While laying off posting for a while - very busy at work - and I really did not know what to say about the Oregon State game. But this is a big week, for a lot of reasons.
First, it is clear that Jeff Tedford thought that he had a great team going into the season. He, at least, it sounded like he did, truly believed that they were going to the Rose Bowl this year, or at least compete much harder than has been the case since the first half of 2007 (when the Bears really were dominant).
But when the Oregon Fiasco happened, it killed something in the team. And Riley blew the SC game, because he was nervous and they were fired up. That was a winnable game this year, for sure (as can be clearly seen now, but even then it seemed like it. There were plenty of open looks downfield). But, after that, the Bears put it back together for a few weeks, and went out and won on the road, and came back to Memorial - and Oregon State.
That was a Bizarro day. The fans were absolutely dead from the get go. It was like the Oregon and SC loss killed the fans, and they were hoping that the Bears laid an egg. And, frankly, when the faculty just voted that they would prefer that you not be on campus, it is hard to get up for a game. And then, Best getting hurt changed everything.
I think that took the wind out of the Bears sails for that game (along with the crappy pass interference call on SQT). Also, the hit on Riley. There was no life in the Bears for the rest of the game, until the last drive, where they decided to try to get something going. And it worked.
So the next week, the Bears came in and decided to play a tough defense - they were taking on the run, but also playing tight on the corners. The offense was the offense that Tedford uses when Best is not on the field - meaning a balanced attack that is not telegraphed weeks in advance. Let's face it - Jahvid Best is the best player in the game (I think), but he can not run through walls. He can not single handedly just run around and score. If there are big linemen who he is running into, not much is going to happen. But when Vareen goes in, and Best is out, the Bears seem to play a bit more balanced, and a bit more like the old Tedford Bears. I think there is too much focus on Best in the Tedford offense (at least against good defenses. Against Washington it will not matter). I do not think we will have that problem anymore, unfortunately, since Jahvid is going to be going to the next level soon.
But the fact is that the Arizona game was a game where the Bears came to play, they put on a tough show, and they knocked the Wildcats, most likely, out of contention.
So, what about the Furd? They are the favorites by 8 points - meaning that folks think the Bears totally suck. That is interesting that the Furd got so good in two weeks, and the Bears got so bad. I mean, we did beat a team that beat them last week. We do have a pretty good run defense. We do have a pretty good offense in relation to their defense. If we can go down there and pop the Harbaugh bubble, we win. And this is just the sort of Big game that we can do that in.
I do not believe that Stanfurd has overall better talent than us, except maybe at QB. But Riley can have those special games, and if he is on, he is good. As good as Luck. I think Vareen is going to get more yards than Gerhart - both are good runners - but our run defense is better. There are lots of ways that the Bears could win. I think we have a decent shot at it. That being said, it would not be shocking if they did not.
But here is where it is different this year. This year, if the Bears win the Big Game, I think we get 10 wins. We beat Washington, and we go to a nice bowl game, and take care of business. And the Furd drops back down to where they should be - crawling and scratching to get some other young coach to come and play for 800K - or about what you get at Nevada, because Harbaugh is on the first train out of town without Gerhart.
But if the Bears lose - all of a sudden, they are second dog in the bay area. And everyone is polishing Toby Gerhart's knob. The media circus will be crazy.
This is such a critical game for Cal at this juncture that I dare say it is the most important game of Tedford's career. Not that it is career ending, by any stretch. I think no matter what, the Bears are much improved next year. But I do think pulling out a 10 win season this year, beating the Furd, who will be top 25 if they beat ND at the end of the year, is a good season. And we continue to build. The Naysayers will not go away (do they ever? i just got off a huge email battle with all the Ohio State guys calling for Tressel's firing - they are only going to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 13 years - not good enough.) but the truth is that the Bears are a young team, and with the SAHPC, and the new stadium remodel, they will only get better.
I like Jeff Tedford. I think he is a good man, good for Cal, and good for the sport in the Bay Area. He is not an ass, like Harbaugh. He is respected by other coaches. If you do not think so, you are a loon. That being said, it would be nice to get more consistently at 10 wins. That is my goal for the team - to year in and out win 10. Because if we do that, we will be top 10 every year, get better recruits, and eventually one fine day win the Pac 10 and probably a national championship. It is about consistency. The Pac 10 is tough, as we all know. This year, no one has less than 2 losses in the Pac 10.
To get to that level, you need the players. We have not had a great QB that can get us there, as well as the quality backups that we need. We have had injury problems on the QB. And so, that is something that JT needs to work on. Maybe they need more time with the second and third string guys running the offense in practice. In any event, it would be nice to see a scenario develop where we have juniors and seniors running the team, and not freshman and sophomores - like Nate and Riley were. We need to get to where the guys coming off the bench are in the program for three or four years before they start. SC had that until this year. What happened to them? We have been in that boat for years. When Nate went down, we had a freshman backup. Really? That is not good. Same as when Rogers left - a JC transfer who sucked, and Nate. Nate went down, and we had the Ayoob year. Nate played well his sophomore year, but starting at Tennessee as your first real game? Not good.
You see the issue. It seems like we are developing some good talent down stream. I think Riley will be getting better. If he has been on the bench until this year, I think he would be better than he is now. More confident, less worried about his legacy at Cal, and the Nate thing. But having him there, and waiting for Sweeney and / or Mansion to be a junior or senior is fine. But the bottom line is, if the Bears are going to make a run at getting better, they need to have some stability and get some of the QBs moving up the chart. But this game sets the stage for that movement.
This is a really big game.