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Archive for November, 2021

What a Big Game!

Wow, what a joyful evening Saturday was. After the rust of 2 weeks off and lacking practice due to COVID in the 1st quarter, the Bears laid the wood to Stanford again and again and again.

If I was a furd fan (and could somehow rise above my ideocracy 🙂 ), I’d have been very angry with Shaw deciding to go for it on 4th and goal twice. The halftime score could have been 14-9 otherwise. But by the mid-3rd quarter one could actually see the wisdom in Shaw’s decision. He knew this game was a long-shot. He needed to get out in front and try to get the Bears to be one-dimensional.

Stanford is really terrible right now. While the records might be similar, the details make it clear that Cal is a much better team. Stanford keeps losing by much larger margins.

Now the question is: Can the Bears make it to bowl eligibility? And I have to say, that’s a tall order. That stinking Arizona game!?!

USC looks pretty vulnerable, so that game is for sure winnable. It’ll be even better if BYU can go into the coliseum this weekend and put an end to USC’s hope for bowl eligibility.

UCLA looks to be the tougher task. On the road. Thanksgiving weekend. Against a surging UCLA. That’s not going to be easy. Although when one does the common opponent analysis the teams look pretty even.

All the more reason to say: That stinking Arizona game!?!

Understanding COVID rules

(NEW NOTE: All of the below is likely meaningless. It turns out that it was City of Berkeley health department rules that drove all of this. In other words… Cal is playing at a disadvantage to other schools.)

(ORIGINAL NOTE: All of this All of the following is simplified based on the article I saw that indicated “99% of the Cal players are vaccinated”…)

So, why were 24 players missing? The people missing would meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have tested positive within the last 10 days
  • Have been exposed to someone in the last 3 days who has tested positive
  • Have been exposed to someone more than 3 days ago who has tested positive, but didn’t themselves get tested after 3 days

It’s worth noting that the exposure rules don’t apply “if assessment does not reveal high risk.” While I don’t know the specifics of that, I’m sure it means social distancing and masking and the such suggests they weren’t ‘close contacts’.

I think there’s two conclusions we can reasonably assume are accurate:

  • The positive COVID test happened within 3 days of the game. I have a hard time believing they wouldn’t do the follow up testing to clear players if the exposure was more than 3 days ago.
  • More than one person tested positive. It’s hard to imagine that one person had 23 other close contacts in the 3 days before the game.

What a bad break for the team…

Arizona – initial revulson

Obviously my preview post didn’t know the extent of the COVID losses for this game. 10 starters, including Garbers?!?!? How can one expect to win that one?

But somehow, despite all the personnel losses, the Bears still had a shot. And I guess a certain type of person would have an optimistic view of still having a shot with that many players lost.

Not me.

How can that be our backup QB? He’s not just bad, not just horrible, but unacceptably incompetently ATTROCIOUS! The number of completely mis-thrown balls. The bad reads. The slowness of execution… and it’s not like he had some running skills to offset that.

I’m sorry, I don’t care if the entire starting offense is out, that sort of offensive performance is unacceptable. And the lack of good play-calling. If you know your QB is crap and can’t throw a long ball, why are they calling a pass-heavy game? (29 passes, 24 runs). They should have been pounding the ball from the opening drive. Sure, it might not have bore fruit for a while, but run games take time to get moving sometimes and their lack of commitment to it was ridiculous.

And now the Bears have to do the near impossible… win their final 3 games where they’ll be the underdogs in at least 2 and 2 on the road. And that’s particularly true if the COVID issue affects their personnel next week.

Arizona preview

Today’s game is both very important (for bowl eligibility) and very dangerous. And it just got more dangerous:

We all know how much COVID shortages messed with the Bears in 2020… the big question is: Who’s out?

But the game was dangerous before that for a few reasons:

  • It’s a road conference game in a place that has always caused the Bears trouble. There’s something about Tucson. The last time the Bears won in Tucson: 2004 (That’s not a typo)
  • Winless teams are dangerous. They’re desperate for a win and they particularly bring out their best for the teams that seem vulnerable. And while the Bears play the last couple of weeks has raised the status of the team, I can guarantee you Arizona sees Cal as one of their few remaining “good” shots at a win (remaining teams: Cal, Utah, @WSU, @ASU).
  • Winless teams are lull inducing. While I’m hopeful this won’t be the case, it’s not too hard to see the Bears looking past them to the critical USC game behind it.

With that caveat aside, let’s do the common opponent analysis:

  • Both lost @ Oregon, Cal in a nailbiter, UA got blown out.
  • Arizona went to boulder and got blown out, Cal blew out Colorado at home.
  • Both lost a nailbiter to UW, Cal on the road, Arizona at home.

Only the last game suggests these might be comparable teams.

But I think this game comes down to heart. Does Cal come out ready to play and with no excuses in the back of their mind? And a big part of me thinks Wilcox has this team in a place where that’s a real possibility. I could see the Bears starting like they did against Nevada, but that being so demoralizing for a team already tempted toward despair and the Bears win a blowout.

I could also see a game where Cal comes out flat, gets down something like 10-3 at halftime and then has to battle their way back with an offense short a couple of key guys due to COVID. And I could see that not going well.

But my official prediction is that it’s a dog-fight where some might accuse the Bears of coming out flat but really it’s the missing players and Arizona coming out ready to win. But come the 4th quarter, the Bears run game wears them down and wins going away: 30-20

Program turning win

(Apologies for the delay… I wrote most of this on Tuesday but forgot to post it)

The Bears had some program turning wins in 2018 and 2019. The road UW win. The road USC win. The home UW win. These all told the world that the Bears needed to be taken seriously. They told the Bears that if they played to their potential, they could beat almost anyone.

Last Saturday’s win says to the conference: That Bears team is back.

They may have taken a COVID hiatus that lasted well into this season… but they’ve righted the ship. This OSU team is no slouch. They remind me of the Mike Riley led OSU teams that constantly tortured the Jeff Tedford led Bears.

In fact, since Tedford is on the mind (and was at the game), let’s do a quick Wilcox vs. Tedford comparison:


  • Brought the team back from the dead
  • Raised them to be the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference for the bulk of his reign
  • But struggled with those important head to heads (vs. USC in particular)
  • And struggled with a couple of particular weaker teams (OSU and Arizona)
  • Dominated the Big Game


  • Brought the team back from sub-mediocrity
  • Raised them to be competitive
  • Proved they could beat the best teams in the conference
  • But also more inconsistent
  • Unlike Tedford, it doesn’t feel like any team is his kryptonite
  • Finally got a Big Game win

It’s the bold one that I think had Cal fans so optimistic before the COVID downturn. Tedford’s struggles against the best left a bad taste. It felt like with Tedford the team could be very good, but never the best. That ‘Rose bowl before I die’ would be elusive. But Wilcox’s big wins said that while the team wasn’t quite there yet, there could be that magical season where we all get to spend too much money in Pasadena on January 1st.

I know I’m on a bit of a tangent, as OSU isn’t USC or Oregon or UW in a conference dominating position. But I think it confirmed that bold point… Oregon State is currently one of the best teams in the conference and Cal beat them.

And they beat them straight up, just like those 2018 and 2019 wins. It didn’t take any trickery or lucky bounces. Cal lined up, played hard nose football with a defense that kept getting the ball in the offense’s hands.

Last Saturday’s game had that same feeling.