m fairly charitable to the refs, knowing how difficult a job it is.  You won’t find many posts in my 10 seasons of Cal of blogging (My first post was 8/19/2005, albeit two years before I separated my personal/Catholic blog from my Cal blog) where I berate the refs.

Yes, there has been the occasional call that I disagree with, or even the game where I thought they did a worse than usual job, but overall I’ve held my tongue when I’ve disliked their calls and have supported them.

But this year is different.  They have been HORRIBLE!

I’ve never had a SINGLE game before where I have booed and yelled at them like I have at them at MULTIPLE games this year.  There have been so many really, really, really bad calls, it’s just not excusable.

And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not just a Cal thing.  They’ve been horrible in general.  While it sure feels like Cal is getting the worst end of it, I’ve seen plenty of pretty ridiculous calls against other teams.  USC got a couple of pretty bad ones when Cal played them two weeks ago.

But the Big Game takes the cake and it was ALL one-sided.  I’ll admit that when watching the slow motion replay of the play that got Lowe ejected, it was worse than it appeared from the stands.  Definitely a penalty.  And maybe by the strict interpretation of the rules, it should have been an ejection (in which case my objection transfers from the refs to the rule makers… there’s nothing about that play that deserves an ejection).  But the other plays that I saw live, that had me coming unglued, were just as bad if not worse than they appeared live and at speed.

Here are the categories where I find the officiating horrible:

  • It’s ridiculous the penalties Cal has been getting for late hits out of bounds.  Defenses can not assume that players are going to run out of bounds.  They HAVE to play as if the player will try to stay in bounds and get more yards.  Thus a defensive player shouldn’t have to pull up/slow down until the offensive player has ACTUALLY stepped out of bounds.  (Of course, once that moment has occurred, they need to do everything in their power to minimize/avoid contact.)  And that’s not been what’s happening.  The refs have been calling it like the defense should assume they’re going out of bounds.  And BTW, it should NOT matter if the player is the QB.  Once they’re out of the pocket and running with the ball, I don’t care if it’s Mariota, Hogan or concrete for shoes Nate Longshore, if they don’t want to risk getting hit, get out of bounds sooner or slide feet first.
  • The inconsistency of what the criteria are for instant replay to overturn a call has been baffling.  In fairness to the Big Game replay ref, he was willing to overturn everything on the slimmest of evidence.  He gave Stanford a TD that was called down on pretty marginal evidence.  And he took THREE touchdowns away from Cal on not only marginal evidence, at least two of them there was clear evidence to the support the ruling on the field.  I’m OK with hearing a lot of “the play stands as called” after reviews.  Really I am.  But it better be CONSISTENT!  I don’t want to see some calls overturned on marginal evidence and others let stand because there’s not enough evidence for their hobbled eyes.
  • Also an inconsistency issues, the “completed catch” stuff has been atrocious.  Part of this I blame on the rules and interpretation committees.  They keep mucking with it and adding interpretations on top of interpretations to the degree it is a muddled mess of confusion.  And for whatever reason, there’s been a ton of it in Cal games.  Fumbles called incomplete.  Incompletions called fumbles. Interceptions that don’t seem to have completed the catch that stand.  Touchdowns taken back.  It’s been all over the map and VERY inconsistent.  And for some reason, Cal has been on the losing end of all but a couple of them.
  • Holding penalties.  This has gotten less attention, but I think there has been REAL inconsistency in calling holding.  What appears to be happening is the refs are trying to keep the flag in their pocket when the holds don’t affect the outcome of the play.  They also appear to be giving warnings on marginal calls.  However, the result of those two things combined have been a scenario where holds away from the play are being called at times (because they’ve been warned) and holds that affect the play are not (because the player in question has been pretty clean up to that point).  It’s just creating a big mess.  Here’s a radical idea: A hold is a hold is a hold.  I don’t care where it happens or who did it or whether there have been warnings.  Call it consistently every play.  Yes, at first you’ll get more flags.  But over time, the players will adjust and play the game cleaning knowing exactly what will and will not be called.  Said another way, consistency, even if it is a strict consistency, will eventually result in fewer penalties being called.
  • Protecting the QB seems like a great thing to do.  But I get the strong feeling that how protected they are is directly related to how prominent a QB they are (and to a lesser degree upper class men).  Goff hasn’t been getting much in the way of protection, whereas Mariota and Hundley are getting quite a bit of protection, despite the fact that they’re running QB’s.  To a lesser degree I think this same thing is happening with receivers.
  • The interruption of the flow of the game has been bad.  They’ve been conferencing and talking to coaches and going back and forth WAY too much.  It would be one thing if these extra discussions were resulting it well called games, but obviously this is not the case.  I harken back to a much better day in officiating when Dan Fouts was besides himself at the end of the 2007 Cal Oregon game as the refs were conferencing (“How can we have a review if the refs haven’t made a decision!?!” he said).  But in that case, they talked for ~20 seconds and then made the right call.  The review booth took an extraordinary amount of time to review the call, but again, they made the right call.  So I guess my message is, I’m OK with taking time to make the right call, but if you’re making a bunch of horrible calls, at least keep the game moving.

Those are the big categorical problems that have been bugging me this year.  It’s been a horrible year for officiating, worse than I’ve ever seen.  And Larry Scott, it’s time to do something about it.

Big Game OTRH Podcast

I was not a happy camper on the drive home.  Have a listen:

1st Big Game thoughts

I was PROFOUNDLY disappointed in yesterday afternoon’s game.  It appears my prediction that Cal could be competitive with any Pac-12 team was complete BS.  I won’t go game by game through all my predictions in pre-game posts, but I can’t think of one I so poorly predicted as yesterdays… EVER!

I put most of yesterday’s loss on the coaches:

  • Horrible game plan
  • Poorly prepared players for emotions of a rivalry game
  • Zero meaningful in-game adjustments
  • Bad play-calling

Frankly, my doubts about the ability of the Dyke regime to take us anywhere beyond mediocrity are as high, if not higher than the end of last year.  Said another way, who that we lost to this year, based on the lack of progress we’ve seen as the season progresses, would we have hopes of beating next year:

  • UW is in year one of a new coaching staff.  They’re going to be better, enough so that even if Cal played a better game we still lose, particularly with the game in Husky stadium
  • UCLA has clearly improved since we played them… and the game will be on the road.
  • Oregon game was never REALLY in doubt… and the game will be on the road (catching a theme here?).
  • Stanford needs no comment… and the game will be on the road (OK, Cal seems to do great in Palo Alto for the most part, the size of the Cal contingent really rattling Stanford, but still, the crowd ain’t going to turn the tide here.)
  • USC ended up close, but how much of that was prevent defense letting us get closer than we really were, plus their depth problems will be slowly going away.
  • Arizona, OK, that’s a team we might beat next year.  IF they don’t get better themselves.

Then you have to add that it took overtime to beat CU, and we’ll have to travel on the road to Boulder, with the trouble the elevation gives us, it’s very reasonable to suggest a regression there.

So maybe we trade Arizona for CU or maybe we get lucky and beat both.  Maybe we beat USC because they’ll still be thin next year and they’ll be in Berkeley.  Or maybe we’re built to beat UCLA.  But as it stands right now, I’ve got no hope that ALL of those maybe’s come true.

Let’s just hope this team can rebound, beat BYU, so we get to that bowl game and the all important extra practice time that comes with it.

(they need it)

Big Game Preview

I’ve been pounding the drum ever since Cal played UCLA close that Cal could beat anyone on their remaining schedule.  Not that they would beat them all, but Cal is good enough now to have a shot at anyone in the conference.  And thus far it has proved out.  Cal hung with Oregon longer than most.  Then the team left us wondering what would have been if they hadn’t spotted USC a 31-2 lead.  Plus watching the same Oregon State team Cal beat the prior weekend shock the Pac-12 south by upsetting ASU, really showed the parity in this conference.

It all makes me wish Cal had another shot at UW, the only team that beat Cal by a large margin and there was never any meaningful hope the Bears might win.

Which brings us to Stanford.  While it’s not uninteresting, doing a common opponent break down, which is coming shortly, probably misses the key “any given Saturday” point.  This year’s Big Game, more than any in recent memory comes down not to who’s the better team, but who plays the better game.  Stanford is right in the middle of the conference parity along with the Bears.

Nevertheless, here’s the common opponent analysis:

  • Versus Washington: Cal lost 7-31, Stanford won 20-13
  • Versus Oregon: Cal lost 41-59, Stanford lost 16-45
  • Versus OSU: Cal won 45-31, Stanford won 38-14
  • Versus USC: Cal lost 30-38, Stanford lost 10-13
  • Versus WSU: Cal won 60-59, Stanford won 34-17

So Stanford won one that Cal lost big time, but otherwise the two teams did similarly.  One can argue Cal did better against Oregon and Stanford did better against WSU and maybe OSU, but to some degree it’s over analyzing to get too much into the details.

One thing that is beyond obvious is that Cal both scores and gives up more points.  Against those common opponents Cal scored 183 and gave up 218 whereas Stanford scored 118 and gave up 102.

Of particular note is that outside of Oregon, Stanford didn’t give up more than 20 points in regulation all season.  A similar, but in the reverse stat is that outside of Washington the Bears haven’t scored less than 30 points all season.

So, the two-fold question is, does the Cal offense share something in common with the Oregon offense that suggests Cal can put up numbers against Stanford or, in the inverse, does the Stanford defense share something in common with the UW defense that suggests Stanford can stop the Cal offense.

My gut says that the UW game, if played again, particularly after the experience at USC, Cal would put up 30 points. So whether or not Stanford shares something in common with them, it’s irrelevant.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Stanford has a good chance of frustrating the Cal offense, but it won’t be just because they follow the UW blueprint.  They’re going to have to be far more disruptive at the line of scrimmage without allowing too many open receivers for Goff to quickly zip the ball to than either UW or USC did.  It’s a tall order for the Stanford defense.

And yes, I do think Cal’s offense, while different in lots of ways, exposes Stanford in similar ways that Oregon did.  Cal is the most balanced of the “raid” offenses in the conference.  Oregon is the only team with the balanced running spread offense in the conference.

So I guess that’s a long way of saying I expect Cal to score a significant amount of points tomorrow.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the other side of the ball.  Stanford has put up some points against weaker defenses and there is a reason to believe Stanford will do it against Cal.  The two conference games they did it, WSU and OSU, they really did it in the air.  Not the way Cal does, it was only high 200’s and low 300’s passing, but for Stanford, it was a strong passing game.  And there was nothing spectacular about the running game for the Cardinal in those two games.

So does Hogan channel himself from last year and throw with his hair on fire, or does Cal contain it enough to allow their offense to chip away at the stout Stanford defense?  My gut says Cal will contain it this year, and will have learned enough from UW and USC to keep the offense productive.  The Bears are all heart this year and I have my strong doubts about the resolve of Stanford this year.

This is the year the drought ends: Cal 37 – Furd 23 (but it will feel closer than that)

Late starting liveblog

OK, I’ve got a connection… Seeing how it is already 2-21, we can make it a moan-fest liveblog.

(remember to click on the title to go to the single post page to view the liveblog updates.)

USC Preview

Tonight has the potential to be a VERY important night for Cal football.  Think USC 2003 important.  That win was the signature win that propelled the program to where it was for the peak of the Tedford years.  And actually, at the other end of the spectrum, imagine if Cal had beat USC in 2004, how much further that would have propelled the Bears.

USC is USC, even when they’re not playing like USC.

So the big question is can Cal win tonight.  My answer is that I’m 100% confident they CAN.  They don’t even need a bad performance by USC.  Cal can beat this team outright.  Cal has the offense to score enough points to win and the defense is slowly learning how to contain the opposition.  USC doesn’t have the depth to win a fast paced, shootout against any team with the offense firepower that Cal has.

And let’s linger on that firepower a bit.  Here’s a stat for you.  5 of the 8 FBS teams Cal has played, Cal put up the highest score against that team.  Oregon, Oregon State, WSU, Colorado, and Arizona all gave up more points to Cal than they gave up to anyone else.  Two of the remaining 3 (UCLA and NW) Cal was just a handful of points from the highest opponent score.  Now THAT’s firepower.

But just because that’s one storyline for how the game will play out, it’s not the only one.  As just mentioned, the Cal offense has put up points against everyone, with one exception: Washington.  What is scary to me is if you asked me to pick which team that Cal has played that most closely resembles USC’s defense, it is without question Washington.  So if you’re looking for my fears and worries, it is that the Cal offense is disrupted by the USC front seven the way they were against UW.

Thus I think what this evening’s game will come down to is whether Franklin has come up with schemes and changes to defuse what killed Cal against UW.

One final thought… There’s a part of me that won’t be surprised to see the Cal defense have a good game tonight.  USC’s new offensive scheme is one that generically speaking is one that Cal is well suited to defend.  And USC isn’t executing it at a particularly high level.  They’re a very high talent team, but they’re new to this scheme.  So it’s not unreasonable to think the Bears at least keep the totals on the lower side of their average.  (the counter thought is that the old UW coaching staff has had Cal’s number and now that they’re at USC, there’s no reason to think they won’t do it again)

When I sum it all up, my gut says that the Bears will be competitive, but there’s just a few too many reasons that USC might be a tad bit too much defensively for the Bears to put up their 40+ points and the defense, while it might do better than normal, won’t be good enough to win a defensive battle.

Cal loses out on an opportunity to re-assert the program: Cal 27 – USC 31.

ASU v. Notre Dame

Anybody else think ASU was going to pull a Cal (shades of Arizona earlier this year) and let Notre Dame win that game?

Perception problems

Have you noticed that in certain corners of the Pac-12 commentator world, every team that loses to Cal “is in real trouble” or “a mess” or “under performing”?  It seems there are certain people who assume the Bears are bad and when they win, it can’t mean they might be good, but that the team they beat must be even worse.

1st Oregon State thoughts

What an important victory for the Bears!  It sure feels like the sort of game where a loss would have been a real setback for the program and the victory is a corner turned in the turn around.  Here are some more detailed thoughts:

  • Can someone explain to me how a team can for 48 minutes of the game only give up 10 points, but in 12 minutes can give up 21 and look pretty pathetic doing it?  I think it was even more disconcerting to me because it was 27-10 when I was first able to watch the game (up until then I was only able to keep my eye on the box score).  And what I saw was a team that couldn’t move the ball to save their life but was getting bowled over by OSU at the line of scrimmage with guys WIDE open when OSU decided to throw the ball.  Yet then everything switched again and the Bears dominated in similar fashion the rest of the way out.
  • It was nice to see the Bears winning at the end of the 1st half.  I had that “here we go again” feel when OSU got the ball back with 3:24 left in the half and the bears only up 17-10.  But the Bears forced a punt and drove the field for a field goal.
  • Really nice to see the running game pick up the slack when Goff had an off night.  My gut has been that with the exception of the UW game, the Bears have had a competent run game, but it hasn’t been used in the right ways.  We seem just a tad bit predictable or formulaic in how we go about it.  But if you look at most Cal running plays the linemen are getting a strong push and there are fair running lanes.  This game, against a mediocre team they really delivered a strong performance.
  • Of course the next step is to deliver a strong running performance against USC or Stanford.  I think this team has it in them particularly if they force them to defend an accurate passing game.  Stanford’s linebackers don’t have the range that their linebacking groups of the past have had.  Cal could really run them ragged.
  • Yes, I do think the Bears can beat USC and/or Stanford.  The road apparently doesn’t scare this team.  They have played great on the road.  And minus the game being in the Coliseum, is there anything really scary about USC this year?  As for Stanford, I think the wheels are starting to come off the bus.  Think about this… With Utah (who beat them last year and is looking pretty strong right now), @Cal and @UCLA left, and Stanford needing one more game to get bowl eligible, it’s possible Stanford will have plenty of time to study for finals in December.  Can we do it Bears?!?  (and Baby Bears)
  • Getting to things that worry me, the penalties still bother me.  There have been some borderline and worse calls from the refs, but there’s also been some pretty stupid penalties.  One of the things Cal is going to need to do is clean that up, particularly on defense.  When they’re having trouble getting off the field, it always seems an ill-timed penalty is part of the problem.
  • I know the headline is Lasco, but Enwere ran pretty well.  With a healthy Mohammad that’s 3 backs who can be every down backs.  Lasco deserves the lead spot, without a doubt, but it is REALLY nice to have guys who can come in and keep pounding away.
  • Going back to the balance the running game gave the Bears, there’s another way to show it:  47 rushing attempts, 47 passing attempts.  269 yards rushing, 277 yards passing.  It’s pretty hard to get any more balance than that (statistically).
  • But going back to how important this win is for the Bears, I find it hard to overstate it.  Bears lose and they’ve got to find at least one win against two teams they won’t be favored against.  The team will be under a lot of pressure to deliver an upset.  Instead the Bears can look at these two games very opportunistically.  They don’t have to win, but they’ve got an opportunity to make a statement.  A BIG statement.  Don’t forget this team can still reach 8-4 and 2nd in the Pac-12 north.

I hope to comment more tonight after a re-watch of the full game sequentially.

Oregon State Preview

This week’s preview is going to be a short one.  I am short on time, but I wanted to make sure I got it in.

Today’s game will come down to the Cal defense.  The offense will be able to put up points, of that I have little doubt.

Considering how much the Beaver offense has been struggling, that should be the start and end of the post.  However, the Cal defense has been the cure to more than one team’s offensive struggles and I fear that the OSU offense will find its rhythm tonight under similar circumstances.

Here is to hoping that the Cal defense turns a bit of a corner tonight.

Cal 45, OSU 24