Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The World is Sane Again

The bears crushed the furd over the weekend. And when I say crushed, I mean dominated them physically and made them understand that there was not chance they were going to win.

Maybe I was the only one in the stands who knew the Bears were going to win. But I just did not see Jeff Tedford losing to Harbaugh when so much was at stake. This was not for some sort of Pac 10 title or national respect. This was for survival. This was to keep his legacy at Cal alive, and to continue the drum of moving the program along. Here is what happened:

1) We beat two top 25 teams in a row for the first time since 1950.
2) We extended our streak of victories over the furd to 7 of 8.
3) We took the furd out of the Rose Bowl discussion, and put them into the Emerald Bowl or Poinsettia Discussion.
4) We moved ahead of USC in the AP poll.
5) We set the stage for a 10 win season, after all of the problems that we had earlier in the season.
6) We made Tiger Woods cry.
7) We established Jeff Tedford as the guy to take us through the tough times, and to bring us to National Prominence...once again.

That was the best big game that I have ever been to. And the first one I went to was in 1982. But that was before I went to Cal. The 1986 was good, the 2002 one was fantastic. But this one is the best. And it is because this one restored the hope that somehow was losing bear fans.

I have no idea what the deal was with this season. But people were pissed off when the Bears lost three games. Even after everyone knew at the beginning of the season that a 10 win season was good, and a 13 win season was probably not going to happen, the Bear fans were suicidal. But somehow, beating those smug bastards at their place, taking it over, dominating them physically, and picking them off at the end, and taking the field - all of that seems to have made up for so much. Yes, on the message boards, the true haters still try to spew some vindictive dribble, but frankly it is not working. The Bears are back, baby, and fire tested. This season is going to be a growing season for this program. We are only going to get better.

This was a huge win

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Big Game is Big

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.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where are we?

The Bears take on Orogon State this weekend, after enjoying a three game winning streak, and finally winning a come from behind game on the road - the first one of those in years.

In looking at the Pac 10 right now, the Bears have about a 2% chance of getting to a BCS game, so there is still some hope. In all likelihood, the Pac 10 will get both Oregon and SC into a BCS game this year, and the Pac 10 will for the first time in years have two representatives to the BCS. But the Bears still have the chance to win out and tie SC in the standings for second place.

In looking at the other teams in the Pac, it is interesting to note that Cal has played three teams with losing records UCLA, Washington State and Maryland (although, Maryland still does have a chance to win the ACC atlantic divisions...). Oregon has played 4 losing teams - including Purdue, Washington State, Washington and UCLA. Of course, the difference is, Oregon has also played 4 top 25 teams, and beaten 3 of them. Stanfurd has played 5 teams with losing records, and only two teams with winning records. Those two teams are the two losses for the season (they did beat 4-4 Arizona State). So, they also lost to Wake Forrest, who has a losing record.

Meanwhile, Washington has not played anyone with a losing record, nor has UCLA. Washington State has only played one team with a losing record.

Oregon State has beaten one team with a winning record so far this year - Stanfurd. Similarly, the Bears have only beaten one team with a winning record - Minnesota.

Both teams have done relatively well on offense, and have suspect defenses. Both teams really need this win. But the Bears need it more. Oregon State still has two games against weaker opposition (Washington and Washington State) as well as the Civil War remaining. The Bears need to win at home to at least guarantee a positive win total for the year. The Bears are sure to be favored in each remaining game, but not by much. The Bears are 7 point favorites this weekend.

This season could be a turning point for Cal. Win out, and match our best season win total in decades. Lose one or two and it is not so bad. But a total collapse could bring about real problems for the team and JT. I do not think that will happen. I think that winning on the road - we are 3-1 on the road this year, with two winnable games remaining - is great for the Bears. We generally do well at home, and I think we will do so again this year. But beating an Oregon State team which has won 8 of the last 10 against the Bears is critical.


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?


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bears at USC

The California Golden Bears take on USC this Saturday evening at 5:00 PM.

This is probably the most interesting game in Cal history.

First off, the Bears have / had visions of grandeur. National Championships, Rose Bowl wins, etc. SC has had all of those and more over the last 7 or 8 years with Pete Carroll as coach. But the Bears probably had the biggest upset in the 123 years of Cal football last Saturday at Oregon. 42 to 3 - the number 6 team in the country loses to an unranked foe.

I did not think Oregon was any good, frankly. i though Chip Kelly was a terrible coach, and I thought their defense would stink. And that was based on the way that they were playing so far this year. And as opposed to Cal, who had just gone on the road to Minnesota, and their bright new stadium, and cruised to an easy win. Yes, I know it was tied in the 4th quarter. But the Bears never really lost control of that game, and played pretty well. Were it not for some phantom calls, the Bears would have won by 28. And the thing about that game was that Cal manhandled the Golden Gophers. Who are not a lousy team.

What happened in Eugene is debatable. I think it was just a matter of the Bears coming in and becoming bewildered at their initial lack of success, and panic setting in. They were tight, they were playing not to lose and they could not function. While the Bears are a good team, and have better talent overall than the Ducks, I would say that they do not have better talent if they are not playing at the top of their game all game long. Last year, at Berkeley, Cal dominated that game, and essentially, both teams came back - the Bears with a bit more experience, and the Ducks with a bit less. But the difference was, they had nothing to lose, and we had everything to lose. And we did.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Pete Carroll was bewildered by the outcome of the Bears / Oregon game. Stunned. Because he knows the talent level and the skill level was not representative of the final score. Meanwhile, USC is barely getting by in their games, they have lost to Washington, scored only once after the first quarter in the Washington State game, and should have lost the Ohio State game if Jim Tressell was any kind of coach. They are lacking in talent on the offensive side of the ball this year. And this week, one of their top two running backs - Staphon Johnson, had a horrendous accident in the weight room, when the bar he was bench pressing fell on his neck, requiring a 7 hour reconstructive surgery to save his life, and hopefully his voice. He is not out of the woods yet. Carroll is there hours on end this week. They have also lost a number of other players, including the QB, to injury this season. Now, the true freshman QB is back, but not fully healed. The Safety is back, but not a 100%. The Trojans are banged up.

One of the pieces of magic that Carroll has been able to instill in his team is the ability to keep loose. But this really is a season on the brink for them. They have been able to stock-pile talent over the years, but have not been able to get that talent up and going as well as they have in the past. I do not think that the coaches they have brought in have been as good as the ones that have left, at least not yet. They have three new coordinators this year - offense, defense and special teams. They have not been scoring as many points by a long shot, and while Carroll is still presiding over a pretty good defense, they have been in very close games all year long.

That being said, they are still USC. They are in a midst of a huge streak of road games - 4 of 5 - and 6 of 8. They play Notre Dame after the Bears (and a bye week). I think the injury and the nature of it to Staphon Johnson this week takes something off the luster of the Cal game. That type of mortality injected into the lives of invincible young people is a distraction to say the least. For the Bears, they have come down from their lofty perch. But they are not yet free of the burden. They still think they are playing for the NCG. Tedford's job this week is to get them loose. Tell them they are playing for themselves. I think as a coach, he may be too goal oriented. The goals should be smaller: Beat your man on every play. Complete every pass. No fumbles. Not, win the Pac 10. Not go the the National Championship game. The difference between this year and prior years is that in prior years, the Bears were not embracing expectations. And when the lost those expectation were trashed in the second quarter of the Oregon game, they stopped playing. They could have easily come out in the second half of the game and come back. Instead they curled up in a little ball. They were embracing expectations but not understanding that expectations are what people think you should do. Performance is what you do to meet expectations. And if you perform on each play, and have success, then the team will meet expectations. But the expectations should not be the goal. The grade on each play should be the goal. If you get burned, so what. Try again.

I hate it when people leave early during a game. Dodger fans. Well, the Bears were a bunch of Dodger fans last week. Let's see if this week they can be like the fans during the down years of the Joe Kapp era - the 25,000 who continued to show up each week to see the Bears perform. They would cheer a great play, or a great series. Rarely expecting to win, but always expecting a great effort. Knowing that some day the Bear would rise again - just maybe once - in their lifetime. That is what needs to happen this week. SC is down, the Bears are down. Who is going to win these individual battles this week? I am not expecting a victory, although I am not expecting a loss. But what I do expect is an effort each play. I expect to be rewarded for coming out to see my team by effort each play.

Last week, Tedford said the team was not tense, but intense. I am not sure if I want an intense team. I want a loose team that plays with abandon. If I wanted an intense team, I would root for Arizona. Lot's of bluster, lot's of collapse. I want a team that loves what they do, and gives it their all. That is what the Cal Bears should be about.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

BCS Ranking Next Week

Next week, the official BCS rankings come out. Before all the bloodletting about how can you even think about BCS rankings, I simply bring this up as a matter of conversation.

I will say that, like two years ago, this is a season where there really is NO dominant team - except maybe Alabama. Texas has looked weak at times, as has Oklahoma, Houston, Okie State, and the rest of the big 12. I think those guys waste each other this season. And BYU did everyone a favor by wasting Oklahoma and then getting wasted by Florida State, who got wasted by South Florida and Miami, who was taken out by Virginia Tech, who already lost to Alabama. So they are all flawed. Except for Alabama.

Florida has not looked perfect, and I do not expect them to go through the SEC championship game against Bama. At this point, I would put them as a lock for the SEC.

For the other conferences, Virginia Tech looks good for the ACC, as does South Florida or Cincinnati for the Big East. The Big 10 looks to be a tough conference this year, with Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State battling it out. I would not be surprised if Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State win 8 or 9 each this year as well, taking some of the front runners out. So that is probably a conference where no one come through unscathed.

As it stands in the Pac 10, I think everyone will have at least one loss. The winner will be the one who can bounce back from the loss. It could still be the Bears. The Bears are ranked 11 in the computers to the Ducks 10. Depending on who wins this weekend, the Bears can be in the top 12 again, or out altogether. As far as it goes, SC is currently 7 in the BCS, and Arizona, UCLA and Washington are still ranked in the 20's and 30's. All of them have the opportunity this year to go all the way. Oregon State so far is out of it, losing to Arizona and Cincinnati - two tough teams. These are all games that the Bears could win but are also all tough games.

At this point, there is no clear leader in the Pac 10. UCLA plays Oregon in two weeks in LA. Then, the Bears come into town. That is a tough series for them, but they have looked good. I think the Ducks beat Washington State this week, and go to LA a bit overconfident (see Cal Bears, September 226, 2009). Then, they go to Washington, and then have SC at home. That is a tough road.

In any event, the Pac 10 is wide open. If the Bears do win this weekend, they will be ranked in the top12 of the BCS, going to LA to see what they can do about breaking the LA curse. If they can handle that - I think pretty much everyone will look back at this weekend as a difficult lesson learned. If not - watch for the long knives.


Climbing off the Cliff

The Bears were beaten and embarrassed yesterday. The question is why? They certainly have the talent to have beaten the ducks - they have done so 4 of the last 5 meetings, with virtually the same cast coming back on both sides. It is not just a question of do they always lose a big one. Tedford teams have won plenty of big ones, including two years ago in Eugene, in a matchup similar to yesterday.

Basically, the Bears read their clippings, and fell apart when the Ducks did not roll over. They simply gave up in the middle of the second quarter. Really, they gave up after two three and outs in the first quarter.

Here is the deal: Tedford changed this year. He has a new philosophy - embrace the expectations. They were highly ranked. They knew they should win. So when they were not, they did not know what to do. In the early years, they were the underdogs. In the later JT years, they have started to read the clippings. And have had two dramatic failures.

This was a dog fight, and we were the big stupid lab who ran home after the scrappy street dog beat the crap out of us. The Bears collapsed because they thought they were too good to lose - and everyone else did as well - at least those close to Berkeley. Some in the National press and in SEC territory picked the Bears to collapse. They were right. These Bears have not had a collapse like this. Hopefully this can turn into a good thing. The alternative is too hard to imagine (well, actually, it is not that hard to imagine - we already lived it 10 years ago).

Oregon, on the other hand, was written off after a bad loss and a stupid player trashed their reputation. Their QB was dragged around in the mud. They could have had a huge blowout loss and no one would have thought too much about it. They decided that they were not going to roll over. They had the will of the underdog. And that is why we did not survive.

The only question now is can the Bears toughen up. Give SC a good game - even win it, as they can - and they are back in the hunt for a tough Pac 10 Championship. I think the Bears can and will do it. I do not believe that this is the team that will totally fold on the season. It could happen. Kevin Riley may be too fragile. Maybe that is why Tedford put Sweeney in - he is tired of the headcase QB. He trusts a guy from Fresno. Who knows (although he did not look good when he was in). In any event, Riley is the man, and he needs to step up. If he does not, JT need a quick hook, and to move on without mercy.

As far as it goes, I do believe there were some basic tactical errors yesterday that really killed the Bears. First, when you get the ball on the Oregon 20 - just run it up the gut. You need to establish the run game. The first play after a turnover, you try to make a big splash. But when you fail, you now have to pass. And when the line is passblocking on the first play - they look like a bunch of wussies. They needed to get the big hits in RIGHT NOW. Run up the middle, up the side, etc. Establish that you are not going to get pushed around. Do not put the game into an unproven QBs hands at Autzen, in a super loud stadium. From the first play, the Bears were on their heels. We went to the air far too much, and let them get out of hand. Yes, Best only had 55 yards on 16 carries - but if you ran 10 times in a row to start the game, he would have had 100 yards by then. When you only run in totally obvious running downs, it is difficult to run. It is not too complicated. So they have 8 in the box - you are afraid of that? He has faced that his whole career. Very bad play calling and frankly just chasing the score. Put a TD or two on the board in the first half and the game is 100% different.

Second, defensively - last year we attacked. This year, we tried to contain. Dumb and dumber. Masoli needs to be hit about 10 to 15 times before he falls apart. We were never in the backfield. We need 5 or 6 guys in the backfield all day long. He can not throw under pressure. But we gave him all day. And they have a young line, but it is not too hard to contain three guys with 6 blockers. Poor play calling on the defensive side.

Basically, we decided to play finese football this game, and got our clocks cleaned. Play this way against SC, and the score will be a lot worse. Come at them hard - a freshman QB, poor running game, etc, and we will do OK. Obviously this is the worst coached game of the JT era.



Saturday, September 26, 2009


Worst loss since September 11, 1999 - in the middle of the Holmoecaust (45 - 0 at Nebraska).

Who want's my SC tickets?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Early Scores

Old Miss laying an egg against South Carolina is interesting. They are going to drop like a rock into the 15 rank level. I do not see them seeing the top 10 again this year unless they beat Alabama and then Florida in the SEC championship game. Good news for the Bears if they can win this week.

Also, Missouri wins a tight one against Nevada. The Big 12 once again showing it;s fearlessness scheduling a creampuff and almost losing it all. No votes for them, I think.

The Preseason is almost done. I am excited to see the other teams start to drop like flies. If the Bears take this against the Ducks, look to see gameday in Berkeley next week, and hype like you have never seen it. The Bears love hype at home. It is the pressure on the road that has sometimes gotten to them.


Top Ten Picks

I am going to try, on a weekly basis, to pick what I think are the top ten games of the week. We'll see how I do. If I suck, then maybe we won't continue (and I can give up the dreams of making my 401K savings back in Tahoe this year). I will pick against the spread. Fair warning - I think I am second to last in the pick'em pool that I am in, losing to a guy who never watches any college football at all. But I will try to elucidate my reasoning behind the picks. Mostly, I think, I pick teams that I do not hate. So this will be an exercise for me to be dispassionate about football, and that will be difficult. But I do not think I will pick against the Bears this year. So that should give me a leg up on all of these.

Cal at Oregon: The Bears have a complete offense and defense. Oregon can score on special teams, but the Bears have not had anyone break one yet. Field position could be an issue on the road, like it was last week against Minnesota. The Bears would have won by 28 if not for some blown calls and field position. Oregon, on the other hand has a decent enough defense, but not elite by any stretch. They are weak up front on both the offense and the defense. They have a strong running game and a weak passing game. If the Bears can stop the run, they win. If they can contain the run, they win. If the can not stop the run, it will be a shootout, and the Bear win. I think the Bears by 14.

Washington at Stanfurd: Washington is on a high, and is rebuilding. Jake Locker is the real deal. This is a game for both teams that could determine whether or not they play in a bowl game. I do not think that Washington's defense has all the players that they need, but they have a good coordinator. Meanwhile, the mouth that roared who coaches the Furd has already beaten Sarkisian and Holt when they were at SC. So he knows how to attack them. And they played well again the next year when everyone thought that the Cardinal would wilt under the evil eye of SC. I think that this week exposes the Washington win for what it was over SC - a overachieving team who needed it more than SC needed it. It also will expose SC's offense as something that is really terrible at this point. I take the furd with the win, but it is going to be close. So take the Huskies with a 7.5 point Furd favorite.

Georgia at Arizona State: Arizona State looks great on paper right now - stats are beautiful. Meanwhile, Georgia lost to Oklahome State, who lost to Houston. That being said, I do not think that the Sun Devils are back. I just do not think that they have been recruiting the type of players to get the job done on the road in a pretty hostile SEC environment. Georgia has the players and the home field advantage. I think they get up for this one. But it is a 12 point spread. So I take Georgia to win, and ASU to have the morale victory of beating the spread.

Oregon State at Arizona: Oregon State just lost to Cincinnatti, who I think is the best college football team in Ohio. Arizona lost to Iowa, who is the best football team in Iowa. By similar spreads. I think Oregon State is the better team this year, and better coached. Arizona has QB issues. This is just a coaching call - I like Mike Riley better than Stoops. Both probably have the same level of talent. I take Oregon State and they beat the 3.5 point spread.

Florida State at South Florida - South Florida is trying to get to the same level as Florida State. They are looking at this game as a statement game. Florida State is trying to capitalize on their huge win over BYU. The Spread is 14.5, so FSU is favored by quite a bit. But University of South Florida is a team that see's destiny in their overtaking the other Florida schools. They are a program on the march. So I guess I think this game is going to be closer that projected. USF (ranked number 2 in the country just a few years ago - right after the Bears lost to Oreogon State) is not a bad team, and has speed and a good system. They recruit from a great recruiting pool. They are simply a step behind Florida State. The thing is, they will want it a bit more than FSU this week. I think they lose, but cover the spread. Take the Bulls.

Miami at Virginia Tech - this is an interesting game. Virginia Tech lost to Alabama by 10. Little offense for the Hokie's in that game, but a true beamer ball game. Scored off a return, lots of positive turnovers, and still they lost. Miami, on the other hand, has been money this year with plenty of offense. The question is, have they really been tested. They have had the toughest two game schedule so far, playing at Florida State and against Georgia Tech. Both twp 25 teams, and they were pretty dominant against Tech. I think they take this one, as they have the fire. This is for the marbles in the ACC coastal Division, and whoever comes out of here has the inside track to a BCS game. I take Miami to cover their 3.5 points on the road at Virginia Tech. i like both coaches, but I think the U has something to prove.

TCU at Clemson - TCU is in the position to make a run for the BCS game over Boise if it can bring this game home. Clemson is in the run for, well, nothing. They already lost to Georgia Tech. They have beaten a Middle Tennessee team that is not as crappy as they could be (the beat Maryland for the second year in a row) and Boston College. But I think TCU take this game. They have more to lose. The game is at Clemson, so that is a factor. The spread is only 2.5, so I am going to take TCU to cover. I think they are a borderline top 25 team and Clemson is a borderline top 50 team.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech - I am going to take Tech to cover the 2.4 points, only because North Carolina has not been challenged yet this year. They have played CT, the Citadel, and East Carolina. Georgia Tech has a great running game, and is difficult to defend. North Carolina has not had to deal with that type of offense this year, and so it is hard to deal with unless you have superior talent. And I think the talent level is about the same. So I take Tech to beat the spread.

Iowa at Penn State - Similarly to Georgia Tech and Iowa, I am going to take Iowa only because they have played other real teams. This is the first real team that Penn State is facing this year, even though they are a 9.5 point favorite. Even though it is in College Station, I see a letdown game for the Nittany Lions. Iowa is a tough team and they will play hard. I do not think Penn State is as good as they have been ranked, and I do not think that they have a great offense. I predict a score in the low 20's, with Iowa taking it. Penn State has lost a lot from last years team. They replace but I do not think they totally are ready. This is my upset special of the week.

Texas Tech at Houston - While this is a big game in Texas, and a Huge Game for Houston, I think Tech makes a statement hear about the Texas game. They can hang with Houston and put up points with the best of them. Taking a page out of the Tech playbook is not like taking the Tech playbook. A lot of the Houston coaches came from Tech, but go with the Master on this one. Tech over Houston. There is no spread.

Let's see how we did on Sunday.


Bears at Oregon

The California Golden Bears take on the Oregon Ducks Saturday for what looked like, in the pre-season to be a tough game. Then, Oregon imploded at Boise State (Boise tried to give the game away but the Duck's did not want it), they struggled to beat Purdue by 2 points at home (one of the worst teams in the Big Ten) and beat a Utah team which also looked a lot better in pre-season.

Oregon lost a TON of players from a team last year that the Bears handled handily in Berkeley (26 to 16). Cal, on the other hand, is a much stronger team. This game is in Eugene, so there is the possibility that the Road crowd will make the Bears a bit nervous. However, last time we played there in this position, against a Dennis Dixon as a Senior led team, the Bears pulled it out even with an injured Nate Longshore, who did not pass for the entire 4th quarter. Autzen Stadium is not a Bear trap. This is one game where the team will be up, and will be ready to play against.

Most of the players had a Oregon Scholarship offer. All of the players know JT and Ludwig coached there. JT is not going to let Oregon off the hook on this game, guaranteed. He always pulls out the stops, and gets the offense flowing.

Obviously, this year, our best foot forward is Jahvid Best. That being said, we will probably start with pushing it up the gut. One of the best ways of taking a home team out of it is by running up the gut for three scores in a row. The Front running fans at Oregon, who trickle in during the half to see what the score is (particularly in a 12:30 game, when they want to be boozing it up before hand) are not going to be loud if they show up and the Bears are cruising. I think the Bears defense can clearly handle Masoli. He can take a hit, but not 15 or 20. Which is what he is going to get as the Bears take over this game. This is a statement game for the Bears about who wants the Pac 10. I think they know that, and I think Tedford's comments this week - even if not true - are a testament to that mind set. When he said that his players were practicing with intensity - not tense - but intense - that is a signal to the team. And I expect that they all know, this is the big week to show the world that the Bears can play on the road, they can win the games they need to, and they can take this title this year.

Meanwhile, back at USC....

Pete Carroll drags his QB under the bus, basically telling the media that he sucked, he was lucky not to have three or four more picks, and that Barkley is going to start- even though Barkley himself thinks he is not healed yet.

This is going to be interesting to see when Washington State goes after Barkley. One tough sack on that shoulder and he is out for the rest of that game, as well as the Cal game. Pete must be in a panic. The Bears are coming up next, he has no QB - he is thinking total implosion. I do not see them losing to Washington State - that is whey they are on the schedule. But really - he is kinda freaking out about his offense right now, and it is interesting to see how it is all going to go down when it finally does go down. There is not a lot of pretty under that smooth exterior.

Speaking of injuries - there was a bout of flu on the team, and maybe more than one. Matt Summers-Gavin went down for a day or so, but is apparently back practicing. Syd, however, is out with a sore back, and possibly a flu. So he is not playing right now. He needs to get better, before tomorrow.

Spencer Ladner will be out for a few weeks longer than expected. That is a difficult position for the Bears, as we have lost one to early NFL aspirations, one to injury already. I think we are down to five, but only two with any real experience playing. That is an area to keep an eye on.

Jahvid Best seems to be doing fine, after resting his foot up for a few days after the Minnesota game.