Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cal Hoops starts Pac 10 Play

Cal basketball is starting Pac 10 play with the highest position in terms of RPI since I have been watching the Bears. We currently are at 27 (down from 13 last week after playing home games against three lowly ranked teams). But still - 27 going into the conference and at 11-2. We could lose 11 pac 10 games and still get into the tournament, depending on the home and away split. We are also liked by Sagarin, which currently has us at number 33 in his most accurate rating system. So we are solidly in the hunt as a decent team.

Other news - the Bears lead THE NATION in three point shooting. We have become a great shooting team. Wow - when did this all happen. Oregon won a few years ago with fantastic guard play and terrible inside game. i think we could be like they were this year. They have to come out to guard us, and it opens up a bit more inside.

So, this is exciting for the Bears hoops team after half a decade of progressively getting worse, and hoping that the turn-around is right around the corner. I still feel that there is quite a bit of work to be done on our hoops program - we need five years of tournament play to move up to the level where we are getting guys consistently wanting to play for us, staying home in the Bay Area, and getting some international guys. We can not afford to continue to hope we get some diamonds in the rough. Our recruiting needs to be more consistently good. We have a great story to tell academically, with our facilities, as well as with our culture as a university. We need to continue to win to make it all hang together, and become a powerhouse. I believe that it is going to come in football, and I think it can come in basketball as well. If we can get five good years from Monty, then I think we are good.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Style Points

A lot of folks on the message boards are hyped up about how the game against the Hurricanes was not pretty - the passing stunk, the Bears should have run Miami into the ground, etc... I think the point is, the last game of the season style points do not matter. 9-4 is 9-4 - we won the bowl game. There is no other game after the Bowl. If we lost, I could be pissed, since we should have won. But winning dominantly in a crappy mid-tier bowl game is not going to do anything for anyone.

At the end of the bowl season, folks are going to look at Cal and say - hey they beat Miami by 7 - just like the spread said. Good for them - they are a top 25 - 30 team at 9-4. Which is what we are.

Was anyone really surprised that our passing game was not our strength? Is there really outrage about that? Can anyone really come up with more vitrol about Nate Longshore? We had an inadequate passing game all season long, with either Nate or Kevin at the helm. What was two weeks of extra practice going to change? We still had the same QBs - one apparently injured - who were throwing the passes. I was excited as heck that Best was kicking butt and taking the game onto his shoulders, and the defense did another great job. I was worried about that before the game, as I knew that was the only way we were going to win. So what if our passing game sucked again. I expected it. To expect otherwise is simply silly, and to complain again about what is the same, week in and week out is kind of boring.

The amazing thing is that we are 9-4 with the worst passing season since 2000, and injuries to both our first and second string QB at some point during the season. rushed for 188 yards per game and passed for 189 yards per game. Remarkably balanced and decent stats at the end of the year. But, unfortunately, some do not like to see the sausage being made.

Our offense this year was not pretty most of the time. But we got the job done enough in this rebuilding year to make a strong showing, and to get guys experience who needed it. We developed a tremendous defensive philosophy which I think will make the Bears a place to play for skilled defensive players. We also developed experience where we desperately needed it this season - throughout the entire offense. We needed players on the line, at wide-receiver, as well as a more experience for our running backs as well as our QBs. And we got it. We are going to be a much better team next year, even with 5 starters lost to graduation.

The nice thing is, many of those starters will earn a spot on an NFL team. As have most of the Bears recently who have gone through the system, and who have started for us on a consistent basis. We are now a feeder team for the NFL. Last year, we had 7 guys drafted. This year, probably 4 or 5. Next year, the same, I could see the same, depending on who comes out early, if anyone. If you average 5 per year, that means that 20 to 25% of your players will be playing in the pros. And that generates interest. And that generates excitement, which generates talent.

The last 4 years, since Aaron Rogers left, Nate Longshore has been the starter (except when he has been injured, or this year on again / off again). This is the Nate Longshore era. And, you live and die by your QB. During that time, Cal won 34 games, and lost 17. During that time, we won our first Pac 10 Championship - shared with USC - since 1975. During that time, Cal won 4 bowl games. During that time, Nate Longshore started 30 games and won 20 of them for the Bears. The rest of the victories have been by backup QB Riley, Ayoob and Levy, who went a combined 14-7. In other words, no real difference.

As a comparison to Aaron Rogers - he was 17 -5 in his Cal career as a starter.

In other words, if we had Aaron Rogers, we would have won exactly 1.3 more games. I can see that.

Let's face it - Cal has had a great run over the last 7 years with Jeff Tedford at coach.

1) We have been to bowl games 6 years running, and have won 5 of them.
2) Of course - no losing seasons
3) More weeks ranked in the top 25 than in the previous 50 years combined.
4) More players drafted into the NFL than 95% of all other division 1A teams.
5) New football facilities being built
6) New Stadium Retrofit / remodel, to make football and athletics sustainable for the next 50 years at Cal.
7) Consistently top 25 recruiting classes
8) No shenanigans with NCAA violations
9) Improved academic standing for the entire team
10) Improved expectations, to where 9-4 is a disappointing year.

Let's face it - I think we could have easily beaten Maryland this year. I think we should have beaten them, as well as Arizona, and possibly Oregon State. But certainly Maryland. And that would get us to 10 wins. Last year, of course, we should have had 10 wins as well, except for the fateful injury. In fact, we should be coming off 4 years of 10 wins per season. And I do believe that we are going to make that a habit in the future. And if that is the case, then eventually we will be in BCS games, and we will be in the Rose Bowl. We got screwed in 2004 - but that will not happen again - they made an extra spot for us. So the Bears are doing fine.


Emerald Bowl Win

Well, the Bears defeated the Hurricanes in a dominant display of running and defense, and a truly terrible display of our passing game. Apparently, Kevin Riley was injured and Nate Longshore needed to play the entire game. Normally, I think that it would be fine for Nate to play the whole game. I remember watching Nate and DeSean Jackson after the Holiday Bowl when we defeated Texas A&M in 2006 - Nate was the MVP, and he played great. They were predicting a national championship the next year. And we almost made it - except for those last 6 games.

it is a strange end to a pretty good Cal career. He ends up as 5th on the all time Cal passing list. There are some pretty good players on that list. He has started and won more Cal games than any other QB for the Bears in the last half century. He has been the starting QB for half of Jeff Tedford's tenure at Cal. And that has been a pretty impressive tenure. Tedford and Pete Carroll are the only Pac 10 coaches to not have a losing season at their current schools. Nate - for all the hatred that is thrown his way, is a big part of that.

That being said, he played dreadfully on Friday Night. It was really surprising. I mean, there were plenty of people open who would have made big plays and gotten plenty of receiving yards after catch if Nate could have hit them in stride. In the first quarter, there were three passes that were just horrible.

I understand the desire of JT to have a balanced attack. Generally that works, and it would have worked very well if Nate could hit anyone. But at the end of the day, it was clear that Jahvid Best was the best option, and he should have had at least 35 carries on the night. The Bears would have had at least 400 yards rushing. Anything that the Bears ran outside was at least a 15 yard gain. It was like watching a man amongst kids.

The defense also was dominating. It was fun watching the three and outs, the negative yards for almost the entire first half, the interception, fumble, etc.

But this game did not give us the bounce that I think we needed. The Bears will certainly be taken more seriously next year that this year - Jahvid Best is going to be on everyones radar screen as a Heisman hopeful, and certainly as one of best running backs in the country. Averaging more than 8 yards per carry is pretty good in a single game. Over a season, it is crazy.

At the end of the year, Jahvid Best had 1580 rushing yards - number 5 in the country right now. That was averaging less than 15 carries per game this year. All of the guys currently in front of him in total yardage have at least 80 more carries than he has this year - in other words - about 30% more.

In any event, he is going to be a devastating weapon for the Bears next year. And I am excited about that.

But our offense needs balance, and to that end, the Kevin Riley era needed to begin well in this bowl game. It would have been nice to bring positive momentum into the offseason for Kevin, and it would have been nice for him to have gotten in synch with the receivers a little bit. I think it will happen, but it would have been a bigger media splash if he came out, had a huge game, and we destroyed the U. Instead, we barely win on a defensive play (not that it ever seemed to me that the game was in doubt) and the Bears go into the offseason worrying about the QB position again.

Oh well. At least we know one QB who has been eliminated.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bears Hoops wins a big one

Cal wins a big one last night against Nevada, and so goes to number 10 in the RPI rankings. This is huge. While we all talk about the bears weak out of conference schedules over the last few years, and event today, it does not seem like we are going up against the big guys. But the Bears currently have played the 9th toughest schedule, and are 8-2 against it.

Granted, we lost the two toughest games that we scheduled - Florida State and Missouri. But both of those guys are in the top of the RPI rankings. And we beat Utah, which is number 32, and 10-2 UNLV, which is highly ranked.

When it comes to the Pac 10 tournament season, it looks more and more likely that the league is not up to what it was last year, and the Bears have a decent shot at getting through it in pretty good shape. We clearly have holes in our game, but when your guys can shoot, it make a big difference. Opponents have to change their defense, and come out of their comfort zones. This is the first year in a while when Cal seems to have shooters and a point guard who can also shoot. If we had a dominating big man or two this would be a great team.

The nicest part of the schedule so far, which has really helped us in the RPI rankings, is that many of our games have been on the road or at least in neutral territory. The Global Sports Classic was a great Tournament for the Bears since 1) it gave a huge PRI boost getting to the finals, and 2) it gave the team the idea that it could play in a tournament scenario and do well. Also, going on the road to play Missouri (a loss - so only count's a little against us) and Utah - a win, so it counts as 1.4 wins) is great. If you are going to play decent teams - do it at their house. That way, if you lose the loss is not that bad, and if you win it is a huge boost. And the tournament committee looks at your OOC record in a HUGE way. These games are going to help the Bears later on.

Anyway, I think that this is the best that the Bears could have hoped for going into the season. Our next few games at home - the Golden Bear Classic and the game against Colgate - need to be wins since they are all teams that the Bears should win. If Monty can get us through the OOC schedule without the traditional loss to the crappy team that kills our post-season hopes, then he will have earned a major portion of his salary and reputation. This is why we got him and got rid of Braun. Losses to DePaul (2 times) and Eastern Michigan, and San Diego and San Diego State kept us out the the tournament three times over the last five years.

IF the Bears go into the season with 11 wins already, they need to win 9 in season for a decent tournament seed (7 or higher) and 8 to get in. But this year, I think the Bears could surprise some folks, and make it a 12 win Pac 10 season. And that would give us a 5 seed or better.

Anyway, lots still left to play with this team. Let's hope we can keep it together.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The Bears got some bad news, I think, when offensive line coach Jim Michalczik decided to go to Washington and be the offensive coordinator for the Huskies. Coach M is a great offensive line coach, and is a tremendous developer of line talent.

On the one hand, he has been with the Bears for 7 years, and sometimes that gets stale. But I think the bigger reason is that he was the offensive coordinator last year, and essentially was demoted this year to co-offensive coordinator, after the implosion last year.

If you remember, last year was the year when Coach Tedford decided to call plays. It did not work out so well. But the Bears did have a pretty good offense last year (certainly better than this year under new offensive coordinator Cignetti).

Now, when I say demoted, I am sure that it was not a real demotion - because in fact, initially, it was not a real promotion. He was not making, for example, the type of coin that Defensive Coordinator Gregory is making - about 30% more than Coach M. He did not have total responsibility for that side of the ball, as that was mostly Tedford's side of things. And, Tedford did spend a good deal of time there, considering that he decided after the season that he was not doing enough of a good job managing the team. And so when he went to get an offensive coordinator, he did not hire the guy already in the job in name - he went out and got someone who could actually be an offensive coordinator - at least in JT's mind. And Michalczik went back to the line coach and co-offensive coordinator.

Prior to last year, Michalczik was also Assistant Head Coach - which means that you get to do a lot of the crappy administrative things that head coaches have to do - and so he probably learned quite a bit about dealing with the administration, the athletic department, etc.

All of this means is that he though he had some upward mobility as a Bear coach, and he found out he did not - they brought in the other guy. But he is so well respected that he deserves a shot at an offensive coordinator spot - you are never going to be a head coach until you are a coordinator. And so, when a slot opened up in Washington (his home state) he grabbed it.

Looking ahead, this is a two step process for Michalczik. First, he is going to learn from Sarkisian the USC method, as well as the BYU method. He already has the Tedford method. And the Tedford method and the USC method are probably not too dissimilar. But the next step for Michalczik is to wait for the coaching opportunity to open up at his alma mater in another year when Paul Wulf gets canned at Washington State.

Unless Sarkisian is a complete idiot (and he did not take the Raider job, so me might not be a complete idiot), then the huskies will do better. And with Locker back, they may do significantly better, and maybe even get to a bowl game. They are not playing Oklahoma and BYU - they will get Idaho, some second tier school, and then maybe even beat a reeling Notre Dame. In any event, the Huskies will win at least 4 games next year. So when Washington State is looking for a alumni connection with some good experience, he will be the guy.

Of course, there is tremendous downside to this move for him as well. He will not be calling the plays, so he still will not get the experience that he needs to be a true offensive coordinator. Also, it is possible that Sarkisian will be a total disaster, and the Huskies go through a second year of crap.

As far as the Bears go, we need to get someone who is really, really good. We have had a huge run of great lines thanks to Michalczik, and we need to have that continue. I am sure there are guys out there. But we need to get someone in who is top-notch in what I consider one of the most critical position coach jobs on a football team. Let's face it - skill guys have it or not. Linemen do not have it - they need to be coached. And a good coach can make all the difference. Maybe that is a little simplistic, but there is a good bit of truth to that.


The good news is the exciting world of defensive recruiting. The Bears are lighting it up on that side of the ball recruit wise, with more to come. And that is based solely on our switch to the 3-4 defense, in my opinion. We are getting guys in the mold of Zack Follett, who can come off the edge and get the QB, or are fast enough to drop back and play pass. It is very exciting, and I think the defensive recruiters have done a wonderful job.

This is shaping up to be a tremendous recruiting class for the Bears - filling the spots that we needed on the defense to maintain our momentum, while at the same time watching our offense get a year older and better. We should be much improved next year, and, frankly, I think a top 10 team.


All this

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Huge win over Utah for Men's Hoops

The Cal men's hoops team beat Utah on the road in a huge win for the program. This is going to be a signature win in the preseason for the Bears. Utah is in the tough Mountain West conference, which currently has an RPI level above the Pac 10.

Cal currently lead the Pac 10 in RP!, at 14, while Stanfurd is number 2 at 34. The Bears at 7-2 (both losses on the road) are strong contenders to come into the Pac 10 leading in the RPI standing. We have some RPI poison to eat with Dartmouth, Colgate and surprisingly Nevada coming to town, all of whom are rated at 200 or higher (Nevada is 200). At the end of the day, however, the Bears will come into the season, assuming they win out the OOC race, below 50 RP!. Which is a very good place to start Pac 10 play.

The only team in the Pac 10 who is truly horrible is Oregon State, where our future president's brother in law is (they are 1-5). I wonder how hard it will be to fire him. Our new assistant, John Jay, must feel at least a little vindicated.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Best is the Best

Jahvid Best put the nation on alert for 2009. He is going to have a special year. The difference was, in the last two games he was healthy. And so he rushed for over 500 yards.

At the beginning of the year, he was amazing, but still was getting taken down by less than a full frontal tackle. In other words, he was not breaking tackles, he was simply outrunning folks. The last two games, albeit against lesser opponents, he was breaking tackles, making moves, and dominating the game. Which is nice, since we do not have a passing game at this point.

In other words, we have morphed into Nebraska, era 1993. Great defense, great running game, no passing. I can no remember a season where we have had so many under 150 yard passing efforts.

That being said, we are 8-4, going to play a pretty good Miami team in the Emerald bowl. It should be mostly Bear fans, and the Hurricanes think they are going to sunny California. My, won't they be surprised.

I think the Bears are really doing a good job defensively this year, both from a recruiting standpoint as well as on the field. Our recruiting thus far seems to be targeting the type of linebackers who can really rush - speed guys who hit, a la Zack Follet. It looks like the 3-4 is here to stay, based on the guys we are currently getting in the door. With that being said, and the defensive line and backfield sticking together for another year, we have a great shot at having another great year on that side of the ball.

Offensively, we need to work on our passing game. Our running game will be fine - our line will develop, hopefully with 5 or 6 fewer injuries. But we got a lot of guys time this year. Next year, we should be much better on the line, with Guarrano at center, MSG, Schwartz, maybe Tepper, and Cheadle, Teofilo or someone else slotted in there. All of these guys got some time this year, and will be in the rotation. I am excited about them and I think that it will be a strength of our team over the next two years.

The biggest issue that we may have next year is receivers, although with Calvin back, and more time for the others, I think we will be fine. Langeman will also be back from injury, and I think he will be a revelation. So we have three current starters all back, and two or three others who will go into the rotation. If we can pick up someone else to make an immediate impact, we should be fine. Boateng and Tucker can be all pac 10 if they get it together. Both have the skills, they just need the consistency. And to get the ball on target.

Riley I believe will also be much improved. Next year, he will not be looking over his shoulder, and he will be maturing in other ways. He certainly has the skills to be a great QB. He just needs to get his head together.

I am pretty pumped up about next season. Although we have a tough schedule, I think it will work out. SC is going to be way down next year. This was their year to go. Sarkisian is leaving, so offense is going to be a big deal to them. Someone is going to have to come in and do it Pete Carroll's way, and that is going to leave some bumps in the road. I think as Bear fans, we know how it goes when the offensive coordinator is changed, even with a strong head coach.

Their defense is going to be decimated. And, frankly, their offense is not that good. So we have a great chance next year of taking those guys. Plus, we have them early in the season, so we have the shot at their typical early season screw-up.

Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA will be decent, but we should be able to take them all. And we should never lose to the furd again.


As far as the game on Saturday, it was a little disappointing to see how few actually showed up to give the seniors a send-off. It was nice to see Nate get a big hand. But at the beginning of the game, when they came out, it seemed like there were only about 20K fans there. Pretty sad.

As far as it goes, I think they Bears get a few of the guys playing on Sunday. Mack, Follett are first day picks, and I think Nate actually gets picked in the 6th or 7th round - there are not a lot of great QBs coming out this year. I think Nate is in the top 15 of QBs, and there will be 20 taken. He has the arm strength and size that the NL likes, and he can just say Tedford screwed him over - all the NFL guys will accept that.

The other guys that have a decent shot at getting drafted are Worrell Williams, and Rulon Davis. WIll Ta'ufo'ou, Hicks and maybe Malele and Kane get a shot at a free agent slot.

Nick Sundberg could end up being one of the longest tenured NFL players of the group, going possibly as a long snapper. He is near perfect.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Hoops RPI

I did not want to post too early in the season, for the very reason that I now sadly have to report. Until the game last week against Florida State, Cal was ranked #8 in the RPI, riding a 5-0 record to the finals of the Global Sports Classic championship game. Then, the played Florida State, who was ranked 35 in the RPI, and lost. So the Bears are now down to 33 in the RPI.

Not that this terribly matters this early in the season. However, the next three games for the Bears are critical and will go a long way toward telling us if we have any hope this season, or if it is all a rebuilding year.

The Bears face DePaul (RPI 27) at home, Missouri (RPI 109) and Utah (RPI 4) on the road in the next three games. Then, they come back and play Nevada. It is a tough pre-season schedule - probably one of the toughest since I remember. These are all decent teams who will either make or break our OOC RPI measurement. The good news is losing on the road to Utah or Missouri is not so bad. You only get .6 of a loss on the road. That is why it is critical that the Bears win at home. This game against DePaul is critical, as is the Nevada game and the rest of the home OOC schedule.

If the Bears can come into the season with a top 75 RPI, they should be in good shape to get into the tournament. The Pac 10 is a tough league once again this year, but we should be able to eek out a 500 season, the minimum threshold to get into the tourney. i think Montgomery is showing some coaching skills so far, and it seems like it is translating into winning. If we can shoot like we are, and play tough defense against the speed teams, and hope for the best against the big teams, we may be able to do something.

Anyway, an encouraging beginning of the hoops season. Let's hope it continues on.


Odds and Ends

First - The bears are likely going to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, to the dismay of the team members and to the excitement of many local fans who can not travel this year due to untold financial hardship. I think it will be good to have a home game - it would be better if the visiting team was someone better than an ACC also-ran. However, Cal already lost to an ACC also-ran this year, so it will be good for redemption in a sense. That is why I am rooting for Boston College, Florida State or Virginia Tech, as opposed to Wake Forest. Maryland lost to all those first teams, and the game would be much higher profile. Beating Wake Forest would be nice but not that much of a boost.

It would also have been nice to go to the Holiday Bowl and play someone like Okie State or Missouri, and see how we measure up.

As far as the team goes, I think it is better that the game is later in the year - more practice time and less need interrupt finals for the practice sessions. At the end of the day, I think the Bears are going to have a good time and kick some butt. All the stuff about staying home is BS - you do not hear USC folks complaining about the Rose Bowl being in their back yard, do you? OK - maybe a bad example.

On the other hand, it would be nice to have some better bowls for the top three or four Pac 10 teams to get sent to. The Emerald is for the 7th place ACC team. We are 4th in the Pac 10. Kinda sucks. The good news is that this year, the entire ACC is tied so it is difficult for them to decide who goes where.

As far as it goes, i was really disappointed that Oregon State lost to Oregon over the weekend. It would have been nice to see one of the 9 dwarfs kick the Toejams out of the Rose. It also would have been nice to split an additional $4.5 million for the conference. The Pac 10 refs should have known this. Oh well. I think this makes the Pac 10 much more likely to win most of the bowl games than if the Beavers went to the Rose. Here is my bowl line up right now for the Pac 10:

Rose - SC vs Penn State (USC wins)
Holiday - Missouri vs Oregon (Missouri)
Sun - West Virginia vs Oregon State (Oregon State)
Vegas - BYU vs Arizona St (BYU)
Emerald - Wake Forest vs Cal (Cal)
Hawaii - Hawaii vs Arizona (Arizona)

I am predicting that AZ state beats Arizona and gets into Bowl contention. If that is the case, both would be 6-6, and eligible for bowls based on the Pac 10 schedule. The Vegas would take whichever one they thought would do better. The Bears would still be sent to the Emerald. Overall, I think the Pac 10 loses two and wins the rest. Although whichever Mountain West team they send to the Vegas Bowl (BYU or TCU) will probably beat whichever Arizona team they send to match up with them. I think the Bears would beat either TCU or BYU, but that will not be the matchup, and the Mountain West will move to 7-1 on the year against the Pac 10. Totally embarrassing - even though they feasted on our weaklings for the most part. Thankfully the Bears kicked the crap out of Colorado State to eliminate the shutout.

As far as it goes, the whole National Championship thing is a debacle. Texas got screwed, which is fine. But the way they did it was stupid. The BCS is an end of the year ranking system, not designed to be used as a tiebreaker in a conference matchup. If a conference wanted to use a computer based system to pick the matchup, they should have developed one, and not been lazy and relied on the BCS. There are lots of tiebreaker formulas floating around out there. The NFL uses a ton of them to get to their playoff picture. So a conference out do the same. but relying on voters who are focused on Ohio State vs Ohio University to vote for who is playing in the Big 12 south championship slot is stupid.

Bottom line - Texas beat both of the teams playing in the championship game (Missouri and Oklahoma). But they were hosed. Tough luck Mack Brown, which is not a bad thing. But this was a terrible process.

As far as it goes, it is also incredible that no one is calling out the SEC this year. They are terrible. Alabama is not a good team. Yet, there they are, playing for the National Championship. i think they beat Florida, who is not that good either. Not that they suck, but they would certainly not be with only one loss playing in the Big 12 south.

I think USC is getting screwed this year, but they could have done something about it. Same with Florida. If Alabama wins, I would think they deserve a shot at the title. But if they lose, I would have Oklahoma and Texas go at it again. That would be a fun game to watch.

Too bad it is not going to happen.

Here are the bowl matchups that I want to see:

Poinsettia - Boise State and TCU - great matchup in a crappy venue. Huge game overshadowing the Oregon / Missouri game a week later in San Diego.

Rose - Good traditional matchup - I think SC gets a decent test but not a real threat. Another slow Big 10 team loses in the Rose.

Sugar - Alabama at Utah - Alabama loses and goes to the Sugar. Florida to the NCG and Utah kicks Alabama's ass. Plus, all the Mormons getting sloshed in New Orleans is fun.

Cotton Bowl - Texas Tech at Mississippi - probably the second best SEC team this year playing a great Texas Tech team. Huston Nutt and Mike Leach can both coach. Great matchup.

Capital One - Michigan State against Georgia. It would be nice to see State beat Georgia since we beat them handily. Georgia is not that good.

Chick-fil-A - Georgia Tech against LSU - nice to see LSU lose another one.

Anyway, some nice matchups coming up in the next month. Should be fun.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bears Dominate the Furd

A big game to end the discussion of who is the better team - the team on the rise, or the stumbling giant. I think that the answer was very clear - the Bears, while not doing all that well this season, are still head and shoulders above most other teams in the Pac 10, the country, and particularly, the Furd.

Stanfurd had to play directionally - they play hard, straight away football. They do not have the skill or speed to adjust to misdirection on either side of the ball, and they were exposed. The Cal team speed was much more than they could deal with. It was only a few plays (thank you, Jahvid Best) that blew the game open, but they were enough.

Even with continued poor QB play (the first INT by KR was terrible - there was a wide open tight end down the middle for a score, and instead thrown into coverage), the Bears were never in risk in this game. The defense is really ending the season on a high note. With Washington coming into town and the Bears re-thinking last years game, it could be a good time to shut out the Huskies and nail shut the Willingham coffin.

The best play of the year was the hitch and pitch (hook and ladder - whatever you want to call it). Awesome. The Bears also had the first reverse for a score since last year's DeSean jackson masterpiece against Colorado State.

And yes, Best was spectacular, with his career best 201 yards rushing, 25 receiving. He is going to be offensive player of the week. More than twice Kevin Riley's offense.

If we can get untracked against Washington, and give Kevin Riley a dose of confidence, then I think we have a chance in the Holiday Bowl against Missouri or Texas Tech, or whoever else the Big 12 sends. The next two weeks is exciting for BCS watchers and bowl prognosticators - it is fun to find out who you will be playing, where, the excitement of making plans for the travel, all that stuff.

Unless you are a Stanfurd fan.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Game

The Big Game is this week, and it really is a big game for many reasons this season. First of all, Stanfurd's bowl hopes are riding on a victory. T So that is a significant reason for the Bears to crush them.

Second, losing two in a row to Stanfurd is a bad thing. Period.

Third, we lost last year to the furd. Need I say more (yes, in fact, that is different from 2).

Fourth - while many on the message boards are actually expressing respect for the 'furd's coach - the man is a buffoon. Just because someone is enthusiastic and gets college football players to play somewhat above their talent level is no reason to give him any credit. The man is an intellectual dwarf.

Fifth - we need to keep those guys down. Far down. We need to never lose to them. It's like playing your little brother in HORSE. You can never lose.

I could go on for hours. The reasons are numerous. The 'furd is against all that is pure and good in the world - they represent the corporatist world view that money solves everything, that life is good in a strip mall, that the market crash is a buying opportunity instead of the end of the world as we know it. They suck, and we need to do something about it. This is the change that is coming, baby, and it is all about the Cal Bears crushing the worthless worms into submission.

You know why you hate SC. They buy success, and they live with the criminals and all that nouveau riche trash comes with. Well, you hate Stanfurd because they were fed success from their mothers bosom - it is old money. They have been raised with one perfectly shined loafer on the escalator to the top floor, while the rest of us had to scrimp and scrape for the table scraps. This is about class. This is about pride. This is about good vs evil. We are a state school, baby, and this is where that matters.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pac 10 Race

Here are the scenarios for the Pac 10 race:

Controls Destiny: Oregon St
Needs a little help: USC
Needs a lot of help: None
Can get into a tie, but odds are too remote to figure out whether or
not they could win the tiebreaker: Oregon
Eliminated: ASU, UCLA, Wash, WSU, Arizona, Cal, Stanford
Games that matter:



OSU wins both: OSU
OSU loses either (or both), and USC wins: USC
OSU beats Arizona, but loses to Oregon, and USC loses: Three-way
tie between Arizona, Oregon, and USC, which will go to at least the
record against highest position in standings" level, which appears to
be TBD.
OSU beats Oregon, but loses to Arizona, and USC loses: OSU
OSU loses both, and USC loses: USC

The Bowls pick like this this year:

Rose - Champion
Holiday - second pick
Sun - third pick
Emerald - 4th pick
Las Vegas - 5th pick

I do not think that the Pac 10 will even fill the Vegas Bowl.

Here are the scenarios.

Oregon State wins out, SC goes to a BCS as an at large. They possibly could go to the NCG as an at large pick.

Holiday - Bears are third place team, with three conference losses. Arizona and Oregon have 4 losses and the Bears go to Holiday Bowl.

Oregon State loses to Arizona

SC goes to Rose, Oregon State goes to Holiday, Arizona goes to Sun, and Bears go to Emerald.

Oregon State loses to Oregon and beats Arizona

SC goes to Rose, Oregon State goes to Holiday, Arizona still goes to Sun (since they think they will get a better turnout) and the Bears go to Emerald

Oregon State loses to BOTH Arizona and Oregon

SC goes to Rose, Arizona goes to Holiday, Cal goes to Sun and Oregon goes to Emerald, and Oregon State goes to Vegas Bowl.

Guys - here is the big issue. There is only one game left between Stanfurd and a bowl game. I do not want those guys going anywhere. We need to keep them out. That means a big game by the Bears this weekend at home. Domination needs to be the word of the day.

Stanfurd is tough, but the Bears have the players to get it done if they come to play. That is going to be the issue. Coming off a hard road trip, it is time to regroup and win.

I am going on hiatus for a few days, as I am going on a 4 day field trip with my son to pan some gold. I expect to come back rich, and am willing to put all of my newfound wealth into the stadium project if the Bears win out the season. 9-4 is the Oregon State level. There is a big difference between third and 5th in the Pac 10. Coming back with 16 starters next year on the team, ranked in the top 25 at the end of the season, we can to a decent pre-season ranking and a little momentum. But we need to finish strong against the weak part of the schedule.


GOOD NEWS - USC Not going to Rose Bowl!!

Well, we have to be positive about something. I am excited that the Pac 10 will be represented by someone other than USC at the Rose Bowl - I just hope everyone else does the honorable thing and let's OSU win the next two games against tough opponents. I have to assume that is the real plan around the league - Oregon State is a bunch of overachievers, but they are in Corvallis - let's let them win - they are not going to get any good recruits anyway, and we can knock SC out.

The Bears do have something to play for this week - keeping the furd away from a bowl game, and getting the Axe back.

It will be an interesting game if Penn State goes to the Rose Bowl to rematch against the Beavers. i think the outcome will be quite a bit different. Not saying that the Beavers will win, but I do not think it will be the huge upset that the game was earlier in the season.

Bears are on track for the Emerald bowl, which will be nice since the economy is going to make it tough for fans to travel this year. We would still get a good representation at the Emerald.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kevin Riley Recall

Well, I am officially off the Kevin Riley bandwagon. Tedford did what I though he would do - stick with Riley through thick and thin. I have to say that I was hoping that there would be something that started to shine through. But, frankly, he is the worst QB that Cal has had since I have been a Cal fan. Much worse than Ayoob or Longshore, the Bears the fans love to hate. 100 yards passing today on 25 attempts, after games earlier this season of 59 yards, 60 yards, etc. Jay Torchio or Steve Levy would be a much better option at this point.

Today, as well as all season long (except for the 4th quarter against the 4th string Maryland group), his play has been atrocious. He continues to take sacks at an huge rate, while he can't make a decision to save his life. His ability to scramble only matters if he is not scrambling backwards. He has no feel for the game. He had a single decent pass today that was on target, It was a drop to Morrah as he was hit when it arrived. Otherwise, everything was off.

I hope that this changes, because I do not see Nate coming in again this season. But frankly the Bears would have done much better with Nate playing all season, with Riley coming off the bench on occasion. He clearly is not ready to play in division 1. Last year, he played well in 4 quarters of the 7 that he played, and most thought that he should start based on those two games. Tedford did make a QB mistake this year - playing Riley.

What about those 4th quarter interceptions that Nate throws? Oh yeah, Riley throws them too. The only difference is that he also get's sacked, throws high and wide, and enjoys being a punching bag in the pocket.

When your defense plays their heart out to keep you in the game, when the opponents defense is bringing everyone, that is NOT the time to hold on to the ball and see what develops. That is not the time to test your young offensive lines staying power. That is the time to get rid of the ball on the quick slants, the first reads. Not hold onto it until there is five yards of separation. But because he is so inaccurate, he knows they would be picked. So he needs to hold on and hold on. He made zero decent plays today.

I do hope that he learns how to play QB before next season. I do not think the rest of the team will melt down, but it was interesting that Boatend was hoping that Nate would be playing - at least that is how I read his comments that he did not think Tedford should have switched QBs in the middle of the SC game.

It sucks when your QB can not deliver a ball to guys who are open. It sucks when your guy holds onto the ball far too long, and makes big plays for the other team. It sucks when...

Well, you get the picture,

Get ready, Beau Sweeney and Brock Mansion. Your time is coming..


Friday, November 14, 2008

Prediction - Bears at Oregon State

This is totally out of my ass, but I think the Bears blow away the Beavers tomorrow. Something in the range of 45 to 17.

Here is my thinking: First, the 3-4 is a much tougher defense to run against for a small, shifty back like Rogers of the Beavers. Paart of his ability, like Justing Forsett, is that he hits the hole superfast, and gets into the backers and secondary. Having the down-linemen on the defensive side take multiple holes gives the defense - read backers - more time to fill those holes. He is a good back, but I do not see him getting over 100 yards. And if that is the case, then the Bears win. As long as the defense plays like they did last week (which, it seemed like they were having fun, and that is always a good incentive to play well) we hold these guys to 17 or less.

Also, I do believe that Riley will have a breakout game. Nate was injured (shoulder) so there is no looking over your shoulder. And it is his home crowd. I think he takes some chances, and shows off a bit. And that is exactly what he needs to do. He needs to take this team under his control, and at Oregon State is the place to do it. So here is to hoping that they do well, cover the ridiculous spread ( we are three point dogs - because Sagarin says so - more on that in a minute). I think that this is the game that changes the Bears fortunes for the next two years.

As far as the spread goes, if you look at Sagarin's Predictor rating, he has the bears and Oregon State basically even, and Oregon State gets the three points because they are at home. So it is a three point spread for the Beavers.

Here is the deal with that - Oregon State gets the benefit of losing to Utah and to Penn State. The Bears, meanwhile, have a loss to Maryland. So Oregon State's loses are better, and that skews the Sagarin ratings a bit.

Cal also has a problem, because the ratings have us barely beating Michigan State, which was a much bigger win than the score suggests, as well as losing to SC by 14, which was a much closer game that the score was. And in a short, 9 game season, those two games matter. The good news - when we beat these guys, we really move up in the ratings.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bears at Oregon State

Well, after a critical game that the Bears lost at USC, we are on the road again in Corvallis. The Bears are traveling to Oregon State to take on the Beavers in a stadium that Cal has won at the last two times we have played there. However, Oregon State has beaten the Bears 5 of the last 7 times we have played.

Under coach Mike Riley, the Beavers seem to get better as the year goes on. And that is borne out in our play against them over the years. We have not won a game against the Beavers, including last years game where we lost our first number 1 ranking in over 60 years, after October 2 in this decade.

What does that mean? Well, it probably has a little to do with how Oregon State competes in the Pac 10. They do get a lot of transfers, JC guys and otherwise gems in the rough that more traditional powers do not have to contend with. I think that they have a system in place which is a great learning program, and they play hard and fast and over the course of the season, their guys start to get it and play better.

At the same time, it could also be that they play better in poorer weather conditions. Who knows. It is a mark of a good coach that they get better through the year. On more established teams, if you have more established players, and they get injured, it seems like often the team can fall apart (see, Cal Bears, 2007).

But none of that matters now. Cal is a young team that I think is playing better as the season progresses. At least, I think the defense is playing tremendously better (save for that terrible Arizona game) and the offense is also getting better. I do not think I have to go into why I think the defense is playing well - they played excellent against USC, a pretty good football team. Offensively, our last two games (Oregon at home, and USC) I think our offense showed some improvement in key areas. Specifically, the offensive line subs got good playing time, and by the end of the SC game, seemed like they were getting battle tested and were doing OK. That is going to be critical this week. And our receivers look like they are starting to fight, and make some plays.

Clearly QB play for the Bears at SC was problematic. JT has said that Kevin Riley is going to start and clearly that means he is starting the rest of the season, except for catastrophe. He clearly played worse than Longshore at SC stat wise, but if he can actually get the passes to the receivers, then he was the much better QB. In other words, his mobility was such that the SC guys had to account for him, vs Nate, who could only throw for 4 yards at a time. When Riley was in there, the field for the Bears was much deeper, because the defense had to cheat up. They took away the long ball from Nate.

So it is Riley and we will see him for the next 30 games.

I think that although Oregon State is a decent team, the Bears are better, and we will win. They have won 4 in a row - against teams that have won a total of 7 games all year. They are looking at Cal, then Arizona, then Oregon. They are sitting there thinking about the Rose Bowl, and they are going to freeze up a bit. And we will take advantage of that. This is also a homecoming of sorts for Kevin Riley - lets hope he has a better game that Jeremiah Masoli did when Oregon came to California (Masoli went to school in SF).

I think that this is a breakout game for the Bears. It has been a long and difficult road since the last time these two teams met. This is the tipping point for the Bears - get over this. I predict that this is the first in a string of 17 straight victories for your Cal Bears, culminating in a sweet victory next year at the Rose Bowl and a National Championship. Well, maybe getting a bit ahead of ourselves. But I really do feel like this is turning the page on a tough year and moving forward with a new, Kevin Riley era of Cal football. This is the end of a pretty good Nate Longshore era -at least the first Nate year was pretty good.

Anyway, lets ride into the Big game week with a sweet victory.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Bears at the Sugar Bowl

Here is a dream scenario for the Bears, and a nightmare scenario for the BCS - how would you like to play at the Sugar Bowl this year against the SEC?

New Orleans at the holidays!!!

Here is how it could work.

The current BCS standing have the Bears at 29, but we are 26 in the polls (we are 30 in the computer polls with a .667 winning percentage). Our computer rankings will drop as we play more games - most of the teams have already played 10 times this year, while we have only played 9 times, which would translate into a 10% change in the computer rankings. That is significant - for Sagarin, for example, that would be a change in moving from 36th to 11th.

If we win out, we will probably be ranked in the 12-16 range in the computers on average. Based on the teams ahead of us that have to play each other, at least 7 will have losses. I predict that more like 10 to 12 will. Now, the Bears will not jump in front of all of them, but we will jump in front of enough to get to possibly 14 or 15 in the polls that count. With a little luck, we could get to say, 13. In any event, it could possibly be enough to get us into the BCS at large poll.

Now here is where it gets interesting. I assume that of the 14 teams that are in the at-large pool, 5 will be from the Big 12. 3 will be from the SEC. None will be from the ACC - maybe. The Big East will have none. The Big 10 will have two. And the Pac 10 will have two.

There are two scenarios where the Bears get into the BCS. One is where SC makes the title game, because Florida loses to Florida State or South Carolina but beats Alabama in the SEC title game, and does not get in. Or where Alabama loses to Auburn but beats Florida in the SEC title game. Both of those scenarios lose the SEC the title game.

The Big 12 will have someone in the title game. Whoever wins the Big 12 championship (which I hope is Texas Tech).

So if the SEC blows it, then SC has a great chance of getting in. Unless the voters want to see Texas vs Texas Tech again.

If SC goes to the NCG, the Bears would play Penn State in the Rose Bowl, or Ohio State if Penn State blows it against Michigan State. If SC does not go to the Championship game, then they would go to the Rose Bowl. And the Bears would be in competition with everyone else.

The second scenario is even more interesting, and probably more realistic (I do not think SC gets to the title game).

So here is how it would look. The Big 12 would be playing the SEC in the title game. The Fiesta would have one at large team. They would pick first from a pool of the following:

Boise State
Oklahoma State
Michigan State

The pre-set games would be:

NCG: Florida vs Texas Tech
Rose: Ohio State vs USC
Sugar: Alabama vs At Large (Second to pick)
Orange: Maryland vs At Large (Last to pick)
Fiesta: Texas vs At Large (First to pick)

The Fiesta gets the first pick. They pick Utah. The next pick would go to the sugar bowl, who would have the choice of picking the Pac 10 second place team, the Big 10 second place team, or the Big East Champion. They can not pick another Big 12 team. So they would have the opportunity of picking the Bears to beat the SEC champs second place team at home. Particularly if the other team is Michigan State, who Cal already beat this year. then, of course, the Big East team would play the ACC champ again in the Orange bowl.

So the final games would look like this:

NCG: Florida vs Texas Tech
Rose: Ohio State vs USC
Sugar: Alabama vs Cal
Orange: Maryland vs West Virginia
Fiesta: Texas vs Utah

I know it is a pipe dream, but there is a roadmap of making the BCS. All we have to do is win all of our games, and have a little luck in front of us.

Actually, playing in the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma, Missouri, or Oklahoma State would be pretty fun as well.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Poll Position

The Bears come out of the weekend relatively unscathed in the rankings after a loss to SC, basically because everyone else ranked 20-25 in College football lost as well, and there just are not that many good teams. They dropped from 21 to 26. So we are bunched right now with everyone else in the Pac 10 - Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona are all ranked close to the Bears.

In looking at the teams ranked 10 - 25 - all of them have games that they will be losing or favored to lose in the next two weeks. The Bears, we were able to go on the road and bear Oregon State this week, will have a very good chance of getting into the top 12 if we can win out.

Were we to do that, with a 9-3 record, we would be BCS eligible. Now, I doubt that we would be in the BCS, but it would be possible. Particularly if SC somehow makes it to the National Championship game. That would most likely be because Alabama lost but then beat Florida in the SEC championship game. I think whoever wins the Big 12 goes to the NCG.

Penn State losing this week makes it that much more likely that this scenario can win out. Alabama winning so poorly over the last few weeks is eroding their support.

It would also be possible for the Bears to play in the Fiesta, but I would assume that they would take someone from the Mountain West or Boise, which will probably be the highest ranked non-BCS school.


SC Pain

After the game last night I was more depressed than usual after a Cal game. That was an very winnable game against an opponent that would have given us a huge amount of credibility, and it would have sent us to the Rose Bowl, I am sure, had we won.

That being said, the eternal Cal Fan optimist in me is pleased with the results in a certain way. Cal is still effectively one of the top 25 teams in the country, and I think we will finish 9-3 and have a nice trip to the Holiday Bowl, or better yet, the Emerald Bowl, if Arizona wins out. It would be nice to save a bit of coin in these tough economic times, and see the Bears in the City.

In any event, the good news from last nights game was the defense. They held up well against a very good USC offense. Yes, they gave up 411 yards, but in the new version of the bend but don't break, the trojans scored very little. Much of that was due to stupid penalties on the Trojans, but it was also due to the fact that the Bears held tough on third down, holding them to 4 of 11, including three sacks and a number of broken up passes. Also, one very nice forced fumble by Zack Follett to keep the bears in the game late in the 3rd quarter.

The QB's did not play well, and so went our offense. SC definitely took away our running game, but they gave us plenty of room to pass. This was the typical Pete Carroll defense, which i think works well when you are not playing an excellent QB. Essentially, take the run away, put tons of pressure on the rush, and keep your safeties deep. But the Bears had plenty of opportunities to have huge passing plays, where the passes were simply misplaced.

Tedford took Nate out of the game after the first half. Statistically, Nate looked like he was doing well - 11 of 15 for 80 yards or so. But he had two picks that were luckily overturned by SC defensive penalties, and he simply fell down twice for huge losses - essentially giving the Trojans a tackle-less sack. So Tedford decided to go with Riley in the second half.

The first drive was very nice, until we scored. Because then the ref's took it away from the Bears, and that was the end of Kevin Riley. the next play was almost picked off, and the one after was picked off. And he was terrible after that . In fact, Kevin Riley only completed one pass after the first drive in the third quarter. He ended the game 4 of 16, for a dismal 25% pass completion rate.

It was clear that the play calling and the protection and all of the other things were working well. The bottom line is that there were plenty of open receivers down field - with like 5 yards separation - and Riley just did not hit them. He was clearly rattled.

I think it was the result of getting his bell rung last week, and I think that he was hearing footsteps. He did get sacked twice and he was getting the typical SC cheap-shot post throw hits. That being said, the passes were just way off. Next year, he makes all of those throws.

All in all, this was a good game for the Bears. The defense was very good. the special teams, except for the second-half kickoff going out of bounds, was fine. Giorgio Tavecchio is turning into my favorite kicker in a while. I loved his explanation to Tedford - all in his hands - about the his field goal, as he was running off the field. I think I saw Tedford shake his head and smile.

As far as it goes for the offense, I think a few things have emerged. Clearly, Riley needs to get his head on straight, but that will happen soon enough. It is clear that if he was not injured last week he would have started, and JT is quick to get him in VS Nate. So I am confident that he will start to play better. This game reminded me of the USC game when Aaron Rogers started and Reggie Roberson had to take over because he was getting pummeled in 2003. Except that we could not take him out. That being said, Nyan Boateng seemed like he is coming into his own - he is big guy and I think next year he tears it up. Also, it seemed like Verran Tucker is going to be another strong answer for us at the wide receiver spot. Getting someone else to step-up would be nice. And I think that will be Ross - I was very impressed with his end-around. He looked like a running back.

The line needs work, but there are plenty of quality players there, with more stepping up. A line next year with all of the guys getting a year under their belt will be plenty tough. It is hard this year, but they are all learning. Having only one upper classman on the line is not a recipe for success.

So there is reason for optimism. I think the offense is a work in progress and will continue to get better. The defense is playing well, and I do not see a drop -off for next year. In fact, I am really excited about next year.

This was a game that everyone knew would tell us where we are. It did. So, in a rebuilding year, the Bears go 9-3, and set up a big push for next year. Not too shabby.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Riley to Play - Get the rubber room ready

Apparently Kevin Riley is going to play on Saturday, a week after his head bounced between two helmets like a Ping Pong ball. Scary. i think this means that JT is really sold on KR, and that he really wants him to play. I also may be just to screw with the oddsmakers, who dropped the Bears 4 points in two days with the injury issue being played out. Who knows. I just hope this is the right decision and he does not develop Parkinsons disease at 38.

Speaking of football injuries - what the heck is the deal with all of these staph infections? Tom Brady, Barry Bonds and millions of others are getting infected with these arthroscopic procedures that should be a walk in the park. It is a crazy business.

Last year, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, $70 billion dollars of unnecessary infections were created in our nations hospitals, or about 4.5% of the total health care spending in the country. That would be enough to give most of the uninsured children in the country health coverage. Brady goes in for two additional procedures. What is the deal with that? It is because the teams, and their physicians, and their facilities frankly do not get cleaned properly.

If I were the Cleveland Browns, I would wash the entire facility down with bleach after each practice. They have had five guys in the last few years miss games because of staph infections. USC has had a rash (no pun intended) of staph infections (11 players) and has dealt with it severely. The biggest part is that the bacteria can live not only on the body, and transfered by contact, but it can also transfer into the shoulder pads and other pads that can be transfered to other players in that manner.

Kellen Winslow is the latest Brown to be sidelined because if it.

The Bears need to be particularly mindful of this as some think artificial surfaces can cause greater outbreaks of infection, as the bacteria can stick on the field on the artificial surfaces for a short period of time. Getting the rug burn can turn dangerous when it is also filled with dangerous bacteria. This is more true for the Bears since they both play and practice on the artificial surface. I know that some of the new surfaces have anti-bacterial properties, but those are newer surfaces, and I doubt that the one the Bears put in 2001 would have that.

Looking at the Bears current locker-room situation, it is somewhat amazing to me that more of these infections have not crept up in the injury reports of the Bears. Hopefully the staff is keeping up with these issues. I certainly hope they are not relying on the University Janitorial staff to keep the place ship-shape in a infection resistant method, and have made it a real priority (I can say that - I used to work as a University janitor). Hopefully the new SAHPC will make this easier.


Kevin Riley and other injuries

After reading the Chronicle article on Kevin Riley, I would really not play him this week. If he was really out for 7 minutes, and can not remember what he did earlier in the same day, on Tuesday, then he will not be ready to play this week. In fact, i would consider resting him for the rest of the season. This is a very serious concussion. Last year, Matt Summers Gavin did not enroll in school until the Spring semester because of his sever concussion. I think that Tedford should really look out for Riley's best long term interests here.

That being said, Nate at the helm is a difficult situation. We will definitely need Mansion to get some reps, and to feel comfortable in the playing roll. He did get out there for one quarter this season, in the Washington State game, but to go out at SC would be something else. Behind Nate we have Sweeney and walk on Ryan Wertenberger. So we better hope nothin happens to Nate. Leaves you feeling regret about the Kyle Reed situation (who, by the way, is throwing at 66% completion rate for the San Jose Spartans).

When looking at the replays of the Riley hit last week, it wasn't that he just got his helmet hit. He actually was hit two times. He was going forward, and the defender came in with this helmet and hit him head-first. Then, there was a defender behind him who also hit him head first. So his head was punched backwards and then hit again forwards. In other words, he was punched in two different ways on that play. His brain must have been sloshing around inside his skull like crazy. I am sure that he has at least two concussions from the same play. They should really make sure that he is fully healed.

At least we are getting two defensive linemen back (Cody Jones and Rulon Davis). I hope that Davis can make a difference against SC. I have been pretty pleased with our defensive line play without these guys, but it seems like they are getting beat up. So it is nice to get some beef back.

Also, Norris Malele is back. I am not sure if this is a good thing - in my opinion, it seemed like the line played better this last week than it has the prior few games. It may be that Malele was injured and was not playing well, and now he is back in there. But Cheadle and Edwards did play well. So I would not be hesitant to pull Malele if needed. Edwards will continue in the Right Tackle slot this week since Teofilo is still out.

I think it is up to the Bears to set the tempo of this game - make the trojans wish they did not get up on Saturday morning. Come out hard, swinging, and shut the crowd up at the Coliseum. Take a few hard hits on Sanchez, and see what he can take. I think the toughest defense they have seen is Arizona, and they could only get 17 points. The critical thing is, they only gave up 10, and are averaging only 7 per game on the season. So the Bears need to win like we have all year long - Defense and special teams. If we can get 14 points from those aspects, we probably have a shot at winning. Otherwise, I think it is one more close one that gets away.


Polls and such

The Bears came out ranked in the first official BCS standings at 21, ranked 21 and 22 in the human polls, and 24 in the computer average. Going to USC this week, winning or losing, will advance us in the computer polls. The only question is, what happens in the Human polls.

If the Bears win out the season with 3 total losses, they will definitely be in the top 20. If they go 8-4, they will have to wait until after the bowl game to see if they get back into the rankings. 9-4 after teh bowl should get a to 25 ranking this year.

Right now, there are 4 teams BCS eligible. Alabama, Penn State, Utah and TCU. These are all teams that have won 9 games in Division 1 (Texas Tech is 9-0 but played one against a non div 1A team). They are also all ranked in the top 12. Utah and TCU have to play each other this week, so one of them will probably drop out. Oklahoma and Texas play Texas A&M and Baylor respectively, so they will both be moving into the BCS eligible ranks this week - and yes, I am assuming they win. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State play each other, so one will be moving into the BCS ranks, and one will be out. Boise State still needs two games to get into the BCS in order to get 9 div 1A wins. Florida, SC, Georgia, Missouri all need 2 more wins.

If the Bears win against a very tough USC team, they will be right in it. In fact, if they will, I predict that they will be in the top 10. I think we jump 15 spots in the computer polls, and 10 spots in the Human polls. That would bring us right into the Boise State range, currently number 10 in the BCS. From there, there are 4 weeks left until the end of the season. Anything can happen, If Maryland and Michigan State continue to win, the Bears will have a good shot at getting into the top 4 or 5.

For this team, this year, that would be a dream. But the nice thing is, the week before the SC game, that dream is still out there.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bears at USC

According to Sagarin, the Bears should be a 23 point underdog. We'll see. The Bears have not been lighting it up on offense, and SC has been playing lights out on defense.

I think that the strength of both teams at this point is the defense, and that the offense is struggling for both (58 points at Washington does not mean much the week after the coach is fired - se 17 against Arizona the week before). I think SC offense is clearly performing better. The only issue is, can Cal put together a great offensive AND defensive performance against USC. I think we can if Riley comes back out, and plays tough. I think Nate coming off the bench has worked very well this year, so if we need him that will be good. I have confidence that the defense will be playing well.

This is a game that traditionally have come down to Cal not having all the pieces in November due to injury and lack of depth, and SC of course having depth at all positions. This year is no different, except that the back-ups for the Bears have been playing well. The offensive line this week was better than in the last few, with 4 season starters out. The defensive line rotation has been very good. The receivers are starting to play well.

The critical issue will be for the Bears to set the tone on defense, and pick on the miscues of the Trojans. Do that, and we may be playing in Pasadena on January 1. Otherwise, see you again in San Diego.

Go Bears!!

Oregon Recap

That was a fantastic game yesterday. The Bears played well enough in crappy conditions to win the game, mainly on the back of the special teams and defense. The offense actually played well also, except for the turnovers. Which of course is like saying are good looking except for the 17 pound goiter on the side of your face.

The weather, to me anyway, made the game that much more enjoyable. That is what football should be about. We had a bunch of kids with us shivering with blue lips, but no whining. There were so many big plays and turnovers, that even though the offense for both teams was poor, it was entertaining.

The best thing from this game was that the defense played well, and got off the field. There were a heck of a lot of three and outs. If the defense plays like this against SC, we have a good shot at winning that game.

Also, the offensive line played OK. I had big concerns about the line play because of the injuries. Also, I think that the passing game was OK - the receivers dropped fewer balls than they have in prior games.

Kevin Riley getting knocked silly was scary. He was playing well in the first quarter and I think the game would have been a blowout if he could have stayed in. Nate came in and did a serviceable job, but threw a few that could have been picked, and may have if the weather was better. Of course, if the weather was better, the balls may not have sailed like they did. There were a lot of overthrows and under-throws by all three QBs playing yesterday.

I also think that the fans did a good job in keeping the noise level up. The crowd was probably closer to 50,000 than the 61,000 they said. But I think it was just as loud as any of the previous games this year. The ones who were there did a good job.

Javid Best two fumbles in years past would have sat him on the bench for the rest of the game. But JT needed him on the field. Here is what was interesting: the first fumble, he had his arm brace on. For the second fumble, it was not on. He must have made that as the excuse. But he was hit with a helmet in that elbow, and the ball came flying out. So, for the rest of the game, he had the brace on.

Riley's first drive interception that led to their first score was terrible. Beyond that, they did not have a lot of positive offense except for the three play rushing drive in the third quarter. After the game, Starkey was interviewing Follett, and he had two interesting comments. First, he said that they generally are not ready for the first drive since the scout team can not replicate the speed of the opponents, so it take the defense generally the first drive to get used to the game. Second, he said that after they came out in the second half, Oregon made some adjustments, and went to the option more, which was effective. But after the TD drive, the Bears changed their keys from the guards to the tackles, and were able to stop the option at that level. In other words, the guards were playing misdirection but the tackles were showing the true play direction.

As regards to the first comments, it seems to me that SC does it better. They go full speed at least one day per week first team offense vs defense. That gives them game day situations which help them to play a high level all four quarters. I think that they have depth to do that, but so do we at this point in our evolution.

Secondly, I think not only having the 3-4, but having Gregory on the sideline for the games this year is better for the defense. He is showing them on the side what to do, and adjustments are getting made faster. I think that is a big deal. Even two weeks ago, at Arizona, the defense made adjustments quicker in the third quarter (granted, 28 points were scored and by then it was too late). The defense played well in the 4th at Arizona.

In any event, that was a heck of a game. And now, for the 7th year in a row, the Bears are Bowl Eligible.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Game of the Century of the Week

After the big win today for the Bears - which I will post on later - the USC game is looming. But first, the rankings. I think the Bears will climb into the top 21 of the rankings (AP, BCS, etc) based on the victory today. Here is what there is left in the college football landscape in the BCS conferences:

There are 3 undefeated teams
5 teams with 1 loss
15 teams with 2 losses (including the Bears)
15 teams with 3 losses
Next weekend's games are:
1 game 0 vs 1 loss teams
1 game 0 vs 2 loss teams
1 game 1 vs 2 loss teams
1 game 1 vs 3 loss teams
3 games 2 vs 2 loss teams 
3 games 2 vs 3 loss teams
1 game 3 vs 3 loss teams
so after next weekend if the lower loss teams wins all games.
3       0 loss teams
4       1 loss teams
11     2 loss teams
15     3 loss teams.

In other words, if people rank Cal as the worst 2 loss team, we will ranked #20. They have to rank a three loss team ahead of us to keep us out of the top 20 this week. I assume that we will be ranked 21 or higher. I have to think higher.

Also, if we lose next week to USC, I am not sure that we drop all that much. I think by the end of the season, there will be a three loss team in the top 12. Someone like, say, Missouri. Or Oklahoma, or Oklahoma State. LSU (who, thankfully will be coming up on their 4th loss this season next week).

Now, you have to throw in there TCU, Boise, BYU, Utah and Ball State. But BYU and Utah and TCU will knock each other out, or at least a few of them out.

The Pac 10 is interesting. Here are what I think are some of the most possible scenarios for the Bears:

1) Cal wins out and goes to the Rose bowl.

2) Cal beats USC and loses to Oregon State. Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl.

3) USC wins out. Oregon State wins out. Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl.

4) Cal beats Oregon State and loses to USC. USC goes to the Rose Bowl.

5) Cal Beats USC but loses to Oregon State, who loses to Oregon. There is a 4 way tie for first place in the pac 10. USC or Oregon goes to the Rose Bowl, because Cal's other loss was to Arizona, who is lower than SC loss to Cal and Oregon State, or Oregon State's loss to Stanfurd. Oregon and SC would have only lost first place teams. The rose bowl tie-breaker there is that the higher BCS rates team would go, and that would be USC most likely.

There are lots of other combinations - but the only reasonable way that Cal gets to the Rose Bowl is if we win out - we would keep our destiny in our hands. Cal and Oregon State have the only tracks in the Pac 10 for that to happen.

The other thing that could possibly happen is that the Bears lose to SC, and then win out. It is a slim possibility, but if Cal could get into the top 14, and if there are train wrecks all over college football, and SC goes to the NCG, then the Bears would have a shot at getting to the Rose Bowl. Looking at the numbers of BCS conference teams, there will be a bunch with three or more losses by the end of the year, and only probably about 8 or 9 with two or less losses. So there is a chance in this scenario.


Friday, October 31, 2008


I am going to write this one last note on the Riley vs Longshore issue. I think JT has capitulated, and I do not think Nate will be seeing the field again (unless there is an injury, or in a huge blowout).

Based on the comments from JT at the press conference, where he backtracked and said that the offense was actually doing well, that there were some breakdowns on each play that made it less effective, but that in general it was coming along (paraphrasing). That being said, I think that Riley is going to start. The question that I have is, does this mean that JT thinks Kevin is now finally better than Nate, or does it mean that JT has given up on this season and is playing for the future.

Wilner had a column in the Mercury News urging JT to play Riley, because essentially, since Arizona in 2006, Longshore has not played well in Pac 10 games. 19 interceptions, 20 TDs, 50% passing. That is not good. Nate has done a good job out of conference, and he did a good job last year in the first few games, but it just has not been his time.

Not that Riley had done a heck of a lot better, but the biggest thing for the Bears this year has been turnovers, and that is Nate's biggest downfall. I would say Riley's biggest downfall is holding on to the ball too long, and taking the sack. That can be just as bad as a turnover (see, Oregon State, last play of the game, 2007). But generally it is not.

So, as justification I think Jeff Tedford has agreed that the interceptions are too much, and Kevin is now the guy. The Longshore interception against Arizona sunk the ship.

i hope that this is the case, but I also hope that Riley still has the fire lit under him. I am not going to call any NCAA player lazy, but I do think he needs to work harder at understanding the offense, at getting the other players off to a fast start, and in general commanding the team. He also needs to work on accuracy, as least, as far as his game performance this year has shown.

Aaron Rogers was a great QB for the Bears. We need that level of QB to perform at the level that a Tedford team can. If we do not, the whole thing bogs down. In his best days, Longshore was 90% of Rogers. That was good enough for second in the Pac 10. We need Riley to get to that level and be consistent, and that will only come with a tremendous amount of hard work for him.

(Speaking of Rogers -- he just signed a $65 million deal with Greenbay until 2014. Not too bad. I wonder what Alex Smith's next deal will be?)

Bears take on the Ducks

Going into tomorrow's game, it seems like it should be a close one. Sagarin has the Bears and Ducks ranked pretty close in his predictor model, with the Bears a 4 point favorite at home.

Here is the deal - so far this season, the Ducks have looked good. But they have played two good teams and lost both convincingly. they have dominated Washington, Washington State, Arizona State and barely got by UCLA. They went to two overtimes with a BAD purdue team, and beat Utah State handily. They were crushed by USC. The best game they have played was to lose to Boise State at home 37-32, which was a very close game. Oregon went through a number of different QBs in that game.

At the beginning of the year, the Ducks were planning on starting Nick Costa, who was injured before the season. Justing Roper was the second string guy and he started the first three games, getting knocked out at Boise State. Nick Masoli came in, and has done a good job. Masoli is more of an option QB, a la Tim Tebow. He ran for 170 yards against UCLA, for example. The Ducks have a fairly poor passing attack, but are in the top 5 in rushing. They run a spread option attack, particularly effective when Masoli is in there.

Roper has come back from his injury, and played the last part of the ASU game. It is not clear who will be starting tomorrow for the Ducks, but Masoli is a more mobile QB than Roper. Roper is a more effective passer.

I am not sure if the weather is going to be a factor in who starts for the Ducks, but it is clear it will be a factor in the game. The Bears have not really played in the pouring rain this year, so it will be interesting to see who plays for us. My guess is that we dust off the option attack, have KR start the game and see how that goes. If we can spread the field with the option and keep the ducks at home, I think we can run on them. They have a good defense. I think our defense is going to do OK against their spread offense - we have had a lot of experience against it, even this year. I think the 3-4 is more effective against the spread. But we need to play our positions, not over-pursue and slip on the turf. But Oregon will score. I give them 31.

Offensively, we need to put up 40 to be safe. And that will be difficult. The ducks have a good pass rush - lots of sacks. Our offensive line is injured, and has not played that well. That being said, we are going to have to roll out and make some plays on the run. That is why I think this is a KR game tomorrow.

All that being said, if we can not beat a team starting it's third string guy, who is averaging 103 yards in the air, then we are going to have a long day. We should beat these guys.

I hope the Bear faithful are out in force tomorrow. It will be poor weather - if there are 65,000 fans screaming at the Ducks, it will be pretty impressive. We need to get out and support the Bears. The good news is that most of the soccer games will be cancelled so perhaps people will get there on time.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

National View of the Bears

It is interesting reading a bunch of different articles this week in national publications, all of which have the same sort of theme - hey - what the heck are the Bears doing on top of the Pac 10? Wait - they control their destiny? Hey - maybe the Pac 10 does not suck, since Ohio State doesn't suck, and Maryland and Virginia actually are some of the better ACC teams, and even the crappy UCLA beat Tennessee.

And, what is this = the SEC is the 4th best conference by Sagarin, and the 6th best by RPI.

Anyway, we are ranked. We all know it all comes down to November. This is the time of year where we have not traditionally been strong. We need to finish strong this year. I am hoping that our slow start will translate into a fast finish.


Hoops Rankings

The initial hoops ranking are out, with UCLA leading the Pac 10 at number 4 in the coaches poll. 7 pac 10 teams are getting votes, including 3 in teh top 25 - UCLA, Arizona State (15) and USC (21). The others receiving votes are Arizona, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

Arizona will be interesting this year, with Lute Olsen retiring after being diagnosed with a stroke that was impacting his cognitive skills. That is a tough way to go for a guy who likes to be in charge. And it does lead one to wonder how long ago the stroke was, and whether that impacted the Wildcats over the course of the last year. It was not clear when the stroke occurred.

Our Bears are in for a tough season, I believe. The initial euphoria of getting Montgomery may be wearing off as the recruiting season is evolving. We are not doing well, at least, I do not think so. We have been eliminated for a number of the prospects that we were going after. We do not have a strong presence down low. So, this will be a test of Monty's coaching. If he does well with this team this year, I think he will have earned every penny. And that can translate into top-notch recruiting, as we have seen with the football team. The only difference is, I think Tedford likes to recruit, and Monty, not so much.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bruin in Ruins

The Bears defense did a great job of stopping a pretty poor Bruin offense, allowing only one offensive touchdown all game, and holding them to 256 yards for the day, including 4 interceptions.

The killer part of the game was once again the poor play of the offense, including the QB, Kevin Riley. Tedford chose to go with Riley after a week of practice where it was said he was coming on strong, similar to the end of fall camp. So JT made the same decision this week that he did then - he started him. And with the same result - poor offensive performance for the first three quarters (one offensive touchdown, one yard total in the third quarter, after an anemic 109 yards in the first half).

But we erupted in the 4th quarter, ad scored 24 points. Just like Maryland. The only difference is, we played a really crappy team, and they could not score at all.

This is not the way to win football games. Oregon is not going to wait around for us to erupt in the 4th quarter. This is not solely on Kevin Riley - the offensive line was porous. The receivers continued to drop balls. The running backs were not getting it done early (10 runs for 20 yards in the first quarter).

But it sure is nice to beat those guys big. The defense played great, including Chris Conte, who I was beginning to be concerned with, as well as Mike Mohammed.

I am optimistic about our defense. It did appear that we were vulnerable to some big plays in the secondary, but we made some big plays. The biggest idiocy of the game was when UCLA went for the fake punt with 24 yards to go. What was he thinking. They made a great play, and gained 23 yards. Oh well. But all that being said, it was a good game for the Bears, and one that we really needed.


I was wrong about the game last week. I said the Bears dropped 10 passes in the Arizona Desert. It was 12.

That was a game that an experienced team would have won, and we gave away in all sorts of ways. And how does that back to bite us in the ass? Well, the Bears would be ranked in the top 12 this week if we had beaten Arizona, and in place to make a BCS bowl game even if we had lost to USC. That clearly is not the case anymore. It is the case that Cal has the conference in our hands. If we win out, we do go to the Rose Bowl. Cal and SC are the only teams in conference that can make that claim. Everyone else needs help from someone else. So we still are playing for something.

And, yes, once again, we are ranked #25 in the Harris Poll, which is the poll that took the AP polls place in the BCS standing.

The last few times we were ranked, we tanked. Let's get over that hump this weekend with the Ducks.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Cal / UCLA

The Bears and the baby bears square off tomorrow, with Cal coming off a devastating loss, and the Bruins coming off a victory at home against the Furd. The news for the Bruins - they have not beaten a team with a winning record. The Bears have a winning record. They also have only had two road games, and five home games. So they have lost badly on the road - 0-59 to BYU and 31-24 to Oregon.

They have had a ton of injuries, have given up over 20 to all opponents except for Washington State (who they beat 28-3) and have basically not done well since the victory over Tennessee to start the season (who is now 3-4 with victories over UAB, Northern Illinois and Mississippi State).

In other words, the Skippy- Chow-Walker experiment has not gone according to plan.

I love it, frankly. And I have every reason to believe that the Bears will take advantage of these guys no matter who is at the QB spot tomorrow.

There are a lot of people moaning and groaning over the Bears loss last week. And it was a brutal loss. But that being said, it did not show that the Bears were not a good team. What it did show was that we were a young team, rebuilding, and we will be good next year. And we will be good enough at home this year to make the grade against the inferior opponents that we have coming over the next few weeks, including UCLA, Oregon, Stanfurd and Washington.

I will not predict an SC victory and the road to the Pac 10 championship. But I do believe, as do most of the readers of this site, that the Bears will go 8-4 or better, and get to a decent bowl game. We are a top 30 team, perhaps a top 20 team this year (yes, 9-4 will get us there).

In any event, the Bears should win tomorrow. I can't wait to BEAT THE BRUINS!!!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day in Review

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Bears in the polls: 9 of the teams from the 10-25 slots lost today (only two won). I think that is unprecedented, and speaks to the parity in college football.

Of the teams remaining, 5 are undefeated, 14 have 1 loss, and 15 have two losses. That is a total of 34 teams with two losses or less. Last year at this time, there were 39 teams with two losses or less. The year before, there were over 40.

i think the Bears continue to get some love, and will not fall out of the rankings all together, now that Maryland and others have won. Both of Cal's losses have been on the road to 5-2 teams. Not as bad as you would think, with all of the gnashing of teeth around here.

If only we had won...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Arizona Recap

The Bears lost another one in Arizona on the grass, and the sky is falling...

On the message boards and in the comments, it is clear that people are ready to burn the team in effigy.

Let's face it - we lost to a better team tonight. And here is why - they are faster, they have experience at the skill positions that count (QB, receiver) and they ran a second year spread offense which we always have trouble with defensively. That being said, we scored 10 more points on their defense than they have allowed this year on average. And that is with our incredible pass-dropping receivers.

Here is the real deal - our players are not executing. And it is driving the fans crazy. They are not used to seeing receivers drop balls, and the offensive line fall down on the job. And maybe that is because this is the youngest team that JT has had at Cal. But expectations have been built to a boiling point. So let's look at it.

Freshman playing now:

Punter, Kicker, Receivers, defensive ends.

Sophomores playing now:

Running backs, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, back-up QB (who plays a lot anyway), Cornerbacks, safeties, nickelback.

Seniors playing now:

Center, Linebackers, Starting QB.

Let's face it - this is a young team. The line has fallen apart because the young guys are not yet ready. Imagine if Mack had not stayed around. The defense is young, The skill players, except for Nate, are young. Or else starting at receiver for the first time in five years, because never before could they break into the first team.

We had to burn a true freshman's redshirt tonight at defensive end because everyone else was injured?

What did you expect?

The good news is, as we now know, this is not going to be a team that is going to dominate the Pac 10. But it is going to be a team that wins at least four more games, and then gets to a bowl for a possible 9 or 10 win season. It is a team that will get better each week. This week, we played better than we did at Arizona State. Arizona was a much better team, and we scored three more pints, put up tons more yards, and made more dramatic plays on the road in the Pac 10. If this game is at Cal, we win.

I believe that we will win out at home. We have two more road games - at USC (loss) and at Oregon State (50-50). This is a team that plays better at home in general, and we are getting better each week. About half of those dropped passes would have been caught at home. That would have been a big difference.

As for the commentators on the coaches and Nate - get real. Tedford is not catching the passes. Longshore is not the devil. He looked better than Riley did tonight, even with the Pick 6. When KR came in, he was all over the place. Not that Nate played well - I was pulling for JT to put Riley in the series before he did. But I was really disappointed with the results. For example, in taking shots into the end zone, you need to throw into the end zone, not 5 yards beyond. You need to not take a sack on the last play of the game - reminiscent of the Oregon State game last year. You do not need to scramble each time you get the ball because it takes you sooo long to make the read. It was painful to watch because I think he will be the future for the next two years and he has not gotten it yet. I am not really sure what happened to the guy who played in the Air Force game last year, but he has not seen the field this year.

In any event, I do not believe that Nate has a confidence issue, even when bounced out of the game. I believe that when the tapes are parsed by JT, he will see that there were a number catches that should have been made. There were at least 10 drops in this game, for both QBs. So I expect the QB battle to continue.

Good news from the game: Statistically, we played about even with AU. Two turnovers each, but we did not capitalize on ours like they did (another patented Nate Pick 6 helps with that). Also, we called a game where we went downfield a lot, in comparison to our other games. I think that was good. Our play calling was better. Our defensive line was a bit weak, but we were down on players there. But we still had decent pressure on Tuitama, with two sacks and a bunch of hurries. We held them short a number of times. Let's give them credit - they played well when they had to. Most of their points came in bunches - 28 points in the second half in 11 minutes. 14 points in the first half in 88 seconds. Our inexperienced defensive line took too long after the half to make the adjustments and that caused the game to go to them in the second half. Nate and the offensive boys did not do that - the defensive front did. And that goes to the LBs as well, who did not have a good game - except for WW, who was unblocked quite a bit and took advantage of that for some big plays.

I think we will be fine. This is the culmination of Stoopid's 6 year plan, and he has a decent team, and they will probably make a bowl game. I think they are better than you would think. I don't think that they will win the Pac 10, however. If Cal wins out, we still win. So all is not lost. But it is a difficult road from here. I would be very happy at this point with a Holiday Bowl bid. I like San Diego.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Game tomorrow

The Bears take on the Wildcats in Tuscon, and the season rides on the outcome.

This is probably the biggest away game this year, including the USC game.

First of all, we are expected to win. To lose is another in the line of failed Bear games against inferior opponents on the road.

Second, a loss would put us back in the pack of the Pac 10 race - a win keeps us all alone in first place, and the only team to really control it's own destiny (except Stanfurd - but they suck).

Third, we already have a road loss this year with an inferior opponent. So we would not be given a gimme. That loss was out of conference, so it is OK - sort of - to lose the Maryland game. This one counts.

Fourth, we are expected to lose to USC down there. Losing there, and coming in at 10-2 would be a very good season for the Bears. Losing at Arizona and coming in at 10-2 would not be such a good season, because USC obviously must suck if we beat them after losing to Arizona.

So for all those reasons, it is important that we win this game.

And then there is the revenge factor - they cost us the Rose Bowl two years ago.

So, yes, this is the biggest game of the year so far.


Cal has a few players injured, the most critical being the Freshman kicker, Seawright, will not be making the trip Arizona. I think he actually was from Arizona, so he must be pissed about that. Coming in, starting as a freshman kicker, and not making the trip to your home territory must suck.

He is going to be replaced by the walk-on freshman kicker, Giorgio Teveccio, who will be kicking field goals and extra point for the first time.

Guys - this could be a disaster. I hope that Tedford bring Jordan Kay with him, just in case. This could be the game losing ingredient. On the other hand, it could lead to JT going for two on every touchdown and forth down in enemy territory. I do not think we are going to be trying any 50 yard field goals to win the game.

Michael Calvin is also lost for the season, but he has not actually been a big contributor on the offense. I hope that Tucker can step up, as well a Boateng. We need some big games from our receivers. At least Boateng has some experience on a traveling team going back to the Florida days. We need that this week.

Also, just in case you did not know, Nate Longshore will be starting and most likely playing the entire game, unless Riley is injured. It looks like the book is closing on the Riley era for 2008, unless Nate screws up or gets injured. I hope that JT is not as forgiving this year as last, but I also believe that Nate does give us the best chance to win right now. He knows the offense better, can adjust better to the defense, and has experience playing against these guys. He lost one (2006) and beat the crap out of them last year (scored 45 points).

Arizona has a decent offense, with Willie T, who is a pretty good QB. But he can be disrupted. If the defense can get to him early, we hold them to low 20's. If we do not get to them that well, then we need to score over 35 to win. I think we can - we can just run it up the middle as they do not have a good defensive line. But we need to control the ball, move it and keep the wildcat offense off the field.

As far as it goes, the weather in Tucson is going to be similar to what we have had in the Bay Area - hot and dry, and cooling nicely in the evening. It is a fairly late game, so it should not be too hot at game time. Perfect football weather. I think our team plays better in the evenings, on TV.

This game will be a true test of the Bears this season. If we can dominate them, I believe that we have a strong chance to go all the way. They are not a great team, but they are decent, and they will probably go bowling this year. If we can go there and beat them, on the road in the Pac 10, then we will have done something. If not, wait for two more years for our Rose Bowl.