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Initial Weber State thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Phew!  That was too close for comfort.  It was significantly tighter than my pre-season (pre-North Carolina) prediction of 38-13.  Some initial thoughts:

  • Anyone who wants to say that North Carolina had a great defensive line can take a long walk of a short pier as far as I’m concerned.  The Bears struggled with the Weber State defensive line far too often, more so than North Carolina.  There’s no way Weber State has one of the best defensive lines in college football.
  • Laird impressed me last week and now I’m officially a huge fan of the guy.  He’s got great vision, great instincts, good timing, and deceptively impressive speed.  He’s looked better than Watson in every regard and is frankly giving Enwere a run for his money power-wise.  I think the depth chart officially got turned upside down for RB.
  • The wide receivers are struggling a little bit with route running, in particular after the catch.  They need to get up field faster and are cutting short too often.
  • Bowers has a great completion percentage, but his yard totals are pretty mediocre.  In part that is due to the previous item, but I think it’s also because he’s picking the wrong guy too often.  The dump offs have not been working.
  • Cal’s defense got abused in 3 ways that are very troubling: 1. Linebackers running circles around our LBs in coverage.  2. Deep pass patterns.  3. The O-line getting too much of a push on Cal.  These are all things we should be watching with a close eye as the teams get more talented.  One caveat: Saffle was missing.  With him back things will be better.
  • The offensive line looked much more mediocre today, more the way I was expecting.

More to come later…

North Carolina game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

(Sorry for the slow posting… I was backpacking for the holiday weekend and didn’t get to watch the game until Tuesday night and then scrambling to catch up on all my various commitments)

Well THAT was a lot better outcome than most of us were expecting, yes?  I’ll get down into the details in a second, but first, I’m very tempted to be getting on both the Wilcox and the Bowers bandwagons after watching that performance.  I was expecting North Carolina’s defense to be very disruptive to our offensive line and Bowers to make a lot of mistakes as a result.  As such, I only expected the Bears to put up 10 points.  Frankly, 35 was amazing to see!

I think I had the defense about right.  They were noticeably improved.  I said 24 points and had it not been for the last minute TD, I would have nailed it.

However, I think we should be a bit cautious.  I think we are going to look back on North Carolina later in the season and realize they weren’t as good as we thought they were.  That was not a particularly good team.  They didn’t play with a lot of heart.  They had nothing particularly innovative or impressive on either side of the ball.  That was a team that looked to be in rebuilding mode on both sides of the ball.  Even still, they’d have won that game had they gotten all the interceptions they should have and if they’d hit a few wide open receivers for easy TDs.

As such, my prediction for the season win total only moves by a couple games after this one.  The Bears should be 2-1 after non-conference (although 3-0 seems not out of reach) and I’d still expect them to lose their first 4 non-conference games (USC, Oregon, UW, WSU).  But particularly as this young team matures, the Bears should have at least a shot at each of the remaining games, 3-2 is a good expectation, 4-1 is not out of reach.  So we’re looking at a 5 to 6 win season.  That last game at UCLA after Thanksgiving may be for bowl eligibility!

Let’s break it down unit by unit:

QB: The difficult thing to be Bowers is us Cal fans are *very* spoiled.  So while what I saw didn’t bowl me over, I see a lot of upside in this kid.  His accuracy was what worried me most.  Every handful of throws he had a pretty inaccurate one.  When coupled with a handful of bad decisions, he had far more interceptable balls than I’d feel comfortable with against a ball-hawking defense.  The good news is I think the mistakes lessen as he matures and I expect a sharp learning curve from him as the season progresses.

RBs: This was the area with the least question marks coming into the game.  That said, while both Enwere and Watson performed reasonably, I was hoping to see a little bit more out of them.  Enwere got the tough yards, which was good, particularly on 4th down.  I’d hope to see them break more runs open in the future and I have hopes that they will.  Laird was a pleasant surprise who I hope to see more of.

WRs: Even though Cal lost WRs in the off season, we knew because of the shear volume of recruits the previous administration brought in, it would be near impossible for there not to be reasonable replacements here.  That was definitely the case.  They seemed to be in pretty good rhythm with Bowers as a group and it was very good to see Bowers being able to spread it around to such a large group.  A few of them could have better hands (not that they were horrible).

TE: Not much stood out to me here.

O-Line: I was most pleasantly surprised here.  When the whole right side is freshman, one has to think it’s going to be a disaster.  But they were getting a pretty good push on run plays and Bowers wasn’t pressured all that much.  The group as a whole did very well.  If I had more confidence in North Carolina, I would have said awesome.

D-Line: Another pleasant surprise.  I very much liked the return to the 3-4 and the hybrid edge rushing strategy with Saffle worked well.  Their push and penetration on the line was good.  Overall, this is a group that I think will continue to improve as the season goes on.  I liked the balance of blitzes and good protection.

LBs: A solid performance here as well, although nothing overwhelming.  They seemed well coached and in position.

DBs: This is the defensive group I was most happy with the improvement I saw.  How many times in the past did we cringe at poor corner play?  How exciting was it to see DB’s make plays on the ball in the air?  This group will be tested much more in the weeks to come, but so far they’re doing a great job and are *HUGELY* improved.

So yeah, good stuff.  But it is important to remember the quality of the opponent and that we tend to grade on a curve of how poorly we were expecting the team to do.  But what we saw was most definitely a step in the right direction.

Weber State tickets for sale on ebay

(Written by kencraw)

As promised, I’ve posted the Weber State tickets on eBay.  Starting bid: $30.

Go see the auction here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/253140810665?

It’s a 1-day listing (since they don’t have a 2-day option).  If you want to make an offer below the $40 minimum, leave a comment in this post and once the auction expires I’ll be likely willing to consider it.

Tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

As I posted a few times in the off-season, there are a lot of games I won’t be able to make and will be selling tickets for the following games:

  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for Weber State on 9/9 @ 2:30 PM – Asking $75 (face value is $155)
  • 3 tickets (2 Adults + 1 youth) for Ole Miss on 9/16 @ 7:30 PM – Asking $100 (face value is $150)
  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for USC on 9/23 (time TBD) – Asking $150 (face value $270)
  • 3 tickets (2 Adults + 1 youth) for WSU on Friday 10/13 @ 7:30 PM – Asking $60 (face value $93)
  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for Arizona on 11/4 – Asking $100 (face value $185)

Let me know if you’re interested by leaving a comment in the post.  For longtime readers (you know who you are) I might be willing to cut you an even better deal and consider partial ticket offers right away.  Others I’ll wait until I’m closer to the game date before accepting an offer for part of the seats.

Let me know if you’re interested for Webber State by Tuesday morning.  I’ll put them on eBay later in the day.

2017 prediction post

(Written by kencraw)

As this post will make clear, I’m on the pessimistic side of the Cal fan-base this year.  I’m actually somewhat optimistic about the long-term with Wilcox at the helm and with the current state of the facilities.  But the reality for 2017 is that the talent cupboard was too bare and the new system Wilcox is putting in won’t be ready for prime time this year.   Here’s a game by game preview:

Cal at North Carolina: After having caught Texas at exactly the right time in its history the last couple years, it unfortunately is time for our comeuppance.  North Carolina is on the stronger side of their range right now and the Bears are on the weaker side.  I expect this to be a lower scoring affair than we’re used to, but the Bears offense will have trouble being productive.  Bears lose: 10- 24.

Cal vs. Weber State: If there’s one thing I have a lot of confidence in Wilcox in, it is his ability to win a game when he has the talent advantage.  In this way, he shares a lot in common with Tedford (who knew how to grind out a win whenever he had the advantage).  It will be interesting to see how much the offense can produce and how well the defense is gelling against a clearly inferior opponent.  My feeling is we’ll see spurts of it, but there will be portions of the game that are worrisome for there season-long implications.  Bears win easily: 38-13.

Cal vs. Ole Miss: This might be the toughest game of the season to predict.  Will the Rebels play up to their talent level or will their coaching/sanction chaos hamstring them?  Will they come to Berkeley expecting an easy win?  Perhaps if I wasn’t closer to an Old Blue than I’d like to admit, I’d be more optimistic.  Bears lose 23-42 (but it’s closer than that in the 4th quarter)

Cal vs. USC: When’s the last time Cal beat USC?  When the last time it was even close?  What makes you one think this is the year that changes?  Bears get dominated: 10-42.

Cal at Oregon: I’m of the belief that Oregon is on the rise.  However, Wilcox knows Eugene and will have Bears ready to play.  But the Bears best won’t be enough.  A single-score lead in the 2nd quarter is as close as the Bears will get: 20-31

Cal at Washington: I’m one who thinks Washington will take a little bit of a step back this year.  If the game was in Berkeley, I would at least toy with the idea of an upset.  But not in Husky stadium, which is even more intimidating in its new configuration. 23-35.

Cal vs. WSU: Here’s where the coaching staff will earn their salary.  After a  *very* tough start to the season, the Bears will be 1-5 with a number of losses they’d rather forget.  How much can Wilcox and Co. keep the optimism up with the players going into a much softer half of the season.  Sadly, WSU just keeps getting better and in my opinion will be the surprise team in the Pac-12 North.  While I’ll put this one on my potential upset list, I think the Bears still lose.  Their lone hope is the defense has matured a *LOT* through the first half of the season.  31-38.

Cal vs. Arizona: There’s only one team that got fewer points in the Pac-12 media poll than Cal and the Bears get to play them at home.  Some good scheduling karma!  (It’s about time.)  The Bears will look good in this one and will let out a lot of frustration on Arizona.  Win #2 comes in late October: 38-27.

Cal at Colorado: Colorado is the most over-rated team in the conference.  They got decimated by graduations last year AND got lucky the way the schedule fell.  Actually, technically, since decimated is only 10%, they got quadruple decimated.  But, this will still be an upset, particularly on the road at altitude.  Nevertheless, something in me says this is the game the Bears win that no one expects.  It will be a low scoring affair where the defense wins the day.  17-13.

Cal vs. Oregon State: The optimist would say that Cal has a good shot at this one.  But I think OSU is improving every year and will start to be firing on most of their cylinders by this point in the season.  It will be competitive, but mistakes will cost the Bears: 27-31

Big Game: The horrible streak continues but there will be signs that parity is closer to being restored than we fear: 17-24

Cal at UCLA:  At this point the Bears will just be playing for pride.  And to make matters worse, UCLA may be playing to get to 7-5 and ensure themselves a respectable bowl spot.  This is another one that at a different time and different place (Berkeley) the Bears would have more of a shot at it.  I tell you what, if Wilcox takes the team down there and pulls off the upset, you’ll never hear the end from me of how I’m on the Wilcox bandwagon.  As much as I’d like that to be true, I think the Bears peter out on this one: 17-35.

In summary, the Bears don’t get much schedule help and are in a tough spot talent wise.  If there’s some good news hiding in the schedule it is that most of the winnable games are later in the season after the team has had some time to gel.  If they over-perform my expectations, particularly if they can pull off a win against the Rebels, this team could go bowling and even reach 7-5 with wins over WSU, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State and one of UCLA or Stanford.  That’s the high water mark in my opinion.

Back for 2017

(Written by kencraw)

I’m sure my *huge* readership has been on the edge of its seat wondering if I’m going to keep blogging.  It’s been a particularly quiet off season.

But as the longest continuous Cal football blogger, I can’t just give up my title!

Here’s what you can expect from me this year:

  • Previews for each game
  • Recap of each game
  • Various thoughts as they come up
  • Pre-season prediction post (coming soon!)
  • Oregon eclipse recap (gotta share my awesome experience)

So stick around for another great season of blogging (notice I didn’t say great season of football)

Update on tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

As I mentioned about a while back, I’m trying to find someone to split my season tickets (2 adults, 5 kids seats) with.  I haven’t yet found anyone, but I still decided to go ahead and renew before the mid-February deadline to renew.

Which means I’m still looking and also open to more flexible arrangements.  Want just specific games?  Want the whole year?  Heck, even want to propose something that you don’t want to move on until later… make me an offer (or proposal), even one significantly below face value.  As long as it isn’t a joke of an offer, there’s a good chance I will accept.

So, if you want to take your family to a Bears game and you want to do it on the cheap but with pretty good seats, particularly from a logistics stand point, I’m your man.  Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

 

Signing day thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Obviously Wilcox had a tough task in front of him:  Just a few weeks to prevent mass exodus of the signing class Dykes was putting together AND to get some additional recruits to bolster the class.  But even if that task was exceedingly hard, it’s difficult to look at the end result with anything but consternation:

  • 14 total recruits (not the 20+ Cal needed)
  • Only 2 4-star players
  • Only 4 dedicated defensive players (we’ll see how much luck he has in getting the 3 “athletes” (which means they play multiple positions, often on both sides of the ball) to play defense.)
  • Only 1 DB

Rivals ranks it as the 78th best class in the country and worst in the conference.  There’s just no other way to say it than it is a bad class.  Now, good coaches find ways to overcome a weak class.  They have lots of knobs to work with to get around one bad class (mid-year recruits, JC transfers, work extra hard on next year’s, etc.).  But there’s no doubt that Wilcox’s job, which was already hard, just got a little bit harder.

Someone want to split my season tickets with me?

(Written by kencraw)

I’m ready to make a pretty dang good deal for the right person/family…

The schedule for next season came out and I can not make 3 of the 6 games:

  • USC on Sat. 9/23
  • Arizona on Sat. 10/21
  • Oregon State on Sat. 11/4
  • (UPDATE: Also looking like Webber St. on 9/11 is trouble for me unless it is a night game)

I’m looking for someone who’d like to buy my tickets for those game.  The season tickets include a parking pass in the Lower Hearst parking lot.  The full package of tickets (which is 2 adult and 5 children’s tickets in section C) are $1250 for the season.  So half would be $625.  I’m willing to sell it for $400.

Why do that when you could just buy single tickets for the games you want?  In addition to the discounted price, you should also want it for the same reason I want to cut a deal (as opposed to giving up my season tickets)… I’ve got great seats!  Well, there’s one caveat, great seats for the cheap part of the stadium.   I really think my seats are the *VERY BEST* seats in the *entire* region that used to be called the “Gold Zone”. (The north endzone cheap seats which goes from section CC to in the northwest corner of the endzone to section W in the northeast corner of the enzone).  Here’s why:

  1. We’re in the 1st two rows above the concourse (4 seats in front, 3 seats immediately behind).  That means you get more leg room (the 1st row has a full extra foot of leg room, plus no one sitting in front of you to encroach on your leg room).
  2. Being in the 1st two rows above the concourse means every trip to the bathroom or concessions only requires navigating a handful of steps.
  3. We’re on the isle, which further makes it easy to get in and out to get food or go to the bathroom.
  4. Just above the concourse is a great height to get a good view of the field.  High enough you have depth perspective but not so high/far you feel disconnected from the game.
  5. Section C is the furthest west section that has the “above the concourse” extra leg room, so you’ve got the perspective of being more in the corner versus straight down from the endzone.  This also improves visibility and depth perspective.  (Seats in the middle of the endzone it will see “huge running holes” open to go for long yardage but end up being deceptively short runs because you have no side of the field perspective.)
  6. Being on the west side means the sun is behind you, not in your face.

The point is, there’s not a single set of seats in the “Gold Zone” that equal that set of benefits.  Yes, it’s not the best seats on the 50 yard line.  There’s no denying there are much better seats in the expensive sections like the ESP area.  But you’re not going to get a half season’s worth of tickets for even two people, much less the seven I’m offering, for $400.

Now, if you’re not a family with at least a couple kids, this probably isn’t the deal for you.  There are only 2 adult tickets (plus 5 children’s).  To be clear about the kids tickets, they don’t check youth vs. adult tickets at the turnstiles.  I always use a children’s ticket just to re-verify they don’t care and nobody has ever said a word about it when scanning my ticket and letting me through.  However, I don’t think it is ethical to buy these tickets from me if you intend to use them all for adults.  I’ve made my peace with using a number of children’s tickets for adults at the night games that are too late for the kids, but only because it’s ridiculous how much they jerk us around with game times.  I’d ask that you intend to do the same thing: You plan to use your children’s tickets for children and will only resort to using them for adults if the schedule or weather makes it unreasonable to bring the kids.

Thus if you are a family with at least a couple kids, I think I’m offering a pretty good deal, particularly considering you get the “good” half of the tickets (no FCS game and the headliner of USC).

Are you interested?  Please leave a comment on the post (put your e-mail in the e-mail field (which isn’t published)) and I’ll get back to you.  If you’re not willing to pay that much, we can discuss that after I contact you.  I might be willing to take less (however, too little and I might also just not renew my tickets or sell them as the games come up). I might also be willing to also let you have the Mississippi State game (or split them?) if you’d like to pay more to have that game as well.  (Update: I might just throw in the Webber St. game for free once they schedule a time (usually in June).)  Heck, I might even be willing to let the whole season go and still pay a small portion so I keep the seats for future years (you pay $1000?).  Point being, I’m pretty flexible in all ways except I need to sell all 3 of the above mentioned games as part of the deal and I need to make the deal before February 20th when season ticket renewals end.  Let me know what suits your fancy.

Hopefully this can be a deal that works out well for both of us.

Dykes fired!

(Written by kencraw)

WOW!  This was NOT expected.  What odd timing… this long after the season.  I wonder if there’s something else up besides just on the field stuff…

The other way to go is to go with the rumor mill in thinking “Isn’t it an odd coincidence that Chip Kelly was just fired from the 49ers?”

The way I see the conference, particularly Utah

(Written by kencraw)

You could call this a “very coarse” power ratings… although that term is so abused.  When I think of power ratings, I think of how the teams are playing right now, whereas the term seems to have morphed over time to speak to how the teams have performed over time.

I think the conference has 3 good teams: Washington, Colorado and USC.  Outside of USC making the wrong QB decision to start the season, none of these three teams have lost to anybody outside their group.  They’re the best.

Next up are WSU and Stanford.  I’m tempted to put WSU above Stanford, but WSU has had a very soft Pac-12 schedule thus far and didn’t look that good against Colorado.  Yes, they beat Stanford, but Stanford has gotten meaningfully better since then and I’m not so sure the result would be the same now.  But nevertheless, these two teams are good and beat everyone below them.  But they’re not in the top tier either.

Then comes Utah, which if one just went by record, would be in a group by themselves.  But I actually think they SUCK far more than people think and belong with the next group.  So let me put Utah aside right now and talk about the next group…

“The Muck” are the rest of us, with the exception of Arizona (who is below the Muck and winless and conference play).  Cal, UCLA, ASU, Oregon, Oregon State are all 2-6 in conference.  These teams have lost every game to the top-5 teams above.  The wins come from each other (and Arizona), with two exceptions.  Those two exceptions are Cal over Utah and Oregon over Utah.  And that’s why I think Utah belongs in The Muck.  All their victories are over Muck teams, with 1 exception, and they’ve lost to 2 of The Muck.  The only thing positive they’ve got going is a victory over USC, but that was the pre-QB switch USC and can safely be discounted.  And once you discount that, you’re looking at a team that had a Muck heavy schedule and competed reasonably among the Muck, but as the two losses indicate, are not meaningfully better than the rest in The Muck.

So what does that mean for this weekend games?  It means that Cal has a real shot at UCLA, another Muck team.  It also means that I’m expected Colorado to kick the crud out of a WAAAAY over appreciated Utah team.

Big Game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

The Bears actually were competitive in the Big Game longer than I expected.  They apparently agreed with my advice to focus on stopping McCaffrey and force Chryst to beat them with his arm.  And that worked reasonably well for a half.  But the moment McCaffrey ran right by three over-pursuing defenders en route to a 90+ yard TD run, the game was over.  If you can no longer stop the one thing you’re dedicated to stopping, your chances of winning are not good.

Additional thoughts:

  • I don’t know if it would have mattered if the Bears could have kept McCaffrey in check for the remainder of the game.  Eventually Chryst found some rhythm and the openings in the Cal secondary and extended the lead.  My guess is the Bears would have lost anyway even without McCaffrey’s 2nd half flurry.
  • An interesting question is why the Bears seem to be able to stop what they intend for a quarter or two, but then fail to do it for the rest of the game.  One possible answer is conditioning.  These Bears just don’t have the strength to do what they need on defense for 4 quarters.  I’m pretty sympathetic to that answer, but it’s not the only one.  Another one is game-planning.  Perhaps the Bears are doing a reasonably good job of confusing their opponents with unique game plans well tailored to each opponent and it is taking the opponent a quarter or two to adjust.  Then there’s the inverse argument: The opponent is better at in-game/half-time adjustments.
  • Just as frustrating to me as the defensive failings is the inconsistency of the offense, particularly in the 3rd quarter.  For those who listened to my OTRH podcasts (which since I’ve been sick and haven’t made it to the last two home games have been lacking) all season, know that I’ve been complaining about the offense getting too cute and putzing around, particularly in the 3rd quarter.  I felt the same way on Saturday.
  • Similarly, I also feel like the team tries to go to the same well too many times.  While the wide-receiver screens haven’t worked all season, I was very happy to see the O-line screens working so well against Stanford’s aggressive linebacker core.  But by the 2nd half, they stopped working.  Why?  Because they ran too many of them.  And I feel that way about a number of plays.  They’re good plays, but we use them too often.  The most blatent example of this was the WR screens early in the 3rd quarter.  They must have run 6 of those in a row.
  • I have a similar concern about the run game.  The team is very streaky in when they use it.  The run game needs to be mixed in every drive, not used for a drive or two (and we tend to use it heavily during that drive) until it stops working and then abandon it until later in the game.  That is not how to keep the defense honest.
  • But probably the most baffling thing about the 2nd half of the season has been the COMPLETE inability of the WR’s to stretch the field.  And I refuse to blame all of that on Hansen’s injury.  I’m more inclined to think that Webb’s hand still isn’t right.  Or perhaps the defenses have schematically figured out how to stop it.
  • Speaking of Webb, I think too many people are going too easy on him.  While he’s not a bad QB, he’s had a lot of inconsistency.  Inconsistent decision making.  Inconsistent throwing.  Inconsistent footwork.  I don’t want to harp on him too much, as there are plenty of people playing worse football on the field than him.  But he deserves a share of the blame.
  • Which brings me to my long-term Dykes-led team fear: Is his system too dependent on a QB who executes near perfectly?  A lot of plays require the QB make a run-pass decision pre-snap.  If the QB is unable to make the right decisions, things can go quite poorly.  I wonder if the reason the run game is used in such a streaky fashion is because Webb is making these decisions pre-snap and doesn’t have the big-picture of how to mix it in.  I really wonder if we’ve now had two head coaches in a row that put too much emphasis on the QB.

Big Game preview

(Written by kencraw)

A month ago, I was pretty optimistic about the Big Game.  Stanford was struggling, had recently changed QB’s and the rushing game wasn’t working.  Also, the defense was looking softer than they had looked in a LOOONG time.  Oh what a difference a month makes!  Stanford has started to find their rhythm offensively (to their standards) and their defense has tightened up significantly.  Don’t get me wrong, this is still not the power-house Stanford of a few years ago, but they’re a lot more solid than they were a month ago.

If Cal was entering the game as the same team as last year, I’d have a lot of hope.  Even with Stanford improved, they’re still more vulnerable than usual.  But the problem is that Cal is on the ropes right now in just about every phase of the game.  The offense is sputtering, having failed to get to 30 points in any of their last 3 games.  The rushing game, that was a meaningful threat and kept defenses honest has mysteriously disappeared.  The deep passing game that both helped the Bears put up lots of points and ensured there was plenty of room for short and medium range passing is practically non-existent.  And Webb hasn’t looked like himself, particularly in the mid-range stuff, since the Oregon State game.

And that’s the better of the two units!

The defense is an absolute mess.  Any team that can competently pass the ball is going to destroy the Bear’s defense.  There’s just no other way to say it.  At their best point of the season they were acceptably mediocre.  But between offenses adjusting to their weaknesses and a rash of injuries that has left them decimated, they’re officially horrible.  The rush defense isn’t quite as bad, but is still in a pretty bad place.  I think they look even worse than they really are because the linebackers and safeties are so preoccupied with their suckitude as a pass defense, they’re not able to properly focus on the run game.

And that’s where the potential silver lining lies…

Here’s what I would do if I were game-planning today:  I’d put my corners on islands and tell me linebackers and safeties to play run-first.  Tell the defense it’s OK if they get torched through the air, but it is unacceptable to lose through a thousand cuts to Christian McCaffrey.  Force Stanford to prove they can beat the Bears through the air.  Put a lot of pressure on Keller Chryst.  Force Stanford to beat the Bears a way that is not very comfortable to them.

It might be that the Bears won’t be able to pull that off, but it’s the ONLY thing they have a remote chance of pulling off.

As for the offense, spread the field and focus on getting all four field spreading play types working:  Deep passing, short passing, inside running, outside running.  With the exception of the WR screens (which just aren’t working!), they should try to be VERY diverse.

But as one can obviously tell, I’m not sitting on a lot of hope that the Bears pull that off.  So while I think there is a path to victory, the opportunity is slim.  And thus my official prediction will be bleak:

Losing streak continues and no bowl game: Cal 17, Furd 42

(The theoretical win would look like Cal 45, Furd 38)

Boy does the loss to OSU hurt!

(Written by kencraw)

It’s looking less and less likely the Bears can win both of their last two games.  And if they don’t, they don’t make a bowl game nor get the MUCH needed extra practices that go with a bowl game.  Looking back over the season, the loss to OSU stands out as a massive disaster.  The Beavers ONLY conference win is against Cal.  And it’s not like they haven’t played other weak teams, they lost handily to a VERY weak UCLA team (Cal’s best hope at a win before the season’s end) just last week.

I guess the Bears got a win against Utah that each week becomes more and more of  a head-scratcher, but ignoring that, MAN does that loss to Oregon State hurt!

WSU preview

(Written by kencraw)

What everyone wants to talk about when previewing a Cal-WSU game is high scores.  But what those people seem to forget is that 2 of the 3 Leach-Dykes matchups had cumulative scores in the 60’s, that I suspect the under won, not the over.  Yes,  yes, 2 years ago the score was 60-59, we all know that.  But last year it was a more comfortable than the score indicates 34-28 Bears victory.

And if you look at the history not just of Cal-WSU but of most teams with high-scoring offenses that are of a similar nature, when they meet, on average the scores tend to be lower.  Why?  Because the defenses are very comfortable defending it.  They saw that offense (or something very similar) for all of Spring and Fall practice.

The problem with 2014 was that both teams had horrible defenses, and that overwhelmed the usual pattern.

Which brings us to this year.  Do both teams have a horrible defense?  No, only one does.  WSU’s defense is getting better every week and although it would be a mistake to overstate how good their defense is, it’s much, much, MUCH better than Cal’s.

Cal’s only hope, is that their defense has an unusually good showing.  And as I said already, going up against this familiar offense does make that more likely.  But unfortunately, the injury situation is so untenable, that I just don’t see it happening.  I was tempted to believe it was possible considering the larger problem this year has been rush defense, and WSU gives the Bears a bit of a break in this department.  But as loss to the Huskies showed, the injuries are plaguing the secondary even more so than the run defense.  So, the more I look at who is hurt and who’s replacing them, I just can’t believe this defense will have success.

And sadly, I do see it happening for WSU.  So as much as my heart believes Cal has a better shot at this than most people think, my head and my official prediction has to be that Cal loses a really, really tough one to take: Cal 31, WSU 59.

3 election thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

I’m a bit of a disinterested party to this election.  I’m a “member” (it’s not an official party yet) of the American Solidarity Party and haven’t voted for the presidential candidate of either major party since 2000.  I refuse to vote for politicians who are ideologically far from what I stand for.  I just won’t do the “lesser of 2 evils” thing.  I don’t vote for “evil”.  Neither Clinton nor Trump were worthy of my vote and both would have been forcing me to endorse too many things I’m ideologically opposed to.  And so I wrote in a candidate who I can get behind.

Nevertheless, I’m at peace today and do not fear the future.  Hopefully these words will be helpful to where ever you stand:

  1. Hyperbole is not helpful (notice how I scare quote evil above).  If you feel yourself making broad sweeping and aggressive statements, I would caution against it.  Trump is not Hitler.  The world is not coming to an end.  For those on the other side, this was no “beat-down of the establishment”.  8 years ago it was the conservatives who thought the world was coming to an end.  Guess what, we’re still here and mostly in the same place we’ve always been.  16 years ago it was the Democrats.  Guess what, we made it to Obama without too much change to our daily lives.
  2. Do your best to avoid demonizing the other side.  The people on the other side are human just like you.  They’ve got real concerns and make judgment calls based on less than perfect information.  They make compromises that they don’t feel that comfortable with.  They talk themselves into being 100% behind something they really aren’t that excited about because they want to win and you don’t win by having lukewarm support for something.  A pattern I see time and again:  A person does something stupid and/or wrong, and others are very forgiving.  They rationalize.  They sympathize.  They ask for mercy.  Yet anther person does something similarly stupid and/or wrong and the same crowd is ready to nail them to the wall.  Why the difference?  Because one is seen as “us” and the other is seen as “them”.  Try to get away from having a “them” in your mind, so you have no one to demonize.  Listen and be sympathetic to everyone.  Try to understand, not write people off as evil or bigoted.
  3. Remember what what you do locally on a daily basis is far more important than the national policies.  While of course national politics has an affect on our lives, the reality is, whether you have a good day today has more to do with whether you’ve got good friends, good co-workers and good family than anything else.  And how that happens is by all of us collectively committing to being good friends, good co-workers and good family members.  And part of how we do that, is by not demonizing those among our friends, co-workers and family who don’t share our political views and by avoiding speaking in hyperbole with them.  Sympathize with those who are troubled today.  Forgive those who gloat.

 

There are those who are just but are treated as though they had done evil, and those who are wicked but are treated as though they had done justly. This, too, I say is vanity. Therefore I praised joy, because there is nothing better for mortals under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be joyful; this will accompany them in their toil through the limited days of life God gives them under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:14-15)

Don’t count out the Bears vs. WSU

(Written by kencraw)

The Bears need to win 2 of their final 3 to go bowling.  Most people reasonably assume that the likely candidates are Stanford and UCLA.  But here’s my early prediction:  Cal always plays WSU tough and Dykes has the keys to the WSU air-raid.

Expect Saturday’s game to be a close one with a reasonable chance the Bears pull the upset.

(And if you’re wondering where the Washington post-game post is… I’ve said all I’m going to say.)

Washington preview

(Written by kencraw)

I must admit, I’m having a bit of cognitive dissonance with Washington.  Is this the same Washington team that Cal was up 27 to 7 over early in the 3rd quarter last year?  It’s not like they’ve had an influx of new guys.  It’s mostly the same guys from last year.  And this year the game is in Berkeley, not Seattle.  How is it possible the Bears are such underdogs?

But at some point you can’t ignore the evidence: The beat-downs of Oregon and Stanford.  The solid victory over Utah.  Or perhaps it is just as simple as 8-0.  There’s no doubt that UW is a vastly improved team.  And the way they’re improved is precision and consistency.  Turnovers are down.  Penalties are down.  Execution consistency is WAAAY up.

And let us not forget, UW turned the ball over 5 times against Cal last year.  We can’t expect that again tonight.

And then there’s the Bear’s struggles.  Last year the UW defense held Cal to 30 points, their lowest score in a win all season.  It frankly wasn’t the Bears best offensive performance of the season.  However, the defense played one of their better games.  The game ball deserved to be given to the defense, not the offense.  I don’t think I have to mention how much of a rarity that is.

So, this is what is going to happen this year:  UW will play a clean game and not give the Bears extra possession and free points.  The UW defense will frustrate the Cal offense enough that we won’t be seeing 40+ points on the Cal scoreboard.  Of the above statements I am nearly 100% confident.  The question mark, if there is one, is the defense.  Can they keep the Huskies in check and get the ball back to the Cal offense.  If they can repeat last year’s performance, the Bears have a chance to pull the upset.  More likely, they’re the rusty swinging gate that results in another painful loss.

Cal loses big: Cal 24 – UW 45

Free Washington game tickets!

(Written by kencraw)

I’ve got a cold I just can’t beat, so I won’t be using my tickets.

I’m willing to give away my 7 tickets (a row of 3 behind a row of 4) for “free” with one condition: That you are willing to mail me half of the Bobbleheads you get (so if you take 2 tickets, you mail me 1. If you take 4, you mail me 2. If you request an odd number, I’ll let you keep the “split baby”.

If you’re interested, e-mail me at tickets@excusemeformyvoice.com

GAH! WSU game is at 7:30 PM too!

(Written by kencraw)

Another week, another 7:30 PM game.  Admittedly not a home game so it doesn’t have the same downsides, but it’s still a ridiculous trend.