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.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Great game for the Christians.

Kinda weird - the Christians against the mormons. State schools are better. No weird overtones of one religion being better than the other, how the other guys are more about family than the sport, etc. This is a football game, not a sermon.

Anyway, it is nice to see the higher ranked undefeated non-bcs team lose since that gives a better change for the other non-bes teams to not qualify.

I think that TCU and Utah will both lose. I am hopeful that Boise does, although I think Boise is the much better team out of the three of them. Ball State and Toledo have no chance.

Thinking about BYU - they have not really done anything this year to deserve the high praise they have. They beat two of the worst three pac 10 teams - UCLA and Washington. Whoop-dee-do. They should have lost to Washington, but the Pac 10 refs got in the way. In any event, it was a two point game.

My impression is that TCU has been the better team. At least they beat Stanfurd, which is a middle of the road pac 10 team on a down year for the Pac 10.

Boise beat Oregon well. They have beaten other teams on the road. I have a feeling they will win out. They are my bet to make the BCS for the non-BCS schools.

This weekend has a plethora of big change games for the rankings. First, Texas and Missouri. I take Missouri. Then, Oklahoma and Kansas. Wouldn't a Kansas win be nice. Vanderbilt and Georgia. Ohio State and Michigan State. So that is four guaranteed losses below Cal in the rankings. Then, there are the possible losses - Maryland at Wake. VA Tech and Boston College. Pittsburg and Navy. All of these are other good games where the victory is in doubt. I predict at least 6 top 25 teams lose this week. Hopefully, the Bears will not be one of them. I do not think they will be.

Here is what I think would be best for the Bears:

Cal over Arizona...Duh
Michigan State wins
Vanderbilt wins over Georgia (because they will definitely lose before the year is out)
Kansas over Oklahoma
Missouri over Texas
Maryland over Wake
Navy over Pitt
Boston College over Va Tech

Anything close to this scenario - the operative one being the first one - and the Bears are in the top 18.

Also, our computer numbers will increase as we accumulate more victories - just mathematically. We do not have as many victories as other teams, so we do not have as high a computer ranking. As we catch up with other teams as they take their Byes, we will increase our computer rankings.

So, we are in good shape. I am hoping for a weekend of carnage across the football landscape, with our football Bears the shining light of goodness.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bye Week

The biggest thing that happened this bye week was the Bears are now in first place in the Pac 10. Also, my cousin got married, so I was away for a bit. I appreciate that he did it on a bye weekend, but I did miss a bunch of good college football. What is it with people getting married on a Saturday in the Fall.

These guys live in New Jersey. For all the east coast bias, there is not a lot of college football love in the NY / NJ / CT area. They are mostly pro-sports towns. You go to the airport in LA, and you get a bunch of USC and UCLA crap. Same at Oakland, and even SF - Stanfurd and Cal stuff. Anyplace in Tennessee is UT wear. But no Rutgers gear in Newark. It is really just a vast wasteland of NFL loving idiots. Oh well.

Three of the top 5 lost. That is pretty cool. This season is shaping up just like last year in terms of the number 1 and 2 losing. In fact, there are more teams with one loss than at the same time last year.

If the Bears currently were undefeated, we would be in the top 10, and probably the top 7. Setting us up for a nice fall in the Arizona desert. Fortunately for us, we already know we are fallible, so we will go into this seeking revenge for our loss two years ago. I think that there are enough on the team who remember that game.

There is a lot of talk about the Bears losing on grass surfaces. I do have to say that we did look slow two years ago, playing these guys down there (except for DeSean, who actually I think had the best game of his Cal career, and tried to single handedly carry the Cal team on his shoulders).

i think the biggest issue is when Cal plays on grass in a non-evening event, we are not so good. So we need to try to get our games scheduled later in the day - just like we are this weekend. Let's face it - everyone runs faster at night. I think the Bears play better at night. Just something I believe. Can't quantify it. But I do think it is true (look at all those ABC 5 PM games we keep winning).

The good news is also that we are finally in all the polls, and are ranked right now about 24th in the BCS. WE are a bit lower in the computer polls because we do not have as many games won as a bunch of other teams - we have had two byes. So as we increase our wins, our computer ranking will drop, and we will be dropping down. So right now, we are about 24 in the computers, and 22 and 24 in the other polls that make up the BCS.

We also made a big jump in the AP poll to number 25. We jumped over four teams to make the top 25 for the first time in four weeks.

Our OOC opponents have a slate of games this weekend that could help the Bears quite a bit. First of all, Colorado State plays Utah. Utah needs to be taken out. I think Colorado State could do it. They held TCU to 13 points. They need to score a bit more than 7 to win, but I think their team is getting better. Utah should have lost to OSU, and I do not think they are so good they will go through the Mountain West undefeated.

Michigan State needs to take out Ohio State. I am hoping for Michigan State to win out, and take the Big 10 title. That would be a tough road for them, but they have a shot. But to just put another loss on Ohio State would be nice to get them out of the title picture.

Then, Maryland plays Wake Forrest. If Maryland could take them out, the Bears will move up one or two spots.

What we need to hope for to get any sort of possibility of moving up to the top 2 slots (yes, I am still talking National Championship - why not?) we need the other BCS conferences to beat up on one another. I think that USC looks weak this year - weaker than they have. This could be a year where the Bears get though a conference that is not strong and make it to the championship game.

Frankly, I think we will be undefeated at home this year. I am most concerned about this weeks game at Arizona, and the USC game. Both of these games are winnable. If we do win this weekend, and come back and win out to USC, I think we beat those guys down there, and get us over the hump with them. Just a feeling.

If that does happen, I have grave concerns about the last three games. At Oregon State, and then Stanfurd and Washington at home. I have to believe that would have the biggest crowds ever at those home games, but playing Oregon State late up there could be tough.

In any event, it is still a ways to go but I the only game where we will not be favored is the USC game, if we continue to win.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strength of Pac 10 vs other conference

It is interesting. The Pac 10 is the strongest conference this year, if you use RPI as the measure of conference strength.

That is, if you use what the NCAA uses to measure the relative strength of basketball conferences, the Pac 10 would be the strongest conference this year.

"How can that be? The Pac 10 sucks!" you say. Well, maybe not.

Let's look at this objectively. What did we do as a conference that made us suck? We lost to non BCS teams. Of course, almost all of those non BCS teams are in the top 25 this year. That is, two losses against BYU, one against TCU, one against Utah, one against Boise, and one against Fresno State. All of those schools, while not in top conferences, have been in the top 25, and are now in the top 30 or so.

Of course, we also lost to Penn State, Oklahoma and Georgia (top 10 team), Maryland, New Mexico and UNLV. Notre Dame as well, but I think we are going to even that out.

Now, how bad are these loses? Only three - Maryland, UNLV and New Mexico - could be considered bad. Maryland is somewhat erratic, and is 4-2, sniffing at the top 25 last week, until it's embarrassing loss to Virginia.

What are the Pac 10 wins? Well, Cal beat top 15 Michigan State. USC demolished whoever they played, including top 15 Ohio State. Oregon beat Purdue. The SEC decided not to play us this year - smart (well, except for the domination that UCLA put on Tenn). They feasted on Cupcakes and got fat over those. Same with the Big 12. They are ranked considerably further down the list. In fact, here is the conference strength by RPI:

1) Pac 10
2) Big 10
3) Big 12
4) ACC
5) Big East
6) SEC
7) Mtn West
8) Conf USA
9) WAC
10) MAC
11) Sun Belt

The RPI measures your strength of schedule by your wins, your opponent's wins, and your opponent's opponent's wins. So it is a fairly reliable indicator of your strength against your schedule.

It rewards conferences which play tougher schedules, like the Pac 10. In that scenario, it is a much more honest assessment of your capabilities vs a poll, which is what the BCS is based on.

Why does the Pac 10 look so good in the RPI version? It is because our weaker teams lost to some good teams. UCLA, Washington both lost to BYU (Washington should have won). Washington got taken to the woodshed by Oklahoma. Arizona State, which is turning out not to be so good, lost to Georgia. Oregon State lost to Penn State and Utah - a game they should have won.

Both Cal and Oregon lost to teams that they should have beaten - Oregon to Boise and Cal to Maryland. And USC lost to Oregon State, a team they should have beaten. But those are not terrible losses - they are the normal bumps and bruises of the 12 week playoff that is college football.

The Pac 10 is down this year, but not like everyone thinks. Come the bowl season, i believe that the rest of the country will see what it is all about. I mean - lets face it - we beat 75% of the Big 10 teams that we played. We beat 100% of the SEC teams we played.

Oh well. I guess all we have to do is win the rest of the way.


Monday, October 6, 2008


Just one year ago, we were ranked number 2 in the country, and 5 - 0. Then we lost in October, and that was that.

Now, we lost one game on the road to a bi-polar Maryland team, and we are barely sniffing the ranking chart. The coaches have us at number 25, the Harris people have us at 26, and the AP we are still on Mars.

The good news is this: Michigan State and Northwestern play this week. One of those two will lose, and more space opens up. I hope Michigan State wins out.

Oklahoma State still has to play Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. So do all of those other team have to play each other. So there are some losses to come.

Wake Forrest goes to Clemson and then Maryland.

Kansas has the same road as OK State. Starting at Colorado this week.

Here is what kills me: Ball State. Top 25. Get real. The toughest team they played and will play is Navy. These guys are going to ride a top 25 spot all year long, based on the worst strength of schedule. It does matter that you play crap teams.

It was nice to see Fresno State lose. Now they can beat Boise, and drop them out of the top 25 - and they won't improve much in the process.

Utah is ranked #9 in the current BCS standings. They are currently ranked #4 in the computers. That means they will definitely be a top 8 team if they win out. Likewise, BYU, if they beat the Utes, will be a top 10 team - maybe even top 2.

It is interesting to note that Boise, BYU and Utah all gain their reputation by beating middle of the road or crappy Pac 10 teams, but the Pac 10 gets no recognition for being decent enough to get them that recognition. I have to give credit to Utah - they did schedule Michigan and Oregon State. Both could have been loses for them, but they won both - squeekers both. But Michigan and Oregon State are not as good as they have been.

Also, similarly BYU played Washington and UCLA out of conference - two of the worst Pac 10 teams, who in prior years could have been tough.

It is like the Notre Dame athletic director has been scheduling these guys - picking the name just when you know they will be down.

There are a host of ACC teams (North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forrest) who will beat each other up. There is only one Big East team in the top 25, and only USC of the Pac 10, and Cal knocking on the door.

In other words, it looks like Cal has a good shot to gain about 10 to 12 spots over the next few weeks in teh BCS from our current 26 position if we keep our nose clean. That means beating BYE, which I generally think we can do. Also, going to Arizona and then defending our Honor at home against UCLA. If we do that, we will be top 15. Here is who I think we will be passing up in the BCS standings:

North Carolina
Georgia Tech
Ball State
Wake Forrest
Oklahoma State
South Florida
Texas (they play Oklahoma and Missouri coming up)
Florida (loss to LSU and Georgia coming up)

Later in the year, Texas Tech plays Texas and Oklahoma. I think they drop there.

I think Missouri and Oklahoma are the best of the Big 12, and will remain top 10. I think LSU and Alabama the same for the SEC. Either USC or Cal will be there for the Pac 10. If Virginia Tech wins out, they will be there for the ACC. South Florida for the Big East, and Penn State for the Big 10. I think Ohio State loses again, to Penn State. The remaining top 10 at the end of the year will be BYU and Utah (until that final game) and maybe Boise State. Another SEC or Big 12 team could sneak in.

In other words, the Big 12 and the SEC this year are going to do what the Pac 10 has done over the past 5 years - eat each other up. So do not worry - a 2 loss Cal team will most likely be a top 14 team. A one loss Cal team will be top 5.


ASU Issues

The Bears came out with a nice win over ASU, a mid-ranked Pac 10 team. I think that the Sun Devils will win a few more, probably be bowl eligible, and have a nice 7 or 8 win season.

The Bears, in order to do better than that, need to get the QB thing down.

There is a lot of angst on the message boards - Kevin or Nate, Nate got lucky, it was Cignetti, etc. The bottom line is that Nate did a better job than KR did in the first half this season, but the second half was terrible offensive football. You need to get a first down in the fourth quarter.

The Defense and special teams - especially Anger - did a great job on Saturday. But Cal should have had another 14 points minimum in the second half to ice that game. 41 to 14 would have been appropriate, considering how much better we were than those guys.

Generally, sitting on a lead for the Bears is a disaster. We got lucky. If we had done that at MSU, we would have lost.

So the question is, is it Nate, is it Kevin or is it Frank Cignetti and JT? I have to put this one on the coaches. Nate played well in the first half. So what do we do second half? We go three and out running. Then we try three and out passing, then back to running. What gives? Where is the offensive creativity to get the team rolling. They can't have been happy about that - it does not make the offensive line feel good when you are three and out all day long.

I think that Tedford should have played Kevin in the second half, after two series with Nate. i was continually surprised to see Nate going back out there. We had enough lead, and enough power to win this game no matter. I think the QB competition should still be open. If Nate misses three passes in a row, then put in Riley. My god, these kids are tough kids. Let them battle it out. It is not like they are freshmen. They have been around long enough to know that performance dictates playing time.

Neither is a bad QB. It is clear this year why JT did not play Kevin Riley last year - he clearly was not ready for a prime time engagement. But he is getting there, and we need for him to continue to be involved.

I do think that both can and should play at Arizona. While they look good, they may well be paper tigers - we will see this week at Stanfurd, when AZ plays at the farm. Start Nate, then bring in Kevin.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

BCS Implications from Thursday night

Well, I think it is clear that Utah and BYU SHOULD be undefeated going into their final game of the season, playing for BCS eligibility. The question is, would both get in no matter what.

With South Florida going down this evening, it seems like it would be difficult for a Big East team to be in the top 16 of the BCS standing when they come out at the end of the year. Connecticut? I don't think so. West Virginia? Come on. South Florida what the last best hope. And they failed. So now, we have a situation where a non-BCS team could be eligible for the BCS by making the top 16 in the BCS standings. They do not have to be top 14.

I could see where two top 10 Mountain West teams make the BCS top 5 going into the last weekend. BYU and Utah play, with BYU winning in a close one. Does Utah drop all the way out?

Let=s go even further. Say all of the SEC and Big 12 teams have two losses. That these are the only teams ranked that highly are without losses. It would be difficult to drop one of them out.

At the end of the day, only one is required to be taken. But it is a virtual certainty that there will be one non-BCS team playing for the big marbles at the end of the year. The WAC also has two strong competitors in this race - Fresno State and Boise. One of them will lose to the other, but one will probably come out unscathed in WAC play.

Anyway, something else to think about as the season progresses.


Utah and OSU

Oregon State played a great game this evening against the 15th ranked Utah Utes. The Beavers should have won, except for some key mistakes in the coaching game, and some questionable referee calls.

But the bottom line is that the Beavers are for real this year, easily coulda shoulda woulda against Utah, and we are going to have a tough time with them when we go to see them in Corvallis.

I feel bad, after making my love for Mike Riley known just three or four posts ago for bagging on him with his crappy calls to go for two on successive scores in the second and third quarter. Missing three extra points in this game was the difference in the final score.

Frankly, so was the play calling with two minutes left, and the Beavers are running the ball, which they did not do well all evening. They should have continued to pass down the field for the touchdown. Instead, they gave a crappy punt and Utah kicks the field goal.

This is a great example of how crappy special teams can ruing your life. Instead of rocketing into the top 25 with wins over USC and Utah, they are now 2-3 and will have to earn respect by winning something like 6 of the next 7 to get into the rankings (where they probably should be).

Lessons to be learned - never take your foot off the gas, and focus on special teams.


Bears at ASU

The Bears have a big weekend ahead of them. The team could be said to be in somewhat of a disarray - there is an open QB competition, the star running back and defensive end are out, and the team heading into the season rated second in the Pac 10 is coming to town.

This on the heals of a devastating second half collapse last year after similar QB troubles.

The game is on ABC, broadcast across the entire west, including the entire Pac 10 market and half the WAC market. So it is also necessary for the Bears to have a good showing from a recruiting perspective, as ASU is starting to move up the recruiting ranks.

So this is a big game. A Bye week follows, which will allow the Bears to either lick their wounds, or solidify their position amongst the Pac 10 elite.

This is a game where every fan is needed. Come out early, in the rain, and bring a flask. Yell loud.

The Bears need a home field advantage in this game, mostly because ASU is susceptible to getting hit early and fading. If you nail Rudy Carpenter with five sacs in the first half, you are going to win - ASU is a passing team, and the defense needs to do well early to get them out of their rhythm.

They are going to try to run a bit more, but I think that the key will be to stop the pass first. That means blitzes, pressure. And loud fans.

The Bears offense also needs to come out swinging. We need to take the early lead and gang up on these guys. The slow starts of the past four games are not going to win in the Pac 10. Clearly, that is why JT is taking Kevin riley to the woodshed. i think he knows Riley is the better equipped athlete. But it's a complicated game, you need to be a smart, fast learner, and I think that JT knows Riley needs to concentrate a bit more. It is clear that when he is out there he is hesitant because there is too much information, and he is afraid to play loose. Hopefully this week of competition will let him let go a bit.

My guess is that JT will say both will play. He will let Nate start, and bring in KR in the second quarter. And see who does better. My guess is that this will be enough for KR to separate himself from Nate. I hope so. But if not, I would not hesitate to bring Nate back in - he is a very good QB, and will do fine.

At the end of the day, I trust Sagarin. He has the Bears as a 20 point favorite. Plus three at home, and the Bears are almost 24 point favorites. I think that could be the case. Cal has juts as much talent as Georgia - just maybe not as much experience. We could score 42 on these guys. And I think we could hold them to 17. We just need to play our best and all will be well.

The good news is, if we have a QB brain fart, we will replace this week. We will not wait to lose the game and say what we should have done. So I think that is great. It seems like no matter what, whoever come in for the struggling QB has made good headway for the Bears. Maybe it is just a change of pace difficult for the defense to adjust to. But since the AFA game last season, the QB who came in second made a big difference. And, yes, I am including the MSU game, where Nate went three for three after KR anemic first quarter. Granted, he threw two INTs in a row to kill his chances. But the team did respond and the defense was flummoxed when he came in.

In any event, I am excited for this game. It will be a true test of the Bears - do we have a chance to run the table, or are we a mediocre team this year. Because let's be clear - ASU is a mediocre team this year.