(Written by Ken Crawford)
I’ve really toiled in my mind trying to get a sense of how good this Arizona team is. As I mentioned earlier in the week, they are VERY unproven. But unproven doesn’t mean bad.
After looking over a number of things, what scares me is their power running game. If you had asked me before the Washington game, I probably wouldn’t be as scared about that. But the supposed strength of the defense, the run defense, fell apart last week when faced with a tougher running game.
Frankly, this game will be won and lost in the trenches when Cal is on defense. It will also be won and lost based on Cal’s tackling.
If I was the head coach and I had no scrupples, I’d be soaking their Wheaties in testosterone. The more ethical part of me would have been working all week at practice on how to get these guys ready to be nasty in the trenches tomorrow and working on a great speech before the game like Bethea did before the 2003 USC game.
And a big part of why I’d be working my butt off for this one is because this game is REALLY important. Imagine if the Bears lose this one. Then the team isn’t sitting on a lot of confidence going into the following Saturday against a USC that is ripe for a couple more upsets this year. It’s a team that, even if they beat Colorado, will exit the season with no wins to build on. All they could do was beat the doormats.
But let us say that they win tomorrow. Now you’ve got a team that is full of hope. You’ve got a team that believes in itself and has turned a corner. Now you have a team that just might be ready to upset USC the following weekend. And if you pull off that miracle, now we’re looking at a team that could be on a 3-game win streak when they head into the Tin-Bowl on the farm, into the Big Game where anything can happen… particularly to a 2-loss Stanford team that at that point will be locked into the Alamo bowl no matter what (Yes, I’m predicting Oregon beats Stanford). And even if it doesn’t get quite that far, the Bears will have at least one win to feel good about going into the off-season.
As for the other side of the ball, I think the Cal offense has been showing signs of slowly re-working things to get productive again. The offense that was scoring 30+ points a game is still there, hiding between the mistakes and miscues. I also think there might be some hope for the running game to see some improvement. They won’t be great. But they might at least force Arizona to give it a little defensive attention. I think the offensive line configuration is better, but it has taken them a game, and may take them part of tomorrow’s game, to gel. I think Goff will do much better at home.
Yet at the same time, at best I see them giving a performance like the Northwestern game. Still too sloppy and still hurting themselves with mistakes and miscues. I worry that even if the yardage numbers go back up, we’ll still be kicking too many field goals when in the redzone. This team just hasn’t really turned the corner yet.
So to recap:
- This game couldn’t be more important.
- I have a feeling the offense gets better this week.
- It will be won and lost based on Cal’s toughness in the front-seven against Arizona’s power run game.
But through all that, I’m just not ready to call for the upset.
Final score: Cal 27, Arizona 31