The longest continually active Cal Bear blog

Archive for September, 2016

Extremely late ASU comments

Finally finished watching the game.  Boy is it hard to get motivated to watch a game that you know was a heart-breaker!

Here are my takeaways:

  • It’s a mistake to correlate “31 points yielded in the 4th quarter” with “our defense sucks!”  The defense was only responsible for 14 of those 31 and prevented the 1st interception from giving up any more than 3 points.
  • My biggest fear right now is that Webb is not a “gamer”.  We’ve had 2 games this season when he needed to drive us down the field at the end of the game when the team was trailing and both times he through ill-advised interceptions.  It’s an awful small sample size, but it’s all we have, and it is worrisome.
  • That said, I won’t hold the 1st interception against Webb too much.  That was a tougher one for him to see developing and not nearly as egregious as the 2nd interception which was mindbogglingly bad.
  • I also don’t hold the onside kick turned TD against the team.  That’s the nature of a high risk play like that.  It’s a desperate moment and bad things happen in desperate moments.
  • More concerning to me was the highly predictable play-calling in the 2nd half.  EVERY 1st down (ironically besides the 1st interception) was a run play.  It reminded me WAAAY to much of the Holmoe years: Run, Run, Pass.  The difference of course being the pass had a much higher success rate than Holmoe’s teams did.
  • I felt like the offense got somewhat lucky in the 1st half but that it somewhat evened out in the 2nd (this is before the interception fest).
  • I think we really should be feeling better about both the defensive play and the running game than we are.  They’re not the Achilles Heels we think they are.  They’re not great or anything, but they’re not horrible.  The defense is MUCH better than their stats would suggest and getting better.
  • I’m happy to see the shift to Mohammad getting more and more playing time.  I’d like to see it go a little further and see him be the #1 back (with still giving meaningful time to Enwere and OK, I guess, Watson can do some relief work too).

But big picture, as much as it was heart-breaking, I feel like the pieces are there and Cal has a real shot at beating Utah this weekend.

Sorry for the radio silence

I didn’t get to watch the game over the weekend and this week has been crazy so far.  I watched the good part of the game last night and saved the soul crushing part for tonight after I get home from a Church commitment.  Expect a post up tomorrow with summary thoughts (not a detailed bulleted list).

ASU preview

I re-watched last year’s ASU game to help give me some better perspective on tomorrow’s game.  For those who don’t remember, Cal started off last years game very cold.  I mean that both metaphorically and physically.  It was freezing at last year’s game!

But in addition to us all freezing in the stands and on the field, the Bears spotted ASU a 24-3 lead in the mid-2nd quarter.  Nothing went right for the Bears early, including a botched punt reception that resulted in an easy TD for ASU.  Goff was uncharacteristically inaccurate, particularly on his long passes and the ASU blitz heavy defense kept the offense otherwise off balance.  It was ugly!

Luckily, almost the entire rest of the game went like this: Cal TD, ASU field-goal…  Cal TD, ASU field-goal… over and over and over.  Cal just didn’t have the man-power to stop the ASU running game without committing too many men to the box.  And when the committed too many men to the box, ASU beat them with the deep pass.  So Cal just kept everything in front of them until they got into the redzone and then forced ASU to settle for field goals.  On the other side of the ball, Goff got his accuracy back, and Cal torched ASU again and again and again for 6 TD drives in 7 possessions to finish the game (minus the field goal to win it as time expired).

So does that tell us about this year’s game?

ASU has their run game working just as well as last year, perhaps even better.  The difference is that Bercovici is no longer under center and Manny Wilkins is pretty inexperienced.  His stats thus far suggest he’s accurate with his short passes (66% completion percentage) but doesn’t rack up the yards (795 yards per game against pretty weak opponents).  This will allow the Cal defense to press a lot more and keep their men up in the box to defend against the run.

So here’s the question… how does ASU’s run game compare to Texas and SDSU?  There’s no doubt that Cal gave up a lot of rushing yards against those teams, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like it was the run game that was the deal breaker for Cal.  SDSU got enough mistakes out of Cal that they could play out their rushing game hand and win the game, but if Cal doesn’t make the plethora of mistakes it made, Cal wins that one too.  And of course Texas put up a lot of yards too, but they couldn’t keep up with the Bears.

Is ASU’s rushing game that much more dominant?

I don’t think so, and that’s why I think the Bears are going to win this one.  ASU’s defense is pretty weak and Webb and company should be able to do their usual ‘Drop 50’ that they do when they face a susceptible defense.  But I don’t think we’re going to see the ASU offense dominate THAT much with the run game.

Cal wins by more than people would think: Bear 52, ASU 38

Texas 2nd watch thoughts

Here are my (yet again delayed) thoughts on watching the video of the game over the last few nights:

  • I really liked the play-calling on the 1st drive.  On 3rd and  the fly sweep was brilliant.  Overall they were varying the plays a lot and keeping Texas guessing and on their heels.  And that final play for a TD, tons of brilliance… the designed deep drop by Webb to give him extra time to throw and then a wonderful throw and a great catch.  Everything clicking on that one.
  • Both teams did a pretty good job of tipping balls at the line of scrimmage in this one.  It didn’t have a big impact on the game, but it’s a good sign for our defense.
  • Although as an overall factor, penalties against Cal didn’t hurt much, but that roughing the penalty against Cal on Texas’ first drive hurt.  Cost the Bears 4 points.
  • While I’ve got no problem with the confidence Dykes had in his offense on that 4th in inches, I don’t particularly like the play-call.  Perhaps it was a busted play, but any run play that has the runner going sideways between the tackles is a bad idea on run play.
  • The refs were pretty lax on pass interference.  I bet a Pac-12 crew would have called a number of them that were marginal.  You would have thought that would have hurt the Bears, but Texas wasn’t playing aggressive enough to take advantage of it.
  • Speaking of free points, since the defense stopped Texas 3 and out after the turnover on downs and they took the “free” field goal, we’re up to 7 points gifted to the Horns.
  • I didn’t really appreciate how many miscues there were in the 1st quarter for the Bears offense.  3 possessions, only one score.  It didn’t feel that way live.
  • For those of you who don’t go to games, the lack of injury updates has a notable impact on how one views the game.  We didn’t know why Texas was swapping in and out QB’s.  We assumed it was strategic.
  • Cal’s tackling early was not very good.  It got better as the game wore on, but I’d still recommend more tackling drills at practice.
  • Man, when that inside WR screen pass works for Cal, boy does it work!
  • The run game is definitely not good enough to carry the Bears, but as a change of pace or keep the defense honest perspective, it is doing reasonably well.  The runs in the 1st quarter were pretty effective.
  • That false-fumble that Texas ran back was ridiculous.  I’m sorry, it was immediately visible from the position of both the close refs that the ball came out after he hit the ground.
  • One thing that was not working for the Bears ALL NIGHT was run plays outside the tackles.  Any sweep play was just not going to happen.  Texas had linebackers who were fast enough and read the plays pretty well.
  • Wow, that early 2nd quarter pass to Hansen had about the worst camera work I’ve seen in a LOOONG time.
  • How critical was that early 2nd quarter touchdown?  Texas was looking on a roll and was already up 10.  The difference between down 3 and down 17 at that juncture couldn’t be understated.
  • Gotta give Buechele credit on his long 2nd quarter TD.  That pass was a thing of beauty.  It looked impressive both in the stands and on video.
  • One thing I think the Texas defense struggled with was the sheer number of Cal weapons.  When you lose our #2 receiver, the only reason can be that there are just too many threats to keep track of them all.
  • The Cal defensive line actually got a fair amount of pressure on the Texas QB when they were in traditional passing plays. A couple of sacks in the 1st half against an offensive line like Texas’ is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Although at the game (and thus in my podcast) it sure looked like the blocked punt was doomed from the start, the real answer was quite different.  The back-blockers didn’t pick up their 3 guys, the left most guy and the middle guy picked the same rusher.  Otherwise Cal would have been OK.
  • But how lucky was it the ball went through the endzone and it was only a safety.  I said at the game, “I highly doubt those two points are going to be the difference.”  And sure enough that was the case.
  • You know, I had thought the 2nd interception has been massive pass interference, but it was actually the Texas guy pushing off.  What a stupid move… he should have been coming back to the ball and taking the contact on the body to get the pass interference (or catching the ball).  Great job by Rubenzer getting all the way across the field to get that ball.
  • That end of the half field goal attempt by Texas was REALLY close.  From the stands I thought it was good until I saw the refs.
  • I was really happy with the Bears run defense on the 1st series of downs after halftime… until Cal let Texas bowl them over on 3rd and 8 for 20+ yards.  Ugh.
  • Cal did a lot better in the 2nd half with containing the outside WR screen game of Texas in the 2nd half, but without dedicating more players to it.  That had a meaningful impact on the game as it allowed the defense to focus on Texas’ strength: the inside running game.
  • There’s two ways to look at Cal’s play-calling in the 3rd quarter: They were dedicated to running the ball, or they were putz’ing around trying to run out the clock WAAAAY too early.
  • Cochran was abused a few times on the outside rush.  Pretty much all of the sacks came from that.
  • An under-appreciated part of the game was how strong Cal punted the ball.  Klumph had a LOT of great punts and made Texas drive the whole field a lot of times.  Particularly in the 2nd half, that meant that the Cal defense only needed to get it right (or get lucky with a holding penalty or something) once in about  series of downs.
  • All of Texas’ drives  in the 3rd quarter were ended by offensive line penalties (holding and 2 false starts).
  • I really liked what the announcers said about transferring seniors: What a great way to incentivize players to graduate in 4 years… that they can transfer where-ever they want without penalty.
  • Tre Watson showed some glimpses of potential last year, but thus far hasn’t shown much of anything this year.  I’m about a game away from saying he deserves to be dropped from the regular rotation.
  • There’s been a number of delay of game penalties on punting downs (by both teams) across all 3 games this season.  There’s something about the cadence of things this year and the 40 second clock that has shortened the “felt” time to get the punt team on the field.
  • Until the long touchdown run early in the 4th quarter, one thing you could say about the Cal run defense is they kept everything in front of them.  They never let Texas break a long run.  That means more than people think, particularly when the opposing team is a bit inconsistent or prone to penalties.
  • Here’s what I’m talking about with the putz’ing around in the 3rd quarter:  As soon as Texas takes the lead, all of a sudden the Cal offense comes alive.    On all three of their remaining drives, Cal scored a TD (well, minus dropping the ball on the 1-yard line on the last drive).  Coincidence?
  • I really like the Webb keepers on the goal-line.  Enwere is a capable enough goal-line runner that the defense has to commit a number of guys to stopping the inside run and it makes it pretty easy for Webb (who’s big enough to have a shot at getting in even if he’s contested) to run around the corner.
  • I also really like the 2-point conversion play-call.  Misdirection generally works well on 2-pont conversions, particularly when the team did well on their goal-line plays that preceded it.
  • Boy, I had forgotten how poorly the Bears tackled on the series after their go-ahead 43-40 touchdown.  More than half the yards on the drive were after 1st contact.  Luckily for the Bears, another holding penalty had Texas playing from behind the sticks, something that team was not built for, and Cal was able to hold them to a field-goal.
  • And it bears repeating after all the stalled drives due to penalty in the 3rd quarter, that Texas was stalled again due to a penalty (holding this time).
  • Texas took a lot of time off the clock on that field-goal drive: over 5 minutes.  That’s trouble when the drive only gets you a tie and your defense is having trouble stopping the opposition.
  • Do the Bears know how to score on a drive that takes more than 2 minutes?
  • What was with Buechele giving up on the pass so quickly on their last drive?  ‘The coverage downfield must have been pretty good or Buechele didn’t handle the pressure well and his internal clock ran off too quickly.  Ironically, it worked out the worst it could have for Texas because on both 2nd and 3rd down he went down in bounds and thus the clock kept running.
  • Dykes have been talking about how the offensive line and the running backs needed to get to the place where they could run the ball when everyone in the stadium knew they were going to run the ball.  Well, on that last drive, 3 run play for a 1st down won the game.  Texas knew it; Cal knew it; the crowd knew it; and guess what, they got a 1st down (and more).
  • I won’t say much about that last play and the dropped ball at the 1, other than to say I think the refs called it right.

Any thoughts from the rest of you?

Want some free money?

If so, go online to a betting website and put some money on the over for this weekend’s Cal@ASU game.  It’s only 82.5.  This game might approach that in the 1st half.  (now watch, it will be a defensive struggle.)

Quick thought on late night games

I was reading Jon Wilner’s conference recap post and this got me to thinking:

Night court: Cal

Outcome of Cal games have been in doubt at 11:30 p.m. on back-to-back Saturdays. I’d guess that’s a first in conference history.

Yeah, probably a first, but also without a doubt ridiculous.  These 7:30 PM starts (which really was closer to 7:40 kickoff on Saturday) are just unacceptable.  Even 7 PM is used WAAY to much, but to add another half hour is unacceptable.

Texas OTRH Podcast

Back for another season of On The Road Home podcasts.  I’m sad I couldn’t do on for the Hawaii game.  But here’s the Texas game one:

Rankings are BS

I don’t particularly think the Bears deserve to be ranked yet, but (as is always the case) these rankings just don’t make sense:

  • Notre Dame (virtual) 33, despite being 1-2, including losing to Texas
  • Texas 21, despite losing to Cal
  • SDSU 22, who beat Cal who beat Texas
  • Cal (virtual) 31, who beat #21 Texas

And there are no meaningful “circles” or other things that make it so these teams shouldn’t be ranked in order something like SDSU ~21, Cal ~28, Texas ~30, Notre Dame ~35 (or lower).

Texas preview

The nice thing about a home-and-away game with a non-conference opponent that is in successive years is it is much easier to compare the teams going into year two.  You have the baseline of the previous year and all you have to do is apply a delta based on what’s changed in the last year.

Let’s go through those one by one, starting with the positives in Cal’s favor:

  • (minor positive) The game is in Berkeley
  • (under appreciated positive) Cal was dominating the game last year, particularly by the early 2nd half and it only got tight because the Bears got to complacent and prevent minded in the 4th quarter.
  • (moderate positive) What burned the Bears last year was the Texas running quarterback and Texas’s new QB is not nearly the same running threat
  • (moderate positive) Texas defense still looks to be susceptible to a good offense (gave up 37 to Notre Dame in regulation)

I point those out because it’s a more substantial list than one would think.  If Texas didn’t have any new positives or Cal didn’t have any new negatives, one could reasonably argue Cal could win on Saturday by a sizeable margin.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case:

  • (very worrisome negative) The Cal pass defense has regressed significantly
  • (moderate negative) The Cal run defense is suspect
  • (strong negative) The Texas passing game is vastly improved
  • (minor negative) Webb is not quite as good as Goff and the offense is not clicking as well as it was last year

Those are enough to overwhelm any of the positives and turn this from a tight to moderate Cal win into a game that looks like real trouble.  If the Bears made mistakes like they did against SDSU, particularly early, expect this game to get ugly (like 55-7 ugly).  If everything goes perfectly, Cal could be within striking distance all game if they could slow Texas down, but never really be in a position to make it happen.

Cal falls to 1-2: Cal 27, Texas 45

Re-watch SDSU thoughts

Here are my thoughts on re-watching the game:

  • Because how the game starts can heavily affect the flow and thus outcome of the game, one has to really shake one’s head at the inability of Cal to deliver on the long ball on their 1st two possessions.  Overthrow by Webb and a holding penalty cost the Bears a potential 14-0 lead.
  • I don’t have any data to back this up, but it sure feels to me like the Bears are more susceptible to the post-turnover big play than most teams.  It just feels like there’s a long history turnover followed by easy TD.  The Bears had the same thing happen after their fumble and immediate TD.
  • I don’t think I can watch that kickoff return for a TD again without throwing up.  How many missed tackles and bad angles can a team make in one play?  Apparently at least 10 or so.
  • To highlight some positives, it was nice to see Cal and Webb recognize how much they could abuse SDSU deep there late in the 1st quarter.  Really kept the Bears in the game.  But again, you put those two TD’s together with the two missed TD opportunities early, minus the horrible kickoff return and the free fumble TD, and this game could have been 28-0 in the 1st quarter and effectively over.
  • In other words, starting fast can make a HUGE difference.
  • Watching the Cal linebackers and safeties over-pursue Pumphrey and allowing him to cut back and abuse the defense was very disappointing.  There were not many plays where he went long by speeding around the outside.  Also note, Pumphrey only had 15 yards on his 1st 9 carries.  It wasn’t his consistency that got him 10 yards a rush (at least not in the 1st half), it was the big plays.
  • A bit of an aside, but the announcers for this game were pretty mediocre.  Most announcers give some notion of where on the field a penalty flag was thrown and some indication of what sort of foul it might be.  Not these bozos.
  • And then there’s the pathetic tackling.  If I was Dykes or Kaufman I’d ensure that the next 2 to 3 weeks of practice HEAVILY emphasized tackling drills and improved technique.
  • Then there’s the interception.  I went through a similar process as some other commentators of thinking it was really egregious and as I watched it more, it became more understandable.  SDSU really did a good job of sniffing out the play and making life hard on Webb.  Also, Webb was in the endzone when he threw the ball.  That’s bad play-calling.  A screen is a relatively high-risk play and one where it’s nice to be able to just take a sack and/or risk a grounding penalty when you have to abort when it gets sniffed out.  Well, that’s a lot harder when you’re in the endzone making the throw.  The offensive line deserves some of the blame too for not disguising it well.
  • I join the announcers in being exacerbated by Cal’s inability to execute the induced offside play.  I can’t think of anytime I’ve ever seen a team try to do that, GET the defense to bite, but someone can’t snap the ball to get the penalty.  WTH?
  • I’m also worried about conditioning a bit.  The team seemed to be weakest at the end of both halves.  Didn’t feel that way as much with the Hawaii game.
  • I’m pretty disappointed in Webb’s sense of urgency during the 2 minute drill.  You’ve got to be ready to snap the ball when the clock starts again.  Webb has been blowing 5 to 10 seconds scanning the defense after the clock starts.  At the end of the 1st half, the Bears get the ball with 0:34 remaining.  The 1st play is a completion in bounds for a 1st down.  The clock stopped with 28 seconds to set the chains.  It’s not snapped until there are 23 seconds remaining.  That’s just too long!  Particularly with that few seconds remaining.  Then Dykes calls a timeout at 16 seconds when it’s clear Webb is not going to be able to snap the ball right away.  From 34 to 16 with only two plays, both of which were 1st downs?  That’s just not going to cut it.
  • Then there’s the weak sack and the two poorly thrown balls that suggest Webb doesn’t have that competitive edge that a great QB has… that ability to deliver great throws when it matters most.
  • And then I really don’t get why they don’t throw the Hail Mary at the end of the half as opposed to the punt.  Seriously?  Dykes, you do realize you’re down 10.
  • One of the things I most noticed on the re-watch was how many times the SDSU DB’s tried to jump the out patterns.  They were only successful on the final play of the game, but it was not the 1st time they had tried.
  • 3 turn overs, 4 plays, 3 touchdowns… is it that the defense wasn’t prepared to go back on the field?  Is it that they’re demoralized?  I don’t know, but if they could instead of folding, have stiffened, the game would have turned out very differently.
  • I have to admit that my favorite RB in the rotation, Mohammad, did not have a very good game.  It was Enwere who looked best out there today.  But even he was hit and miss.  The run game only worked when SDSU was expecting pass.  Whenever we’d try to run it more than a couple times in a series, it would stop working.
  • Webb is a couple beats too slow when checking down in the pass game.  He also hasn’t been doing a good job of putting it in a place where the backfield receiver (usually the RB) is well positioned to get some yards after the catch.
  • Something that didn’t get enough attention was how the Bears were unable to get in the endzone late in the 3rd quarter and most of the 4th.  Field goal after driving the field then get an INT at midfield… another field goal.   Another turnover on the SDSU side of the field… goes 4 and out (including one of those dangerous out-throws that the SDSU bit on and nearly intercepted).  Scoring a TD on any one of those would have made a huge difference down the stretch.  And they SHOULD have, after having been gifted two short fields on turnovers.
  • As much as overall the breaks didn’t go the way of Cal, it wasn’t as unbalanced as I remembered.  The 13 penalties on SDSU hurt them a lot.  They had 2 turnovers to blunt part of Cal’s 4.
  • I mentioned this in my other post, but I definitely saw it again on the re-watch, Webb’s accuracy went down late in the 4th quarter.  Perhaps it is unfair to blame that on the game situation, but instead perhaps he was getting tired 70+ throws into the game.
  • Since it wasn’t relevant to the outcome (although one should be careful, would SDSU have had to play more aggressive if they had to keep Cal out of field goal range and thus allowing Cal more opportunities down the field?), I had forgotten the ridiculous 2-point conversion play call.  I can’t imagine a scenario that play works.
  • Cal got a great bounce on the onside kick.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a textbook onside kick bounce.

Let’s see if Cal can improve!

SDSU post-game 1st thoughts

Cal’s execution on offense is sporadic, troublingly so for a team that isn’t going to win games with its defense.  Webb, although a reasonably good QB, is too “flingy” and it affects the consistency of his accuracy.  There were WAAAY too many open receivers for game-winning catches in that game.

In the end, too many gifted points, too many turnovers (even though SDSU gave some back to help Cal crawl back in it) and a bit weak on the redzone (or near it) execution cost the Bears a win.  There’s no getting around it, the Bears should have won this one.  One could go the opposite way and say that if the Bears had a defense that could stop a run-only team, none of that would of mattered.  But I think we just have to accept the defense for what it is and for what it is, it did its part.  It was the offense that didn’t execute to the level we expect of it.

Is there even a remote possibility this team beats Texas?  I can’t imagine it.

(More to come tomorrow)

SDSU halftime thoughts

Cal trails 21-31, but of the 31 points they’ve given up, 21 of them have been free gifts (fumble, kickoff return, pick-6).  Cal should be leading right now.  The defense is doing OK, barely.  If they could actually tackle, they’d be doing on the good side of fine.

That sequence before halftime was pathetic.  Webb gets “sacked” because someone is within a couple feet of him, then he throws two out patterns of little use.  Then, and this is the one that baffles me, the punt.  Even if you’re not going to throw the Hail Mary, why would you risk a punt?  Just run around for 3 seconds and let the clock expire.

Cal needs to do two things to have a shot at winning:

  1. No more turnovers/free points
  2. Not let the SDSU defensive line cause havoc that disrupts Webb.

SDSU preview

I must admit, I was pretty surprised this week when I saw just how many of the pundits believe that Cal is rightfully the underdog and is likely to lose the game this evening.  The betting line favors SDSU by 7 and there are pundits that are picking SDSU to win by more than the spread.

Are you kidding me!?!  Are people really saying that Cal has gotten so much worse and/or SDSU has gotten so much better than there will be MORE than a 35 point swing (the Bears won by 28 last year).   So I decided to re-watch last year’s game to see if there were some major things I missed from a relatively easy win for the Bears.  Here’s what I discovered:

  • The Bears won last year’s game based on the big play.  The Bears were somewhat inconsistent at establishing drives, but they had a number of big plays that broke the game open.
  • SDSU shot themselves in the foot in two ways:  Personal fouls that stalled drives.  And turnovers.
  • Outside of the above, SDSU had pretty good success running the football against Cal, much better than I remember.
  • That said, there was nothing overly explosive about the run game.
  • SDSU’s QB was nothing to be afraid of.

So the scenario that would allow for an SDSU victory would be one where SDSU cleans up their act, they continue to run the ball well and keep the ball away from Cal, particularly if their QB has matured enough to keep the Bears defense honest.  Is that possible?  I must admit, it’s more possible than I would have thought before I watched last year’s game.

But I still think the sentiment is too skewed one way.  I’m not buying the 11 game win streak (uh, guess who’s a couple games on the other side of the streak… oh yeah, the BEARS!?!) as a sign of how things have changed.  You have to look at the quality of the competition and SDSU has not beat a power-5 team during those 11 games.  And we shouldn’t forget the big play ability of the Bears that will still be a threat while the Cal running game behind the more experienced offensive line should be able to do more damage than last year.

Cal struggles early but eventually has enough big plays to win: 42-31

Thoughts on last week’s games

I had meant to get to this on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the week has got away from me…

The most scary result from last weekend has to be Michigan 63, Hawaii 3.  Ouch!  That doesn’t speak well for Cal’s 51-31 victory over Hawaii.  Now, of course, Hawaii had a very hard week, having to travel from Australia to Hawaii to Michigan and somewhere in there they had to prepare for Michigan.  If you’re looking for a sliver lining, that’s about all you’ve got, and it’s not a lot to hold onto.

If that’s scary as for what it says about the whole upcoming season, two other results are at least somewhat scary for the upcoming couple of games.  In the somewhat troubling category is the 31-0 victory SDSU had over New Hampshire.  While the ’31’ doesn’t say much considering the opponent, the ‘0’ almost always says something.  SDSU’s defense is no slouch, even if the shutout only comes against a weak FCS team.

But the truly terrifying result is the 50-47 Texas victory over Notre Dame.  There’s no doubt that Texas is markedly improved on offense.  The only way the Bears will win that game is if they can win a shootout, as there’s no way Cal’s defense is as good as Notre Dame’s.  The good news is that perhaps the Texas defense is susceptible to giving up a lot of points themselves.

Looking forward to the conference games, the Pac-12 doesn’t look all that formidable and suggests there will be room for Cal to win a number of games:

  • ASU didn’t look bad in their victory over Northern Arizona, but who wouldn’t?
  • Utah looks very formidable on defense, shutting out Southern Utah.  One must fear that this year’s Utah game will be a bit like last years game, but if Cal can get the offense rolling, it’s a winnable game.
  • Oregon State actually handled themselves well against Minnesota in a loss.  They probably won’t be as much as a pushover as we’d hope but still very beatable
  • Oregon looked almost as mediocre as Cal did in their 53-28 victory over UC Davis.  This could be the year against them.
  • USC had the conferences largest faceplant, but it was against Alabama.  Nevertheless, this team is very beatable.
  • It’s hard to know if Washington is the real deal, but their victory over Rutgers probably helps their resume enough to propose that they might be pretty good.  Let’s wait a couple more games before we write that in stone though.
  • WSU showed they are just as beatable as last year in losing a shootout to Eastern Washington.  Somebody needs to tell them they’re allowed to practice before their 1st game.
  • Stanford looked like their old self.  Frustratingly hard to beat for such a vanilla offense.  The defense gives them so many opportunities to win the game.
  • UCLA played a suspect, but still upper-half power-5 conference team (Texas A&M) pretty close, but again, demonstrated they’re vulnerable to a good team.

So to sum that all up, lots of vulnerable teams if Cal can get its act together and play some defense.  If Cal can show me something more inspiring on Saturday than they did in Australia, I might be willing to be pretty optimistic about our chances in the conference.

Cordcutting Pac-12 fans rejoice!

One of the ONLY hard parts of dumping the Cable/Satellite package is the difficulty watching sports, particularly (for me) Cal football games.  For a year or two now, the Sling service has been a good alternative, providing a number of popular cable channels including ESPN at a cheap price (as little as $20/month), but of little use to us Cal fans as it didn’t have the Pac-12 network.

Until now: Press release – Sling to add Pac-12 network

The minimum cost to get it is $25 a month (with the “Orange package” for $20 plus the “Sports Extra” add-on package for $5 more), with no long term contract, so you can join for just a few months each fall if that’s what you want.  That will get you ESPN, ESPN2 and all 6 regional Pac-12 networks.  If one then has an antenna to pickup local channels to get ABC and FOX, you’ll be covered for almost every Pac-12 game.

There are unfortunately 2 exceptions:

  1. The Pac-12 TV contract allows for Pac-12 home games on all of the above stations (ESPN, ESPN2, Pac-12Nets, ABC and FOX) but also allows for FOX to downgrade their games to FS1 (Fox Sports 1).  To get that channel, you’ll need to switch to the “Blue” package from Sling.  Unfortunately, that will cost you the ESPN channels.  So to get ALL of the channels a Pac-12 home game could be on, you’ll need the “Orange” plus “Blue” plus “Sports Extra” add on, which will double your cost to $50 a month.
  2. The other problem is non-conference road games where it will be based on the TV contract of the home team.  So in the case of THIS Saturday’s Cal game at San Diego State, that game will be on CBS Sports Network, which is not available on Sling.

#1 above begs an interesting question: Since it’s a rare case a Cal game will be on FS1, can one stick with the cheaper “Orange” + “Sports Extra” and upgrade just when the needed Cal game comes up?  I contacted Sling to find out and the answer is yes, you can upgrade mid-billing-cycle and it will be pro-rated until the end of the billing cycle.  What was unclear was whether you could downgrade back to the lower package when the billing cycle renews or whether you were stuck with it for a whole month after that.  Still, to cut the price in half for even a portion of the season would be preferable.