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Archive for August, 2018

North Carolina Preview

Remember back when we feared North Carolina? They were going to be a tough test on the Cal schedule. Then we were exuberant when the Bears not only competed but dominated. The Bears must be really good! And while there were a lot of positives to take away from that game, it turns out one of them we shouldn’t have taken was that Cal could beat good teams… because it turned out UNC sucked last year. They went 3-9 and only beat one team in the ACC… Pitt (who themselves went 5-7). When your best win is a squeaker over Pitt, well, it’s a bad year.

Now part of that was injury.  The team that limped it’s way through the season was often compromised by injury.  But no matter how you slice it, UNC was just not as good as we thought when we celebrated victory last year.

But maybe with everyone back from injury, a year to get stronger and better, they’ll have improved more than the Bears, yes?


Not only does UNC only return 13 of their 22 starters, they’re entered the season crippled by the loss of a handful of potential starters before the season even starts due to self imposed sanctions for NCAA violations.  Apparently UNC players were selling their school issued shoes.  As this is an (perhaps unintentional) end-around on paying players (imagine a team that gives its players tens of thousands of dollars of gear with the sole purpose that they sell it for money), it’s obviously a violation of NCAA policy.  A total of 13 football players are suspended, although it’s become a little less clear who will be suspended for the 1st game against Cal due to some planned staggering.  It looks like at least 2 starters will miss the 1st game, including the QB.

So, things definitely look good for the Bears who return most of their starters on both sides of the ball.

Here’s my prediction on how it plays out:  UNC will start slowly, unable to score on their 1st few possessions.  They are traveling cross country after all, and that rarely turns out well in the 1st quarter.  The Bears offense will have some success, but not overwhelming, think 10-0 by the mid-2nd quarter.  The reason will be that things will feel more equal than we expected, particularly in the trenches.  The Bears will struggle on both sides of the line, as this is where they are most depleted, talent and experience wise from last year.  However, as the game progresses, and UNC gets more desperate in their attempt to get back in it, the turnovers will start to pile up.  Cal’s deception on defense will net a few turnovers and widen the margin, so that the score is something like 31-10 entering the 4th quarter.  The Bears will give up some late points and the score will look closer than the actual result.

Bears win 38 – 24.

2018 game-by-game preview

I have to admit, I’m feeling less confident about my predictions than in any season in recent memory.  Which Cal team will show up this year?  Is it the team that had confidence and consistent solid execution early in the 2017 season?  Or is it the tentative, under-performing team that we saw in the 2nd half of the season?  The offense brings back most of its skill players, but how much better is it to have the same inconsistent guys from last year?  (OK, for the QB that’s almost always a good thing.)  The few areas I would be tempted to be optimistic based on the trends of last year, like the offensive line, are the areas with the most turnover.  On defense, I’m a bit more optimistic.  Lots of depth back, but their performance last year in conference was inconsistent after such a promising start to the season. Nevertheless, with an extra year in the system, I suspect they’ll be better.

But nevertheless, despite my unease I’ll soldier on and give it my best shot:

Cal 38 vs. North Carolina 24 – I’ll do a separate post for this one

Cal 20, BYU 24
I’ll be honest, this game scares the crud out of me. Most people think the Bears should win this one handily, and perhaps I would be inclined to agree in Berkeley. But this game is in Utah at 4600 feet. Call me crazy, but Cal’s history of going to the high desert, whether that be UNR, Colorado or Utah, has not been good. Add that to this team struggling on the road in general and I’m terrified. The wildcard is of course how good is this BYU team. Last year was a very weak one for them and many prognosticators don’t seem to be too high on them this year either. But they bring back a lot of their talent and lost a lot of close games last year. That’s a recipe for an under-appreciated team. Sadly, I don’t see the Bears going into the high desert and defeating an under-appreciated team. The offense struggles, particularly early, and the defense gets tired keeping the Bears in the game and can’t hold late in the game.

Cal 52, ID St. 13
The Bears romp in this one. In fact, I feel it will be ugly as there will be a lot of frustration to let loose from the prior week.

Cal 35, Oregon 38
This is another tough one to call. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the Bears for their absolutely pathetic performance last year in Eugene. And if this was 2006 or 2008 and I felt like the Bears would bring a compelling home-field advantage, I might be able to see myself to calling a win here. And there is the fact the Bears are coming off the bye where the Ducks will have just played a bruising game against Stanford. It’s also just after school started for the Ducks who are on the quarter system. So there’s reason for hope. But ultimately, I don’t think the Ducks will be intimidated, distracted or battered sufficiently and will again expose the weak spots of Cal’s defensive scheme and talent.

Cal 31, Arizona 35
Yet another tough one to call. The Bears have a recent history of playing ridiculously close games with Arizona and coming out on the losing side of it. I still have nightmares about last year’s game in Berkeley. If only that got rid of the nightmares of the Hail Mary in the prior game. Arizona is expected to be right about the same place they were last year, so if you have this game in Berkeley again, I might be tempted to call this on in favor of the Bears, but in the desert, our dreams will go to die again.

Cal 45 31, UCLA 17 27
This will be the most cathartic game of the season. Take it to the bank. I have more confidence in this game than any other one on the calendar. It was a disgrace that the Bears lost last year at the Rose Bowl. They play that game 10 times and the Bears should have won at least 8. Now, bring the game to Berkeley, put it earlier in the season, have a year-older defense, and a UCLA team that is wallowing in mediocrity and it’s a recipe for payback. This one will feel a lot like last year’s WSU game. I had completely forgotten that UCLA hired Chip Kelly. That changes everything. Now I’m quite worried about a revitalized UCLA. The good news is that game is at the part of the season that is trouble for new teams. Opposing teams have enough film (and time to review that film) to scheme for what has changed. The ‘new coach’ optimism gets a bit tarnished by the grind of the on-going football season. At this point, one of two things is true: Either UCLA upset both Oklahoma and Washington (and is over-confident) or they didn’t (and have come back down to reality). Being right after the UW game sets up nicely for the Bears. But now it’s not a blowout like I had hoped, it’s a squeaker.

Cal 34, Oregon State 30
Oregon State is picked last in the North. But the Beavers are always more dangerous in Corvallis than in Berkeley. Nevertheless, the Bears, who by my predictions will be 3-3 will be motivated to get on the positive side of the ledger and have the recipe for how to beat the Beavers down cold. Plus, I think as much as the Bears struggled last year on the road, by mid-season this year, I think Wilcox will have the team performing a lot better on the road.

Cal 38, Washington 42
Occasionally there are those games that are technically a loss, but one walks away from them with great hope. That’s how this game against UW will feel. UW will ultimately win, but the Bears will go toe to toe with them and the crowd will be into it big time.

Cal 38, WSU 27
This is one of the few that scare me that I’m going to pick a win. I hate it when the Bears have to go to the frozen potato patch in November. But this is going to be a battle hardened tough team by this point in the season. They also will have a lot of confidence in their ability to beat the Wougs. ESPN picks the Bears to win. Wilner picks the Bears to win. CGB picks the Bears to win. And the writers think Cal is a better team than WSU. I have got to go with the consensus and last year’s result over my fears of Pullman, WA in November.

Cal 13, USC 38
Someday the Bears will find the strength to beat USC. And I suspect when it happens, it will be a surprise to everyone. But until it happens, don’t expect me predicting the Bears to win, particularly in the LA Coliseum. As Wilner says, “I remember Cal’s last victory over the Trojans like it was 15 years ago.”

Cal 24, Stanford 20
This is the year gentlemen! It’s been a long time since I’ve predicted a Big Game win, 2014 to be precise. I’m not sure what I was thinking then, as the Bears got crushed. Nevertheless, Stanford is again over-appreciated this year and the game is in Berkeley. The Bears have played up to Stanford each of the last few years, even when the team didn’t have talent to compete. Last year showed the Bears are capable of going toe-to-toe with Stanford. This year they break through in Berkeley.

Cal 38, Colorado 24
If you’ve been counting, my predictions put the Bears at 6-5 and 4-4 in conference entering the final game of the season. The Bears will play much better against Colorado at home than they did last year at altitude. Very few people outside of Boulder expect much of the Buffs this season. The worst case scenario for the Bears is they are 5-6 and need that final win to be bowl eligible. But my guess is that they’ve already got the 7th loss and don’t have a lot of heart playing on the road on Thanksgiving weekend. The Bears will also be hungry for that winning record both in conference and overall and the improved bowl situation it gives them.

So there you have it, after an early stretch that is trouble, the Bears use a win over UCLA to catapult themselves forward and win all the games they should, plus knock of Stanford en route to a 7-5 (5-4) season and a bid to their first ever Sun Bowl.


Back for another year…

It’s been radio silence here at EMFMV since the season ended.  Last year was one of the busiest of my life.  It was my final year of formation to become a Catholic deacon.  Formation weekends/retreats prevented me from going to 4 of the home games.  In addition, the academic courses took up lots of my free time.  If that wasn’t enough, it was the first year of me starting a new business.

The result was it wasn’t the best year for EMFMV.

I was ordained at the end of June, so my schedule this year will be very different and I’m hopeful that I’ll make all but one of the Cal games.  Heck, I might even get lucky and if we get a 7:30 PM start for the UCLA game and I can rush down to Berkeley after an all-day Church commitment.  Plus, without all of the academic classes, I should be able to spend more time blogging.  So, here’s what I hope do to:

  • Game by game predictions next week
  • Game preview every week
  • On The Road Again podcasts after every home game
  • Post-game thoughts every week
  • Game re-watch every week
  • Commentary on news as it happens

So, welcome back to another exciting season of Cal Football and Go Bears!