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.