Monday, October 26, 2009

Washington State Recap / Moving On

After huge wins over UCLA and Washington State, the state of the Bear Nation is predictably gloomy. Because that is what Cal fans are, sadly. The Bears went on the road to win at UCLA - the first road victory in LA for Jeff Tedford since he has been the Cal Coach - and were promptly saddled with the fact that UCLA sucks. So, they decimated Washington State by 32 points, and the questions keep coming: why did we give up so many (17) points? Why does the defense suck so much? We could never do this against a real team.

Never mind that in 11 offensive plays the Bears had 28 points and three consecutive three and outs. Or that, leading 35 to 3 three minutes into the 2nd quarter, they started rotating in the scrubs. The Bears defense sucks. We are doomed.

Eeyore was the yell leader of the guy sitting next to me at the game. I almost had to punch him.

Yes, we all want National Championships and undefeated seasons. But guess what - there are 120 other teams that also want that. So that means that, statistically speaking - since we have 5 already, we have about 500 years to wait for another one. So get over it. And start to enjoy the season that you have. The Bears are 5-2, and they have a reasonably good chance to go to 10-2. All of the remaining games are winnable. We have our two toughest remaining games at home. And if we go to 10-2, we have a chance at going to 11-2, which would be the best team that JT has assembled yet at Cal. And most of the team comes back next year, along with a new facility very far along, and the makings of a new stadium. Our funding is getting developed for long term success.

There is such a hunger for a BCS game right now that it is incredible. It is like Heroin for some of these guys. What is going to happen if we go and LOSE? I think there really could be people who end it all. If that is the case, man, just quit going. Give it up. It is not healthy and it is not good for society.

There are huge issues with the University right now. Funding issues, structural issues, legislative issues - essentially the future of the University is being threatened by the state legislature (who, by the way, is perfectly willing to build a stadium in LA). Focus some of your energy in getting those issues fixed. Focus your energy in writing you state senator and representative on these issues, instead of writing on message boards and article commentaries. The pain I hear out there is too much.

As far as it goes, if the BCS was set up for the last 12 years as it is today, the Bears probably would have gone twice - in 2004 and 2006. We will get our chance again. I think this year the Pac 10 gets two teams in, if Oregon and SC keep winning except against themselves. The Pac 10 is developing a reputation for being a good conference - better than in the past. That is good news and bad news for the Bears. If Oregon wins out, then it is no longer SC and the 9 dwarfs. Cal and SC would be tied for 2nd, and Oregon would get the nod. SC could go play Florida in the sugar bowl - a game people would pay a lot of money to see.

The Bears do have some issues on the team. The defensive secondary and the LBs look like they need some improvement, and the mindset of Kevin Riley is critical. That being said, these kids can improve and they will. And, regardless of what people say - it is not the schemes of the coaches that are causing these lapses. It is the execution of the field. That is the least fixable part of the game - fixable generally only through recruiting. So stop killing yourselves because the kids are not as good as you thought they were. Over time, we will get better.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A bit of perspective

Last week I did not post really - it was very hard to figure out what to say. Basically, there are a few things that rumble around in the brain after going through another brutal loss like that:

1) The Bears gave up.

2) The Bears could have won.

3) The Bears need a QB who can hit the side of a barn.

4) The Bears need new coaching.

But those are all immediate thoughts, and many of them are probably incorrect. So on Wednesday I looked at the game again, and saw a lot of positives. A lot more than I thought I would. So I decided that I was putting back on the Rose tinted glasses and needed to take a chill.

Anyway, based on further reflection, here is what I believe at this stage of the season:

1) Oregon is better that we thought at the beginning of the year. They have decent players at a lot of positions, and they have some depth. Defensively, they are pretty good. They could give SC a very tough game in Eugene. This could be the year that they break the spell of the USC dynasty.

2) The rest of the Pac 10 is pretty middle of the road. Oregon State, Arizona, Stanfurd, Arizona State, Washington and UCLA could all see 7-5 seasons. Washington State is the only truly poor team in the conference.

3) Cal is a pretty good team, but a team with a glaring weakness - the passing game. And it is not a receiver issue, or a play calling issue, or a line play issue. It is a QB issue. And for that, Tedford is at fault. It is his job (partially) to develop these young guys that have good talent to become quality division 1 QBs. Kevin Riley is doing a very poor job after the first three games. And it is a matter of confidence. I think he has the physical ability. But he is not mentally tough enough to get the job done, week in and out. He had great games for the first three weeks, number 6 in the country in passing. But the last two games, against tough teams, he folded. He could not hit WIDE OPEN - REALLY REALLY REALLY WIDE OPEN players. And that level of play has impacted the rest of the team. So stacking the box and letting Riley beat you when he can not throw the ball is a disaster for the Bears. Until he can prove that he can throw the Bears will lose against decent opposition. And JT should have done a better job of developing his QBs.

4) But Tedford does not take all the blame - it is also Riley's fault for being a head case. Earn the job. It is not your's just because you were the best QB in Oregon coming out of high school. This is the big time. JT playing someone in front of you is not an excuse to suck when it is your turn. This is your second year of being named the starter. Get over it.

4) The PAC 10 defenses this year are much better than in the past few years. And Pac 10 QB play is much less capable than in the past few years. Having a decent QB on your team this year will give you a huge advantage. Locker, for example, is leading a terrible team to a much improved season. Next year, when Nick Montana takes the field, the Huskies will be dead meat. But for the time being...

5) The Bears had plenty of opportunity to win the game against SC. There were TONS of open men - the play calling was inspired. Even the Wildcat was pretty darn good. The Bears moved the ball fine, but just could not score. It was a very frustrating game. The defense held SC fairly well, considering the time on the field and the constant barrage of three and out for the Bears. Not a stellar defensive gem, but not bad.

6) The Oregon game was a lost cause as soon as we did not finish that first drive. We caved in, and they rose up. It is like they were released from shackles and beat down the man. And, here, there is hope for the Bears. Because we are in the same position that Oregon was at the beginning of the year. Dropped from the standing for losing to Boise State, on the road. Because of a stupid incident after the game. But Boise is now #5 in the country. And Masoli, who, I have to give him credit - is a fighter. And he never gave up and came through against the Bears and has been on a roll ever since. That Boise thing got the Ducks together. They were totally disrespected, and totally written off. Just like Cal is now. I do not think the Bears are the second worst team in the Pac 10. But that is where we currently are ranked according to Ted Miller, of ESPN.

I think at the end of the year, the Bears will win 9 or 10 games. If you looked at the schedule, like many did this summer, and you said that we would have 3 wins and two losses to ORegon and SC, most people would have thought that was reasonable, and that they Bears could still go for 9 or 10 wins. And that would not have been unreasonable. Now, though, because we have two losses to SC and Oregon, we suck.

This game at UCLA is a big game for both teams. UCLA and Cal are similar, in that both were doing well, but have lost the first two conference games. So going down 0-3 in conference is not so good. I think the Bears pull it out. But UCLA has a good defense. They have terrible QBs. So the issue is, do the Bears exorcise the demons of the past 8 years in LA, and take out UCLA, or do we endure another tough week of waiting for the Washington State salve to come to town?


Friday, October 2, 2009

Top 10 games / Picks

Last week, I was 6-4 straight up, and 4-6 against the spread. And I think I was pretty good, so...

On to the games of the week this week (hopefully I can get to 10 - most of the games suck):

Cal - SC: Bears beat the spread, and win outright (here is the golden rule - always take Cal and bet against SC - that is just good taste). Quite a bewildering game. The typical Tedford haters love to talk about how the Bears are crap, not that good, etc. That may be true, but neither is SC this year. They are down, one of their star players is dramatically and seriously injured, and they have yet to figure out how to score points. I think they are down, and so do a lot of SC fans. Meanwhile, the Bears are suffering under a barrage of "you suck" and are backed into a corner. The question is - do they fight, or do they flee? I predict they put up a good fight, and come out swinging. Hell, this is probably what the coaches have been planning on for the last two weeks.

UCLA at Stanfurd: UCLA supposedly has it all going for them at this time. I think they beat the Furds. The Furds are first in the Pac 10, beating what I think are the two worst teams in teh Pac 10. Then, they lost to Wake Forest. I think UCLA is not bad this year, and seems to have a stout run defense. If Gerhart can be stopped for, say, 150 yards, the Bruins should win. I take UCLA to cover and win. I think Stanfurd gets exposed. The good news on this one - whoever loses I am happy.

Oregon State at Arizona St: This will be a good test for Arizona State. Oregon State is it's typical early season funk. It seems that this year it is a bit more than in prior years. But they still have the Rodgers brothers, and that counts for a lot. I think they take Arizona State down. While somewhat impressive against Georgia last week, I am not sure how good Georgia is, and I do think that Arizona State is just not there yet. This is sort of a game that will show, for both teams, their level. I take Oregon State to win and cover.

Oregon at Washington State: I take Washington State to cover, and Oregon to win. While clearly a better team, I think the Ducks play to their competition this year. And so they are not going to cover by 33.5.

Oklahoma at Miami: I take Miami to cover and to win. Oklahoma has had good luck so far with the porn star as QB thing going, but playing in Miami, there will be a decent crowd, and the Hurricanes will be pumped up. This could go one of two ways: A close game where Miami pulls it out on Jacori Harris heroics, or a Oklahoma blow-out. In a close game, I think Harris is the better pick. OK has a history of losing close ones. In fact, Stoops could be the Big 12 Jeff Tedford. Same with Tressell. In any event, I have a feeling about this one. Miami to win and cover.

Florida State at Boston College: I think Florida State comes back from last week. They play better on the road, and this is a Boston College team not as good in years past. FSU is getting better. I take them to win and cover.

LSU at Georgia: Game where LSU gets exposed. I think Georgia runs all over them. They have been holding on by luck, charm and opponents fear. But Georgia is not afraid of them. They will go down and I see them losing about two or three more this year. Cal moves up a space. Georgia to cover and win.

Washington at Notre Dame: While I would love to see the Huskies beat these guys - just to drop them out of the rankings - it is not going to happen. But I do not think the Huskies get killed - more like a 10 point loss. The line is 11.5. I am taking the Fighting irish to win, but the Huskies to cover. Weis seems not able to win by more than 4 or 5 in any game anyway.

Wisconsin at Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are favored by three at home - meaning basically a push. I think they are getting some good support at home, and probably will do well. I take them to beat Wiskey buy more than three. Maybe that is a Cal homer position, but they were not bad, and they have a great receiver and good, senior QB. That is a good combo in the Big 10. I can see them winning 9 or 10 this year.

Michigan at Michigan State: Michigan State is favored by 3. What the heck is that all about? Michigan is decent, and State is 1-3, losing to ND, Wisconsin, and Eastern Michigan. But they did have a close victory over Montana State. Michigan has beaten both ND and Eastern Michigan. As well as the other two games they played. So what is the deal? The game is at Michigan State, and it is a rivalry game. But I think that Michigan is a pretty good team. I take them to win and cover. This is going to be a shootout. So it could come down to fumbles and interceptions, but I think that a Rich Rodriguez team always is much improved the second year, and this is no exception. The Wolverines could be going into the Ohio State game undefeated. Iowa and Penn State are both beatable, as is Wisconsin. I am taking the Wolverines to win and cover.

Bonus: Navy at Air Force: this is interesting this year, because Army does not totally suck. So the winner of this does not automatically win the Commander-in-Chief trophy. Air Force has better wins, but Navy has better losses. I think Air Force takes this one, even though it is at Navy. I take Air Force to win and cover.

Army, by the way, is favored against Tulane, and is looking for it's third win of the season. It is possible that they are bowl bound for the first time since 1996, and only their 5th bowl ever. I think, in fact, that they get to 7 wins this year. Over the past 12 years, they have averaged just slightly over 2 wins per year. In 1996, they were 10-1, and lost to Auburn in the independence bowl. This year, they will be back: If they win 6, they play in the Eagle Bank Bowl. If Navy wins 6, they play in the Texas Bowl.

Anyway, good luck with your bets this week. Let's try to beat 50%.


Odds and Ends

The Ducks are thinking about re-instating running back Garrett Blount. I think they should - yes, he cold cocked a guy. But that happens all the time - he just got caught on National TV. Wrong place in the wrong time. Oregon picked a good time to do this - after the big win against the Bears. They are in a positive light now - might as well get what they can. Blount may be a thug, but you have to give the guy a chance. Hopefully he can work out, get in shape and give the NFL a shot. He has a slim chance there, but at least get a shot.

Lots of injuries and big players out of college football this week. Bradford is not going to play in Miami. I am going to take the Hurricanes on that one, even after the loss last week. Tebow was banged up, half of SCs team is out, Clausen for ND is banged up. Lots of problems. So you see upsets. The thing is, the Bears are relatively healthy. But we were creamed. So what is the deal there.

As far as it goes, Matt Summers-Gavin is going to be out, I think, based on a sprained shoulder. He did not play that well last week at Oregon, but that may have had something to do with him being out sick all week. I think that the Bears need pop off the ball every play. SC has a very good defensive line, so far, as usual. The cost of this could be more pressure on Riley. Or, Boskovich could step up. There needs to be an improvement on the offensive line this week in any event.

Most of the other starters are back. Hill is starting again over Hagan. I think that is no big deal this week. Barkley is, so far, not that great. This will be a battle of SC defense against the Cal offense. I think the Bears handle the SC offense OK. The question is, can we score on them. We only scored 3 against them last year down there. If Riley can not hit the open man, it may be the same game over again. Of course, they only scored 17 against us - meaning we held them to their lowest total of the season last year.

I think the Bears can score 28 or so with a big crowd and pretty good talent, hopefully refocused and playing loose. The question is, can SC score that many?