Sunday, December 31, 2006

Interesting Article

Jay Heater looks at Cal's 2007 prospects in his article today. I rearranged some parts and made some comments on his thoughts. (click here for article.)

Defensive Backfield

Cal's defensive backfield, as a whole, is in great shape. Starting rover Brandon Hampton returns as does starting cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and free safeties Bernard Hicks and Thomas DeCoud, who split the starting duties. However, defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will have to decide whether to move a guy like DeCoud to corner, or hope that sophomore-to-be Robert Peele will be ready for the challenge. Junior college transfers seldom have much of an impact their first year so that route isn't likely. There also is a wild card in the mix. Cal will petition the NCAA for a sixth year for cornerback Tim Mixon, who blew out his knee in training camp and missed the 2006 season. Mixon was injured in the fourth game of a 14-game season in 2003 and missed most of that season as well.

We hope that Mixon gets another year. There have been some rumors that it is not looking so good. Terry Mixon, Tim's younger brother, is coming to campus next year and might be a replacement choice. While I think Hughes is a dominating player, it is not as if Cal had the best pass defense. The loss of Hughes can be mitigated with better play by the unit as a whole. More time together leads to better communication and less missed assignments.

Offensive Backfield

The next issue is tailback. Although Marshawn Lynch hasn't announced his intention to enter the NFL draft, he most likely is gone. Draft experts have been predicting that he will go in the first round and it would be a huge risk to his financial future to return.

In his place next season will be Justin Forsett, who has excelled as a part-time player but has yet to carry the load as a starter for an entire season. At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Forsett probably eased the minds of Old Blues with a 124-yard rushing effort in the Holiday Bowl.

One of Cal's top 2006 recruits, James Montgomery, also will be ready to go after redshirting his first season.

Montgomery is touted as the next great Cal tailback. Forsett can have a J.J. like season because he is a straight line runner that can hit holes quickly. Watch for Tracy Slocum, redshirt freshman, and Jahvid Best, an incoming speedster, next year.

Defensive Line

Shifting back to defense, Cal continues to search for the Holy Grail, also known as a pass rush force off the edge. Senior defensive end Nu'u Tafisi led the Bears with 5.5 sacks this season. That kind of sack total isn't going to strike fear into the heart of any quarterback.

Both Tafisi, and fellow senior defensive end Abu Ma'afala, will be gone. Defensive end Philip Mbakogu, expected to be Cal's top pass rusher this season, has never recovered from offseason knee surgery and his career might be over.

Rulon Davis, who missed most of this season with a stress fracture in his leg, looks the part at 6-5, 275 pounds. However, he is unproven.

Freshmen talents Cody Jones and Tyson Alualu will have to make some huge strides.

Although defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will be gone, defensive line coach Ken Delgado has stockpiled young talent in players such as Mika Kane, Derrick Hill and Michael Costanzo.

Pass rush was a concern all year. Cal did not have a dominating pass rusher like Andre Carter or Ryan Riddle. Philip Mbakogu was supposed to be the next big thing, but he has had injury problems. Incoming JC recruits can make an impact in pass rushing so many Cal has some help coming in there. Someone has to step up and I don't think we will know who until next year. Riddle really came out of nowhere before leading the nation in sacks.


Linebacker appears to be secure even though the Bears lost Pac-10 defensive player of the year Desmond Bishop along with Mickey Pimentel.

Sophomore Zack Follett is a huge playmaker who should be one of the conference's top defensive players in 2007. He will form a dynamite one-two punch inside along with junior-to-be Worrell Williams.

Anthony Felder had an injury plagued 2006 after earning freshman All American honors in 2005. Pimentel's departure should open up a spot for him.

Bishop was the heart of the defense and will be missed. But Cal is loaded at linebacker. Every year Tedford recruits bigger and faster linebackers and they learn the system with a couple years on the bench. Williams - Follett - Felder will be one of the top LB units in the nation. Also, Moye off the bench and Shea McIntyre, a hard hitting freshman, should lend depth to the unit.

Passing Offense

The offense should be dynamic with wide receivers Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins all returning. Quarterback Nate Longshore will have a full season under his belt and will be coming off a 19-of-24 passing performance in the Holiday Bowl. Cal has arguably the best returning tight end in the conference in Craig Stevens.

Jackson, Jordan, Hawkins, nuff said. Longshore had a great performance to end the season. He deserves to open the season as the starting QB. The 2nd year under Tedford is usually the break out year. (See Aaron Rodgers). Watch for Cameron Morrah in the TE position. He is Cal's version of Antonio Gates.

Offensive Line

...and the first-team all-conference center returning in Alex Mack and a second-team tackle in Mike Gibson.

If Mike Tepper, who will be a junior, develops into an impact player as expected, Cal's offensive line should be better.

No worries on the pass blocking. They do a good job of keeping Longshore upright. Lets hope that the road maulers that showed up at the Holiday Bowl are ready at the beginning of next season.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Full Circle

A short pass to the right, a nine yard catch and scamper, the ball carrier is brought down as the clock ticks down to zero. Nestled in the San Diego night among the loyal Blue and Gold faithful, a few words immediately came to mind: validation, redemption, respect. Sentiments echoed by Coach Tedford during the Holiday Bowl trophy presentation ceremony when he lauded the efforts of his graduating seniors (the first group of recruits that Tedford personally signed to Cal). For this group of young men, their Cal Football careers came to an end last night much in the same way it began way back in the first game of the 2002 season; a thorough domination of a Big 12 opponent from Texas.

At first glance, a 45-10 win in a bowl game over a nationally ranked Texas A&M team doesn’t seem to have all that much in common with 70-22 drubbing of lowly Baylor. After all, we’re the Sturdy Golden Bears, Pac-10 Co-Champions, and a 10 win team for the second time in 3 years. How easily we all forget the bad times. And God bless Jeff Tedford for making it so easy to forget.

When the Cal Bears kicked off their 2002 season against Baylor, they were coming off an utterly miserable 1 win season, and weren’t exactly huge favorites to do much better any time soon. But all I remember from that sunny Berkeley day was cannon shot after cannon shot, echoing through Strawberry Canyon. Time and again the blasts resounded, loudly proclaiming the dawn of a new era; shaking the Cal Team & Fans from the nightmare of the season before. Instant validation for the new regime, redemption for the downtrodden, respect taken by force.

A college career and a lifetime later, the freshman (most of whom red shirted) from that 2002 team can proudly call themselves the cornerstone of the Cal program. Sadly, many of these players don’t get the name recognition or love they deserve, even from the Cal fans. Ask yourselves; is there a Marshawn Lynch without the frightening road grater that is Erik Robertson? How did Rodgers or Longshore make that beautiful pass without guys like Scott Smith keeping the other teams’ uglies off them? How much did the Cal secondary miss the heady plays of Tim Mixon this year? Where would the program be today without Steve Levy riding from obscurity to the rescue last season? Does Cal get recruits like Lynch or D Jax without the success that these players engendered? Is there even a team at all without guys like Eric Beegun, Randy Bundy, David Gray, and Marcus O’Keith all unselfishly buying into the family atmosphere of Tedford’s program?

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this class is that they took a complete leap of faith when they signed with Cal. The immediate success that Tedford’s teams enjoyed made it much easier to land the big time HS superstars and the talented juco standouts. And this post isn’t about lifting this class above any others, or saying that one player's contributions counted for more. But these young men were the first. They were the trailblazers who helped put Cal football back on the path towards national respectability; to the Roses. Their portion of the road came to an end last night, but they went out the way that they came in. Validation of their faith in Tedford and Cal, Redemption for the shaky end to this season and a past Holiday Bowl failure, Respect well earned. Go Bears, and we wish you guys all the best.

Nice Win, Go Bears

Awesome win by the Bears at the Holiday Bowl. This is a great way to finish the season and plenty of momentum heading into 2007. Game recap to follow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Game Day

When you break down the two teams in the Holiday Bowl, they are remarkably similar...

Both started the season strong with 8 wins in 9 games. Both stumbled at the end with 2 losses in their final 3 contests. One difference is that Texas A&M finished the season strong with an upset over rival Texas in the final game of the regular season. Cal limped through an uninspired win over hapless Stanford. But does a strong finish mean anything?

Let's ask UCLA. Huge win over cross town rival USC to finish the season. Lays an egg against FSU in the Emerald Bowl. How do you shut down USC but allow a Jeff Bowden offense to score 40+ on you. I hope DeWayne Walker secretly signed a head coaching contract prior to that game, because all the goodwill he gained for the USC game just went out the window.

So back to the Bears...

We already gave you our score prediction, so now we are going to tell you want to look for in the game.

- TAMU RB Jorvorski Lane vs Cal LB Desmond Bishop
Texas A&M has a 275 lb running back. Cal has a 265 lb linebacker. Much is being made of this match up and it should be interesting to watch. But Desmond is a solid tackler and does not seem to have problems with size so much as speed.

- TAMU QB Stephen McGee/RB Mike Goodsen vs Cal LB Worrell Williams/Mickey Pimentel
When TAMU runs the option wide it will be up to the outside linebackers to contain. Either force McGee to pitch to Goodsen and lets Hughes and Thompson make solid tackles on the outside, or force McGee to turn it back inside and face a big hit from Bishop. It is important that the linebackers do not over pursue, play within their assignments. McGee does not turn the ball over and Goodsen is a speedster averaging almost 7 a carry.

- TAMU pass defense vs Cal wide receivers
I really can't remember the last time the Cal receivers came up big as a unit. Sure, there were great individual efforts but you have to go back to the Oregon game to see the receivers really playing well together. What this means is no dropped balls, crisp routes, staying in bounds, not falling down over your own feet. TAMU pass defense is good (they shut down Colt McCoy and Texas) but the Cal offense is a different beast than what they face in the Big 12.

- San Diego Wind vs Cal QB Nate Longshore
Mother Nature is testing our boy Longshore. Windy conditions at Memorial Stadium against Stanford is normal. Windy conditions in San Diego, land of perpetual summer, is just a bad sign. It seems that unless conditions are perfect Longshore has the possibility of struggling. He has not gotten into a passing rhythm in quite a while and we will see if the wind will play with his head.

Enjoy the game in San Diego. Cheer for your Bears and celebrate a great win. Again, this is a program that is climbing and will climb to new heights. We are only at the beginning of the Tedford Era.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Bowl

For those fans who do not know anything about Texas A&M and want to bone up on the opponent prior to tomorrow's game, please check out Tightwad Hill.

He has done a great job of breaking down all the units of Texas A&M and also has a great Q&A with a rival blogger.

Here is our take on the Holiday Bowl:

1) Cal needs to win this bowl to shake the "soft" rep it has slowly been developing nationwide. Tedford has closed practice to the public and the media so it seems like the team is taking this game very seriously. There should not be any let down like in 2004 and the Bears should be ready for this game.

2) Texas A&M has one of those offenses that can really mess up DC Bob Gregory's bend but don't break approach. They have two good tailbacks and a QB that plays with a lot of heart. Texas A&M runs a variation of the option. Sometimes it is the spread option, other times it is the straight options and sometimes it is a pound it between the tackles run game. Is Cal disciplined enough to not over pursue and play assignment football? I am not sure... Cal always seems to give up some sort of big play at the wrong time. The key is Bishop. He needs to be able to quickly shed blockers and get to the point of attack.

3) The offense needs to get back on track. Let's send Marshawn out in the grand style he deserves. (Side note: SI had a small blurb about Marshawn being ROY in the NFL next year.) Also, it is time to start the DeSean Jackson Heisman campaign. No way, Texas A&M can keep up with DJax. Give Longshore sometime and let him air it out to Jackson. Also, I wouldn't mind seeing Ayoob or Levy get in the game.

Prediction: 42 - 31 Cal over Texas A&M

This will be a shootout. Tedford will have the troops ready but the defense will have a hard time against the option. Special teams (read Jackson) will play a role in deciding the game.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Is this the cause?

For why the passing game has suffered toward the end of the season. Excerpt from SF Chronicle story about DB's.

"When someone is trash-talking, it makes me play better," Hawkins said. "The way I see it: If I'm talking mess, I better back it up."

Hawkins' favorite line to defensive backs is simple.

"I told you," he said. "I tell them exactly what I'm going to do, and then, I beat them even though they know what's coming. That's the best feeling.

"You can come back and say, 'I spoke to you like a man, told you what I was going to do and you still couldn't stop me.' "

Based on Hawkins stats at the end of the season, perhaps he should keeps his routes to himself. Also, after you do beat them, try to stay balanced and cross the goal line.

This is all in good jest. Hawkins and Jackson will make a great WR combo next year. Jordan still has to show me more to prove he belongs and there are some freshman and incoming recruits that will push for playing time early.

Sorry for the lack of posts...

Interesting notes of lates...

- Stanford hires Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Perfect. If he performs even moderately well (.500) he will jump to any other job offered to him leaving the Furd back in the hole they currently reside. Harbaugh is a mercenary or better yet a whore, who will do anything for a bigger payday and more exposure. Good job Stanford.

- Byron Storer breaks arm and is out for the Holiday Bowl. We wish Storer the best of luck and thank him for his great work this season. (Interesting side story: the blog had a post about this news with a less positive tone about Storer. Follow the link and read the comments. It is an interesting debate about the younger generation of Bear fans and if they really understand how far the program has come. Read here.) There is also a diary entry about the topic that is interesting also. Read here.

- DeSean Jackson win Randy Moss Return Man Award. This was the first year for the award. Honestly, this should be renamed the DeSean Jackson Return Man award by next year.

- Recruiting news!!!
  • Devin Bishop commits. Younger brother of Desmond Bishop. Should be a solid contributor.
  • 2 Tight Ends commit, Skyler Curran and Savai'i Eselu. Cameron Morrah has the TE spot locked up until he leaves for the NFL, but we always need depth.
  • Jahvid Best, 4 star running back, commits to Cal (turned down USC and ND). Some are saying he is the fastest player ever to come to Cal. Yes, faster than DeSean. He ran a 10.39 in the 100 meter dash. Cal is pretty loaded at running back with Forsett, Montgomery and Slocum but who doesn't need a sub 10.5 100 guy to mix things up.
  • Terry Mixon commits. Younger brother of Tim Mixon. Will the Mixon brothers man both corners?
- 2 highly rated USC freshmen, Antwine Perez and Stafon Johnson, are looking to transfer. Looks like the luster is starting to fade. Expect Carroll to jump to the Arizona Cardinals this off season and avoid the sanctions imposed on the program after the Reggie Bush fiasco.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

USC Song Girl Cheers At Wrong Time - AGAIN

A friend sent this to me recently. It amazes me what people are able to pick out on camera and link back to the past.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is it too early to talk 2007 Heisman?

Apparently not, CFN has listed the top 26 players for next year's Heisman. Cal's DeSean Jackson came in at #11: (Full article)
11. DeSean Jackson, WR/KR California
A blend of Reggie Bush and Ted Ginn, Jackson will make everyone's highlight reel week after week taking the honor of being America's most electrifying player.
Marshawn Lynch was left off the list because CFN is certain he is jumping to the NFL, but he would have been #11 if he stays. Colt Brennan, Hawaii's recording setting QB, is on top of the list. Don't laugh just because he plays in Hawaii, David Klinger and Andre Ware both played for lower profile schools and put up some crazy numbers to take the Heisman. For Brennan to win would take a lot, but at least he is getting some early pub. When does go up for the Heisman campaign?

Tedford's New Whipping Boy

Much to the surprise of no one, Stanford fired Walt Harris earlier this week. So who will be Tedford's new whipping boy in the Big Game. Here is a list of candidates being mentioned.

Norm Chow, Tenn Titans
The former USC offensive coordinator was actually passed over for Harris. Everyone knows he really wants to be a head coach but rumor has it he does not have a head coaching make up (read: gets walked all over).

Mike Leach, Texas Tech
There was a rumor going around the Leach was taking the Miami job but have not heard anything since. This is the same man that led his team over Cal in the 2004 Holiday Bowl. I would prefer he go to Miami.

Steve Kragthorpe, Tusla
Though the average fan may not know Kragthorpe, he is actually one of the hottest names in college coaching right now. I think Kragthorpe waits to see what happens with some of the larger vacancies (Miami, Alabama, BC), wait for the shuffling to start (Rich Rodriguez to Alabama?) and then find a place better suited for him than Stanford.

DeWayne Walker, UCLA
UCLA defensive coordinator just saw his stock shoot up after the USC game. He is riding a high wave right now and he should be ready to jump. I don't mind him moving to Stanford. Tedford has a good bead on Walker and should continue to light him up even across the Bay.

Jim Harbaugh, San Diego (University)
Captain Comeback is now coaching down in the land of SD. His father was an assistant at Stanford and he is a rising star. But with little experience, I would have no problem with him taking the job at Stanford.

And last but not least, Al Borges, Aurburn
If you recall, Al Borges was the vaunted UCLA OC that came to Cal for the 2001 season. His West Coast offense was suppose to take Kyle Boller to new heights. Well... Cal finished that season 1-10 and Borges moved on to another school. Under Borges, Cal average just over 18 points per game. The next year under Tedford, with essentially the same team, Cal average over 35 points per game. Please Al Borges, sign with Stanford, fulfill your dream to be a head coach and make that team even worse.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Are You Happy Now?

Let's say I told you before the season started that the following would happen for the Cal football team...

- Pac 10 co-champions
- Pac 10 Offensive Player of the Year: Marshawn Lynch
- Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year: Daymeion Hughes
- Fifth consecutive Big Game victory
- #1 in the Pac 10 in offense
- DeSean Jackson returns 4 punts for TD
- Stanford only wins one game the entire year

Would you have considered that a great season and given up your left kidney? I would. (I am partial to my right kidney.) So to all the people out there crying about how the Big Game was too close and Cal is not going to the Rose Bowl, try to see the glass at 15/16th full not 1/16th empty. Enjoy a great year by your Bears and get ready for a great game against Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. This is a program that is continuing to reach new heights and the future looks very bright. Go Bears, Beat A&M.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wow, talk about quitting...

The Cal Golden Bear Football News always posts great articles about Cal everyday. There was one of particular interest to us, from the Stanford Review, especially after our post on the #1 reason why Cal is better than Stanford. Here are some excerpts from the article.

Facing another year where the Stanford University football team will be crushed by Cal’s, the fifth consecutive time for those keeping score, our school stands at a bit of a crossroads. Berkeley coach Jeff Tedford is consistently producing top-25 football teams with Heisman candidates. We find ourselves in ESPN’s Bottom 10 rankings. These two facts mean that we won’t be beating Cal in football for the foreseeable future, which begs the question: should we continue to care about Cal? They have a much larger student body and lower academic standards for athletes. One Cal newspaper even declared that we were unfit to be rivals.

We’re happy to take our rivalry elsewhere. Cal clearly lucked-out having us a rival; if they would prefer UC Davis, well, they can have them. We always knew that we could do better than Cal...

It is interesting that the author chooses UC Davis as an example. After what Davis has done to Stanford the past couple years, it makes sense that the Trees would fear a rivalry with Davis. The author ignores that fact that Stanford, prior to the last 5 years has been competitive and actually won the previous 7 Big Games. During which time Stanford also went to the Rose Bowl. How quick they are to jump off the bandwagon on the Farm. When the going gets tough, the trees just quit.

...The task now is to find a new rival, one much more like our fine school (meaning a private school), a school that we can fairly compete against, and beat on occasion, and sometimes badly.

First off, we’d for once like to have a school that would be in the same academic league as us, and Princeton, with their #1 position in the U.S. News rankings, certainly fits the bill. We still have a higher yield and lower acceptance rate, so we’re about equal in the academic category. Second, we need to face the facts, and schedule Division I-AA teams for our football team to have a chance. We should play at least a couple of games that we have a chance in every year to keep morale above the “nihilism” level...

Once Princeton starts beating Stanford who will the Cardinal want next. Perhaps a local JC or maybe an international program where football is actually soccer.

...This will be far more inspiring than getting thrashed by Cal every year. Both schools could get into this rivalry of equals.

So we’d like to extend an invitation to Princeton University to be our rival. It’s in the best interest for both schools, and would make for an exciting cross-country rivalry. We’ve had enough of the Bears. And they have had enough of us, apparently. Bring on the Tigers.
Seriously, I did not make this up. This is an actual article. Here is the link: Stanford Says Uncle. This is some great writing. I particularly like how you can almost hear the whiny nasal toned voice of the author as you read the words. Go Bears.

Big Game Preview - Bullet Point Edition

Cal Offense
- Establish the run early with Lynch.
- Use play action to create opportunities for the WR.
- Get Jackson/Hawkins/Jordan involved early with a couple short passes.
- Use some early easy passes to get Longshore into his rhythm.

Cal Defense
- Pressure the QB. This is not absolutely necessary to win the game, I just want to see the Bears finally generate some pressure with the front 4.
- Tackle. Nothing gets an underdog team more excited than the broken tackle big play. Keep the man in front of you and take him down.
- Be aggressive. This contradicts the earlier points, but until 3 games ago, Cal was a ball hawking team. Interceptions and turnovers were out bread and butter. If a defender has a chance to create a turnover, take it, especially against this team.
- Don't have a let down. Defense played great for 3 quarters against USC, don't let the loss carry over to the Big Game.

This is a quiet Big Game. But it should be an exciting one for Cal fans because expect to see lots of big plays. Marshawn is possibly playing his last game at Memorial Stadium. Walt Harris has stated that he will not punt away from Jackson. So there should be many Sportscenter worthy moments. Lastly, if it is a blowout, watch till the end because you might get a glimpse at the future, particularly on the defense. Expect younger players to get playing time if this game gets out of hand early. Also watch for TE Cameron Morrah (who seems to be related to Contra Costa Times columnist Jay Heater for the amount of ink he gets for a backup) who is a future Tony Gonzales.

#1: Athletics

I had a hard time putting this into a single term because I am not talking about championships or wins, but the larger spirit of athletics. Cal students know that nothing is handed to them and you fight for everything. What does not kill you only makes you stronger... in that same vein, Cal athletics represents that spirit.
Regardless of the sports, Cal teams never quit. They always represent their school proudly and show up ready to play. I think this attitude is reflected in the general student body.

Similarly, Stanford athletics is reflective of their students. They feel entitled to things in life; coasting through undergrad with little regard for hard work. When the going does get tough (I assume that mean getting a "B" in a class) oftentimes they fold.

Here are two recent examples of the Stanford attitude:
1) The Stanford football team has been plagued by reports of players quitting. Leading tackler Michael Okwo was reported to have quit the team but then rejoined. Even when Cal was 1-10, the team played hard and never embarassed the school.
2) Stanford Rugby team forfeits match against Cal Rugby. This best exemplified the attitude of Stanford and its athletics. Greatly overmatch, the Stanford team choose to take the easy way out rather than man up and play. With the amount of monumental upsets that occur in sports every year, it take quite a group of quitters to think that they have no shot of winning. I imagine when the Stanford rugby players asked their friends on campus if they should forfeit the match, the overwhelming response was, "Sure, no shame in quitting, I just dropped 4 classes after I took the final."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What to watch for...

With the Holiday Bowl already locked down and the spread on the game being nearly 30 points, it seems like the Big Game is not that big. So here are some things to watch for...

Marshawn vs DeSean
Both are tied for the conference lead in total touchdowns with 13 a piece. This should be a good chance for both to score plenty. Marshawn will probably come out ahead in the TD battle unless Stanford punts to DeSean, then all bets are off.

Levy vs Ayoob
Who will get the call in the fourth quarter of a blowout? Will it be last year's Big Game hero (Levy) or the backup QB (Ayoob)? Isn't that enough to keep you watching till the end?

Bishop vs Mebane vs Follet vs Pimentel
Who will knock TC Ostrander, Stanford's QB, out of the game? I remember watching his play in the 2004 Big Game and get sacked over and over. It got so bad I was hoping Stanfurd would take him out of the game for his own safety. Smart money is on Mebane but Follet can absolutely destroy QB's on blitzes. TC better have his head on a swivel.

#2: Culture

Simple List

Cal Stanford
Public School Private School
Telegraph Ave Strip Mall
Free Speech Movement Band mocks religious groups
Counter Culture Corporate Culture

Holiday Bowl Set: Cal vs Texas A&M

It is official. Yesterday Texas A&M accepted a bid to the Holiday Bowl. While this is not as enticing as the Cal vs Texas matchup, it will still be a good game.

Texas A&M defeated Texas in their annual grudge match to finish their regular season on a high note. This is also a chance for the Bears to make a statement heading into the 2007 season.

See you in San Diego.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

#3: Alumni

Category Cal Alumni Stanford Alumni
Joan Didion
Scott Turow (Poor man's John Grisham)

Gregory Peck

Male Child Stars (Fred and Ben Savage, Danny Pintauro)

Norman Mineta

Condi Rice (War monger)

Gordon Moore
Craig Barrett (worked for Moore at Intel)
Followers or over the hill former male child stars

Of course there are more distinguished alumni from both school but this random sample set should proves Cal's superiority.

Cal Accepts Holiday Bowl Bid

As most readers know by now, Cal has accepted a bid to the Holiday Bowl. Most likely opponent will be Texas A&M. Other possible opponents are Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, depending on how the conference championship game turns out.

If the opponent turns out to be Texas, I can see Old Blues turning up in droves to cheer for Cal and jeer the hated Mack Brown. While it is not the Rose Bowl that we all hoped for, it is still a good bowl and San Diego is always warm. Go Bears.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pac 10 Awards: Cal sweeps

Offensive Player of the Year: Marshawn Lynch
Defensive Player of the Year: Daymeion Hughes

First Team
Marshawn Lynch - RB
DeSean Jackson - WR
Alex Mack - OL
Brandon Mebane - DL
Desmond Bishop - LB
Daymeion Hughes - DB
Special Teams
DeSean Jackson - PR

Second Team
Craig Stevens - TE
Mike Gibson - OL
Nu'u Tafisi - DL
Special Teams
Andrew Larson - P
Bryan Storer - ST

This is an impressive haul for the Bears. Longshore did not make the cut most likely because of his poor performance down the stretch. A couple weeks ago people were saying he was a lock for first team QB. Funny how things change so quickly.

But congrats to Marshawn and Daymeion for winning POY honors. I am sure if there was a Special Teams POY award, DeSean would have taken that easily.

#4: Campus

Reason #4 why Berkeley is better than Stanfurd.

UC Berkeley CampusBeautiful campus nestled within a vibrant city. Diverse architecture and natural landscaping.

Stanfurd CampusIsolated campus tucked away from the scary "real" world. Suburban strip mall architecture and artificial "let's dye the pond blue" landscaping.

Rivarly Week + Gambling = Danger

People in the South take football and money seriously. Can't imagine what would have happened if these two bet a benjamin on the game. Makes you think twice about making a side bet on the game.

LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) -- A man fatally shot his friend with a high-powered rifle in a dispute over a $20 bet on the South Carolina-Clemson football game, authorities said Sunday.

James Walter Quick, 42, was charged with murder in the shooting of Richard Allen Johnson, 43. Johnson died from a single shot to the chest, according to a preliminary autopsy Sunday.

The two had bet $20 on the annual game, with Quick taking South Carolina, which won 31-28, and Johnson taking Clemson, Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said. They drank beer all afternoon and watched the game Saturday at Johnson's home, and began arguing about the bet after the game.

Metts said Quick went to his car, got the rifle he normally uses for hunting and fired one shot, hitting Johnson in the chest. Deputies arrested Quick.

Monday, November 27, 2006

#5: The Bands

Number 5 reason why Cal is awesome and Stanfurd sucks is the bands.
- Cal band: Classy, looks good, sounds good, and always puts on a good show
- Stanfurd band: Classless (proud of being racist), sounds and looks terrible. The Stanfurd band recognizes their shortcomings when they have to hide their lack of musical talent behind offensive halftime shows for cheap laughs.

Cal Band Great
Get Off the Field Retards
(Found this pic by typing "retarded band" in google.)

Big Game Week

This is a great week for Cal fans. Big Game week is always a great time. Bonfires, rallies, the band on campus... if you are in the Bay Area, make sure to check out these other events

1) Big Game Titration: Watch Red turn to Blue at 1 Pimentel (Wed.)

2) Cable Car Rally: Ghiradelli Square (today, so take a longer lunch and head on over)
3) Night Rally: All over campus at night (Tues.)
4) Big Freeze: Men's Ice Hockey (Thurs.)

We'll be doing a Top 5 reasons why Cal is better than Stanford this week as a countdown to the big game. Go Bears.

Rose Bowl Possibilities?

(Sorry for the lack of posts the last couple days. Now that we are past Thanksgiving, we are back on our daily posting schedule.)

So there is still the smallest chance that Cal can make it to the Rose Bowl through the back door. Here is what has to happen...
1) USC finished #2 in the BCS and plays in the BCS championship game.
2) Cal finishes in the top 14 of the BCS polls.
3) The Rose Bowl selects Cal over higher ranked teams.

Let's assume that if the first 2 happen that the Rose Bowl will select Cal as the replacement team for USC. This is a big assumption, but the Rose Bowl has not released Cal from the BCS bowl selection which means there is still a shot. So what are the chances of the top two things happening.

1) There is a high likelihood that USC will steamroll UCLA and clinch a spot in the championship. Michigan has no more games and can only leapfrog USC with a USC loss. Florida has to beat Arkansas by a considerable margin (I don't think they will even beat them) and have USC struggle or lose. So I would say the chance of USC playing in the BCS championship game is high.

2) Cal finishing in the top 14 will require a lot more.
  • Cal must stomp all over Stanford. I am talking 30+ a least.
  • Cal is currently #18 in the BCS, so 4 teams must fall below Cal.
    • WVU or Rutgers: They play each other and the loser will most likely drop in the polls. This game has to be a blowout for the victor for Cal to benefit.
    • Oklahoma: Must lose to Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. But Nebraska must not be too impressive to leapfrog Cal.
    • Wake Forest: Loses to G. Tech in the ACC championship game.
    • Cal closes the gap between Tenn and themselves in the human polls and gets a slight push up from the computer polls.
    • No teams leapfrog Cal in the BCS.
Perhaps this is all wishful thinking. Makes that Arizona game that much harder to take now.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

No Respect

Doak Walker Award Finalists (Best RB)
- Mike Hart, Michigan
- Steve Slaton, WVU
- Darren McFadden, Arkansas

Marshawn does not have the stats that these three do. Mostly because of injuries and the fact that he averages under 20 carries a game. Hart gets something like 80 a game and averages 1.5 yards per carry. All these player and Marshawn are deserving of being finalists. But if you want one player to start a team, Marshawn is the man.

Jim Thorpe Award Finalists (Best DB)
- Leon Hall, Michigan
- Reggie Nelson, Florida
- Aaron Ross, Texas

Seriously??? The best DB in the nation, Daymeion Hughes, can't even crack the top 3 for this award. Good job Leon Hall getting torched by OSU on Saturday. You were a real stopper.
Reggie Nelson and Aaron Ross, if you played for different teams we would hardly know you. Hughes was a shut down corner in a pass happy league. He deserves better than this.

Biletnikoff Award Finalists (Best WR)
- Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
- Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame
- Jarett Dillard, Rice

They should change this to the All Rep Award. Both Johnson and JS are finalists based on reputation and hype. They certainly did not have the numbers this year to be up for this award. Let's list some numbers (ranking is based on receiving yards):

Rank Name Games Rec Yards TD
2) Robert Meachem 11 61 1149 10
9) Jarett Dillard 11 76 1031 17
17) Calvin Johnson 11 57 886 13
18) Jeff Samardija 11 64 879 10
22) DeSean Jackson 11 47 852 9

These are some numbers for the top receivers in the nation this year. Obviously, Johnson and Jeff are finalists based on last year's stats. Jackson's stats are very similar to Samardija and Jackson did not have the luxury of piling up numbers against Army, Navy and the Coast Guard. Johnson is the most overrated of the WR. Voters probably have not seen him play especially considering in one of his biggest nationally televised games this season he was shut out, zero catches. Meachem's stats are obviously better than Johnson's against significantly better competition.
This trend does bode well for Cal next year. DeSean should be a lock for making the finalist list for this trophy regardless of his stats next year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Some Thoughts on the game...

Sorry it took so long to post something new. We have been having a hard time getting out of bed much less turning on our computers after that loss to SC. Most of Cal nation probably saw the game so there is no need for a recap. Here are some random thoughts.

- Nate Longshore
Some Cal fans are calling for Kevin Riley (Tedford's hotshot QB recruit) to replace Longshore next year. While Longshore's play was disappointing, not just in the USC game but the last 4 weeks, Cal fans should not abondon him. Remember, this is Nate's first full season as a starter and there is a big jump, usually, in progress by QB's from the first to second year.
Longshore handled USC's pressure well, throwing the ball away when he was rushed or trying to hit the hot route. More disconcerting was his inability to scan the field. Many times throughout the night, he would lock in on one receiver. This allowed USC linbackers to slip into passing lanes by looking at his eyes. Also, when given time, Longshore sometimes takes too much time. His fumble in the first half was easily avoidable if he had either taken off and run for 5 yards or thrown the ball away. These tendencies need to be corrected by Tedford next year.
Lastly, there is something about Longshore's demeanor that lacks a killer instinct. Based on interviews, he seems like a happy go lucky kid, joking around in the huddle and having a good time. But in the fourth quarter, when you are down to a top 5 team, you don't want to see your QB laughing with an opposing player. Was there a game this year where Longshore led the Bears back to victory when the team was down? The Washington game seemed more Lynch than Longshore. And against Arizona and USC he did not produce much when Cal was behind. These are some of the questions he has to answer.

- Run Blocking
Perhaps Cal fans were spoiled by the dominant offensive lines of years past. But, the run game against USC was very much lacking. USC players were quickly in the backfield which made prevented Lynch from hitting any holes. He had some nice run to the outside, but that was more his speed than the blocking of the O-line. Give all the credit in the world to the O-line for their great pass blocking this season. But when it was 2nd and 1 or 4th and inches, Cal fans were never confident that the Bears would convert.

- Play Calling
There was one reverse to Jackson. One deep ball to Jackson. A couple plays where Marshawn lined up wide and came back to the backfield to take a handoff. But otherwise not a very imaginative offense. In years past, pundits stated that Tedford had to take what USC superior defense would give him. Hence the short passes in 2004. But this year, Cal was supposed to have the superior talent. It is up to Cal to dictate the game when they have the better players. So, USC is double covering DeSean deep with a safety... then have Hawkin run a post up the middle of the field. How about some play action to freeze the linebackers from dropping into coverage? Why not send Marshawn out in the flat more or on wheel routes? USC linebackers are athletic but even they can not cover Marshawn.
One last comment. Screen passes used to result in some of Cal's greatest gains. Against USC they never seemed to work even when USC was blitzing. There was one play in the second half where the screen looked like it was going to work. USC blitzed, Longshore dumped off to Lynch who had 4 O-lineman around him. One USC linebacker came from the weak side to take him down. He had at least 15 yard of day light in front of him. Great play by the USC defender, poor execution by Cal. Also, what happened to the wide receiver screen?

- Final Thought
The season is not over. Stomping all over Stanfurd is always a good time. And a victory in the Holiday Bowl over some Big 12 team (Texas A&M) will be icing on the cake. A 10 win season is nothing to sneeze at. Cal is reaching new heights and with that come lofty expectations. But let's not be so quick to disregard all the team has done this year. Remember, 1-10 was not so long ago.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cal vs U$C Prediction

Final Score: 35-24, Cal over USC

How it will happen:
First Half
7-0: Marshawn Lynch on a short TD run on the opening drive.
7-7: JD Booty to Steve Smith on a slant in the red zone.
14-7: Nate Longshore on a long pass play to Lavelle Hawkins on the right sideline.
14-10: USC kicker will kick a field goal.

Second Half
21-10: Fumble by Chauncey Washington on a hit by Desmond Bishop and picked up by Zack Follett and taken to the house. (Or DJax punt return of 68 yards).
28-10: Longshore 12 yards TD pass to Jackson lined up in the slot on a corner route to the back of the end zone.
28-17: JD Booty to Fred Davis for 5 yard TD pass.
35-17: Marshawn Lynch 34 yard TD run after breaking 3 tackles against a worn down USC defense.
35-24: Washington will run for a meaningless TD late in the 4th.

Of course there is room for variation. For instance, Marshawn final TD might be for 36 yards instead of 34. Go Bears, Beat $C.

Q&A w/ Michael Silver from SI - Part II

RBBID: There has been some talk recently (especially after the Arizona loss) that Cal does not play well when high expectations are placed on the team. Do you think that there is any validity to these statements?

MS: First of all, this is yet another sign of progress: The complaint is that we don’t play well enough in big games. Compare that to 20 penalties—including eight false starts—in our 11th game of the season in 1999 (when Stanfurd beat us to go to the Rose Bowl), and we’ve come a long way, baby. I don’t think that’s a fair charge. Virtually every game was huge in 2004, and we played well in most of them, including the SC loss. Texas Tech obviously was a disappointment, though it’s not like we had a whole lot to gain by winning that game. I guess my answer is that when we have a quarterback who isn’t throwing the ball six feet over a receiver’s head or seemingly panicking in the face of pressure, we play pretty well in big games. Again, perspective: We ended a 28-year losing streak to Washington and now we beat them every time. We ended a seven-year Big Game losing streak (and 2-12-1 stretch) and have punked Stanfurd four times in a row. We’ve won two out of three from UCLA, and when they’ve beaten us down there the games have been very close. We’ve won two of the last three from Oregon, though we probably didn’t deserve the one in ’04. We kill Arizona State every year; it’s a ritual. We beat SC in ’03. And we’re going to do it again, dammit.

RBBID: What does Cal need to do to beat USC at the Coliseum on Saturday?

MS: Protect the quarterback, pure and simple. If we give Longshore time he will get the ball to the people who need to have it. I fully expect DeSean to go off in front of his homies from the LBC, and I think this is the game when Marshawn Lynch will take over. All we need is for Longshore to have some time and for the defense to play it’s ‘A’ game, like it did against Oregon. That and for Tommy Trojan to fall off that insufferable horse, bump his head and go staggering onto the field and in front of the free safety when Marshawn is cutting back for the winning score.

RBBID: What are your predictions for the USC game? Both as a writer for SI and as a Cal alum?

MS: That’s like asking, “What are your predictions for World War II, both as a war analyst and as an American?” There is no possible way I can be objective about this game, and I can assure you that when my age-inappropriate drunken friends and I begin chanting “SC Sucks” five minutes before kickoff, I will not be doing so as an SI writer. So here is my prediction: It will be a good, back-and-forth game, and in the end good shall prevail over evil. Nate Longshore is going to nut up and play the game of his life. Lord Jeff Tedford is going to come with the spellbinding gameplan. Brandon Mebane (who is so due), Desmond Bishop and the other LBs and the great Daymeion Hughes are going to ball like we’ve never seen them. DeSean is going to go off. And in the end, Marshawn Lynch, who is probably the best player we’ve had since Ron Rivera, and maybe since the gold rush, is going to give us a parting gift for which we will always be indebted.

RBBID: This blog is entitled Rose Bowl Before I Die, so you can guess which one I favor. But what would mean more to you, a Rose Bowl victory or a national championship?

MS: For me—growing up in L.A., raised in the era before BCS bullshit—it has always been about the Rose Bowl. And given that we have not won our conference for 48 years—48 years!—in football (and 47 in basketball, by the way… ecccch), we need to do that, right now, end of story. I do believe that once we go to the Rose Bowl and you and I are thus assured of dying happy, I’ll snap out of it. For example, it is inane that we have no playoff in college football, and I could give you 100 rational reasons why I feel this way. But until we go to the Rose Bowl, I won’t advocate for one, because it is something that MUST be experienced, by us. And, of course, it is all about us.

RBBID: I am a big fan of Stewart Mandel but I think it would be great to have you take over the SI college football blog. Any chance you will be covering more college football in the future?

MS: The only college football story I plan to write for SI (or is the lengthy first-person piece leading up to the Rose Bowl about all things Golden Bear—like my then-colleague, the great Rick Telander, did when his alma mater Northwestern went to Pasadena under Gary Barnett. It’ll be tough to convince the higher-ups to let me slip away from NFL coverage to do that, but I’m pretty sure the big boss, managing editor Terry McDonell, will greenlight it. That’s because, back in the day, he went to God’s University, too.

We will definitely keep an eye out for Michael's first person piece on Cal's first trip to the Rose Bowl in 48 years. It should be the cover story for SI that week. Go Bears. Beat $C.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Q&A w/ Michael Silver from SI - Part I

This is a very exciting post. A couple weeks ago, we posted a link to a Sports Illustrated interview with Marshawn Lynch and SI Senior Writer Michael Silver. Mr. Silver covers professional football for SI and joined the magazine in 1994. More importantly, he is a Cal alumni ('83-'88) and a HUGE Cal fan! (Check out his NFL column for updates on Cal athletics especially Cal softball.) Click here for a full bio.

We emailed Michael to thank him for the great interview and also asked him to do a Q&A for our blog. To our amazement, he agreed and answered every question we emailed him. (Seriously, we were amazed, we just stared at the email for a couple hours wondering if it was real.)

Part I deals with general Cal football issues and Part II, coming up Friday, is about the Cal vs USC game. Big ups to Mike for answering our questions! Enjoy.

Q&A w/ Michael Silver - Part I

RBBID: What are your feelings about Cal’s season to date? What did you think about the opening season loss to Tennessee and last week’s loss to Arizona?

Michael Silver: I’m thrilled with our season-to-date—the Arizona defeat being an obvious bummer, but come on: We’re playing a game in November for the Pac-10 championship? Beat SC and we go to the Rose Bowl? I’ll take that 100 seasons out of 100. The Tennessee game was curious, because it went against logic in many regards. We didn’t seem prepared; that never happens under Tedford. We looked slow—huh? We didn’t block or tackle well at all. Finally—and this is understandable, I guess—the quarterback absolutely looked unprepared and overwhelmed by the situation. To Longshore’s credit, he settled down afterward; and to the offensive line’s credit, they’ve largely protected him ever since. But he still scares me. All in all, I wasn’t devastated. To me, it was never about a national championship. I want a conference title and a Rose Bowl before I even start worrying about where we are in the BCS. What was troubling was that, after all these years of defending the Pac-10 against the legions of Southerners and others who’ve insisted it’s an inferior conference, I suddenly didn’t have a whole lot to say in our defense. If Cal is a fast Pac-10 team, Tennessee is a lot faster. Sadly, I have to agree that the SEC, pound-for-pound, is a tougher conference. The Arizona game was one of those nightmare afternoons where a lot of things conspired to go wrong, and still, we had a chance to pull it out. Obviously, we’ll have to play much, much, much better to beat SC, but almost every good college team has those kind of games. At the very least, it convinced me we weren’t national championship material.

RBBID: How would you compare this year’s team to the 2004 team that went 10-1 in the regular season?

MS: Well, first off, in 2004 we had Aaron Rodgers. That’s a huge difference. He was a big-time quarterback, and when you first got a look at what he could do, you got all short of breath and whispered to yourself, “I think he’s The One.” Until Lyman and then MacArthur went down, that team was SICK offensively. You’d see a receiver come out of his break and just know that the ball, within a second, would come zipping right at him, perfectly, for the completion. The line was also terrific; it would wear teams down and then pummel them in the fourth quarter. The Holiday Bowl comedown aside, that was a great, great season. If there were any justice in the world, we probably would’ve beaten SC (well, come to think of it, those unconscionable special-teams mistakes weren’t an injustice; they were our bad) and lost to Oregon, a game we held on to win because the wide-open guy dropped that fourth-down pass. We’d have gone to the Rose Bowl and played a great game against Michigan—and that shitbird Mack Brown would be an afterthought in Cal history. So I’ll take that team, because of Rodgers, but otherwise I think this team is much better: Daymeion Hughes and DeSean and the great linebackers and a better kicker and punter and special teams and all that. And I’m waiting for Nate to prove me wrong. Because, let’s face it, if we beat SC and go to the Rose Bowl, I’m going to answer this question a lot differently for the rest of time.

RBBID: Based on your NFL expertise, rank the following Bears based on NFL potential. Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, Nate Longshore, Daymeion Hughes, Brandon Mebane and Desmond Bishop. (Feel free to add any players I might have missed.)

MS: I’ll start with the player I think, ultimately, will have the biggest impact in the NFL, and I’ll work my way down: Marshawn will probably be the second running back drafted, behind Adrian Peterson, and I think he’ll be a big-time runner from a very early point in his career. I just hope he goes to a team that is suited to his talents—though, really, I think he’ll shine no matter where he goes. Daymeion Hughes probably won’t go as high as he should, because I suspect his 40 time won’t blow anyone away. But the kid has convinced me he can play, and if Mixon hadn’t gone down, it’s scary how many more plays he’d have made in ’06—and he’s made a ton already. He’ll be a legitimate corner in the league. DeSean has the pure speed to play on any level, but I think his true height and weight are going to be a little alarming to some teams. If nothing else he can be a slot receiver and a punt returner; and, of course, he could be Santana Moss. (And yes, I absolutely think he needs four years of college to fine-tune his game.) Bishop has a real chance, and Mebane’s stock is going to go up after Saturday—I’m feeling that in a big way. Erik Robertson will likely be a mid-round draft pick, and I think he’ll end up making it. Then again, he’s a friend of mine who’s engaged to a very good friend of mine, so whatever NFL team picks him had best not consider cutting him, or else they’ll have to deal with me. I don’t see Longshore as a pro, but after he takes us to back-to-back Rose Bowls I’ll be the guy writing, “Nate Longshore is the best quarterback in the country.”

RBBID: On a more personal note, what is your favorite experience related to Cal football? Favorite player? Blondies or Fat Slice? Mario’s or La Burrita? Henry’s or Blake’s?

MS: My favorite experience relating to Cal football? Well, other than what we’re about to experience over the next six weeks, culminating in Pasadena, there is nothing better than winning the Big Game. I love everything about the event, and I love it even more when our players charge out of the tunnel playing hard and smart and as if there is no greater calling than representing our great university one last time by playing the game of their lives. After that 2-12-1 stretch, I will never take winning it for granted. I remember in ’04, we were all grumpy at halftime because our offensive play had been so choppy, and it was 13-3 in the middle of the third quarter and all my friends were starting to stress about how it would affect us in the polls and the BCS implications. I literally called a huddle in section U and got about 15 of us together and yelled, “Look, we are trying to beat our archrival for the third time in a row for the first time since 1960. I don’t give a fuck about how it looks or what anyone else thinks. Let’s get focused and win the goddamned Big Game!” Then we all started chest-bumping and screaming, and about 10 minutes later Marshawn Lynch was cutting back twice and scoring that incredible touchdown, and suddenly I was about three rows down and eight seats over, and when I came up for air I was making out with my wife. My favorite players since ’75, in rough chronological order: Roth, Muncie, Ron Rivera, Mariet Ford (gulp), Kevin Moen, Richard Rodgers, Don James, Hardy Nickerson, Jerrott Willard, David Ortega, Pawlawski, Mike Caldwell, Doug Brien, Dave Barr, Deltha, John Welbourn, Joe Igber, Reggie Robertson, Aaron Rodgers, Erik Robertson, Daymeion Hughes, Marshawn, Marshawn, Marshawn. As for the other stuff… Blondie’s—I went there on two separate occasions after the UCLA game, with a hot link from Top Dog (my true love) in between. Mario’s over La Burrita, but LVH (La Villa Hermosa, which used to be across the street from Mario’s), was even better… and Juan’s is the greatest of all. Right now we’re on a big Henry’s run, but I love Blake’s, as long as you promise to call it Larrry Blake’s.

Cal in the News

So apparently there is this other game also playing this Saturday. It is getting very little press coverage but you might catch it on your local TV station. Some schools called Ohio St. and Michigan.

While we are about to play the biggest game in school history (well as long as I can recall, which is not that long) the entire nation and the national media is obsessed with this other game. I think ESPN did an article on what type of jock strap Ted Ginn Jr will wear to the game. This was right below the 4 articles about a OSU - Michigan rematch in the championship game.

For those of you looking for actual Cal vs USC news and articles, please check out The California Golden Bear Football News. Many, many articles about Cal listed on that site. Hope to post more of our own insight later tonight. Just thought some of our readers needed their daily fix of Cal news.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cal vs USC - Key Matchups

With amazing athletes for both teams on both sides of the ball, this list could include every position. Rather than highlighting the big name matchups, here are some key matchups that could swing the momentum of the game this Saturday.

Syd Thompson vs Steve Smith
Let's assumes that Daymeion Hughes matches up with Dwayne Jarrett (click here for LA Times article on the two) and they effectively neutralize each other. John David Booty will have to look for his clutch receiver Smith. Smith is the Trojans best receiver (see Oregon St. game for proof) but Hughes will need to match up on the bigger Jarrett. Thompson has had some growing pains but has measurably improved. Also, you have to like his confidence which in a game like this can be the difference between a turnover or a big gain.

Zach Follett/Anthony Felder vs John David Booty
Booty is the most accurate passer in the conference, possibly the nation. Cal can not afford to let him sit in the pocket and throw strikes to open receivers. But, Cal has not consistently established a pass rush with the front four and will need to bring Follett and Felder on blitzes. Even if they don't sack Booty, both linebackers have to knock him down. Remember, it was Follett's hit on UCLA QB Patrick Cowen that changed the momentum in that game.

Lawrence Jackson vs Nate Longshore
Once Longshore gets in a rhythm he is nearly unstoppable. He throws a great deep ball and leads the conference in passing. Jackson has underachieved most of the season but came on strong against Oregon last week with 3 sacks. The Cal offensive line has done a good job of keeping Longshore upright, but Jackson is one of the best pass rushers they will face. If Jackson is able to get to Longshore and keep him out of rhythm it could be a long day for the Bears.

USC Punt Team vs DeSean Jackson
Don't expect Coach Carroll to punt away from Jackson, especially after DJax started running his mouth this week in the media, so expect to see some great special teams plays. The Trojans will put some of their best athletes on the field for punt coverage so it is hard to imagine that Jackson will be able to slice through like he did against Arizona. Instead, watch for him to make a move or two, allow teammates to set up for blocks, then cut up field for big gains.

Coach Carroll vs Coach Dunbar
If it is true that Dunbar calls 80-90% of the plays, then this is the key coaching matchup to watch. Carroll is a defensive mastermind and usually has his defense well prepared for the opposing team. Using Arizona's gameplan, expect USC to stack the run to try and stop Marshawn and expect Longshore to beat them. Dunbar should counter by trying to beat the Trojans deep, early in the game, to loosen up the linebackers. Also, expect to see some new plays featuring Cal's playmakers, Jackson and Lynch. Both need more touches and need to be involved early to make a difference in the game. Maybe a WR slip screen, a WR reverse, a half back option, Marshawn on a wheel route out of the backfield.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Every 31 Years, History Repeats Itself

The blog Tightwad Hill has shot up to the top of my list for favorite blogs. This comparison between Cal's 28-14 victory over USC in 1975 is great reading for all Bear fans. We are humbled by the knowledge of those that came before us. (Click here for entire article)
In our review of Cal victories over the Trojans, we were struck by the eerie similarities between this week's game and the 1975 contest between the two schools. In 1975:
  • Cal was led by a highly-regarded QB in his first year as the starter (Joe Roth)
  • Cal featured a dominant running back who received Heisman attention (Chuck Muncie)
  • Cal was an offense-first, big-play team with a suspect defense
  • The Bears were led by a young, innovative coach who had come to Berkeley from an assistant job with a conference rival (Mike White - Stanford)
  • Cal was coming off a disappointing road loss in the prior game (UCLA)
  • Cal had lost its season opener to a non-conference power (Colorado)
  • USC was a three-time defending conference champion
  • The Trojans were led by a head coach who had won multiple national championships, and was the subject of constant rumors that he was heading for the pros (John McKay)
  • USC was rated in the Top 5 (#4), but had been somewhat inconsistent in its play
  • Despite that inconsistency, SC was coming off a big, reassuring victory (at Notre Dame)
  • USC was the clear favorite in the game
  • (just for fun) Ohio State was the consensus #1 team in the nation, and a Buckeye was the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy (Archie Griffin)

DeSean Jackson Feature

The LA Times has an article about DeSean Jackson, his decision to choose Cal over USC and how he compares to Reggie Bush. Some might call his tone arrogant. I think confident is a better word. Here are some excerpts.

On why he chose Cal over USC...
"Just one of those last-minute decisions," Jackson said Monday in a telephone interview. "I kind of felt like they took it for granted that they had me."
On comparisons to Reggie Bush...
"It's just too bad I'm not playing for SC because if I was playing for SC then it probably would be a different thing," he said. "I'm the closest thing to Reggie Bush. But I kind of don't like to follow after too many people. I just try to be myself."
On why he does not like USC...
"There was too much cockiness over there for me. They were SC. They're national champions. They're just guaranteed they could have whoever they want.

"I kind of felt like I was a more special player than that and they shouldn't have taken it for granted like that."
On what he thinks about SC players...
"I heard somebody said I wasn't going to SC because of all the talent they had and all the receivers they had and I was scared and all this," he said. "That never really crossed my mind. I never really thought the players they had there were any better than me or anything like that because I'm capable of doing anything that their players are capable of doing."
Read the entire article here. Say what you want about bulletin board material and motivating the other team through the media, but as long as DJax backs up everything he said in this article, I have no problem with it. Remember, confidence, not arrogance.

Monday, November 13, 2006

You gotta believe...

(Cal vs USC, 2003)

While the Arizona loss was tough, Cal still has a great shot at making the Rose Bowl. Go Bears, Beat SC.

Cal vs Arizona Recap

Offense - Passing
Longshore was off at the beginning of the game which shook his confidence and led to some bad decision making in the second half. Two of his interceptions were on tipped balls which are somewhat excusable. The interception that was returned for a touchdown is not. He never once looked off his receiver. There were other instances where Longshore looked like he was holding onto the ball too long. As a result, balls were not thrown to receivers coming out of their breaks thus leading to incompletions. Longshore still has not shown he can play well on the road. The good news: Cal fans have seen the potential he has when he is on; the bad news: the USC game is on the road.
DeSean Jackson became a front runner for next year's Heiman trophy after the Arizona game. His 62 yard reception was nearly as impressive as his punt return. The other receivers, Jordan and Hawkins, were invisible except for their mistakes. Jordan dropped a couple passes and Hawkins, not only, got called for a block in the back on Marshawn's TD run but also tripped and fell at the 1 yard line with no defenders around him.

Offense - Rushing
There were two completely different rushing attacks in this game. In the first half, Marshawn rushed for nearly a 100 yards (and had a 70+ yard TD carry called back). In the second half, the run game was completely shut down. This was most evident on the two carries from the one yard line which both resulted in losses. Arizona was definitely stacking the run as Marshawn was hit multiple times behind the line by linebackers.
The offensive line, while phenomenal in their pass blocking, were pushed around by the Arizona defense on running plays. While Cal did not rush the ball frequently in the second half, there were very few holes for Marshawn to run through.

Defense - Passing
There were a couple tough calls by the refs in the game that really frustrated the passing defense. But overall, the defense was much improved in passing yardage compared to the UCLA game. The pass rush also stepped it up from the UCLA game and was able to get some pressure on the QB. But, it is hard to give too much credit to the defense against an Arizona passing offense that came into the game ranked 9th in the conference. Also, Tuitama was not passing well even though there were open Arizona receivers on many plays.

Defense - Rushing
Again, this was a solid performance by the defense. It held Arizona to short runs and was able to consistently stop them. The defense was also able to contain Tuitama and restrict his ability to scramble. Ironically, this was not the bend but don't break defense we had seen in the past. Once Arizona was able to reach the red zone, it was able to convert (albeit with the help of some questionable calls). Also, the defense was unable to generate any turnovers (again, if not for some questionable calls.

There was some questionable play calling toward the end of the game...
- Why not go for it on 4th down at the 4 yard line down by 7 in the fourth quarter?
- Why not go for it on 4th down and 6 form the 50 yards line, with 5 minutes remaining in the game?
- Why not run a draw play to Marshawn on the final drive? You saw what he did against Washington at the end of that game.
- Why not stretch the field more if Arizona is going to stack the run? Hawkins was wide open on the one long pass play in the fourth.
It is hard to question coach Tedford after he has taken this program so far. But this year's team lacks the balanced rushing and passing attack of past teams.

After the loss to Arizona, there are a lot more questions about the Cal team, going into Saturday's game against USC. More on that later in the week. But let's hope that this loss was a wake up call for a team that looked like it was on cruise control the last 4 weeks.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Temporary Break from Arizona Game

For those of you still mourning the loss to Arizona and looking for something positive about Cal, pick up this month's ESPN the Magazine.

There is a nice feature story on Scott Fujita, current New Orleans Saint starting linebacker and former Cal player. Fujita was a former walk on at Cal who came into the program as a skinny safety and morphed into a hard hitting linebacker.

We will have more analysis of Saturday's Cal game, what it all means and what are we to do, coming soon. But read the article at Barnes and Noble while waiting for your latte. It will make you feel a little better.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sadness, Reflection, Recognition

Cal lost to an inspired Arizona team. Longshore played his worst game as a Bear. Worse than the Tennessee game which featured a lot of drop balls by the receivers. Longshore was out of rhythm and consistently under or over threw open receivers. More importantly, he was late delivering the ball. This was part of the reason for Casons pick six which put Arizona in front. That and the fact that Longshore stared at Jackson for nine seconds before delivering the ball.
He is not solely to blame for this lose, but it is hard to find a more obvious reason for losing to a lower tier Pac 10 team.

It looked like Cal was controlling the game leading up to halftime. DeSean Jackson had an amazing game. Two touchdown and almost another give or take 2 inches. Marshawn had a solid game but Cal gave up on the run too quickly toward the end of the game. A couple draw plays against a scrambling Arizona defense on the last drive could have gotten considerable yards.
The defense gave up only 17 points and could have held the Wildcats to less if a couple calls had gone Cal's way. Hughes had a nullifies interception in the end zone on a bad pass interference call. A lot of the excess yardage that Cal's defense gave up in the UCLA game was not evident in this game. They consistently pressured a very mobile QB and were able to stuff the run for most of the game.

Pipe dreams of a national championship were always nice. An undefeated Pac 10 record would have been great. A final ranking in the top 5 would have been validation. But, let's keep all this in perspective. Cal is still in control of its destiny for the Rose Bowl. Regardless of what happen in the Oregon-USC game, if Cal beats USC next week, it will play in the Rose Bowl. (Assuming that the Stanford game is the cakewalk everyone expects it to be.)
As long as Cal makes it into the Rose Bowl this year, it will be considered a great year by most if not all Cal fans. Take this loss in stride, hope that Cal comes out inspired against USC and get ready for a trip to Pasadena. Go Bears.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cal vs Arizona Preview

With a big game against USC next week, it will be hard for the Bears not to be looking past Arizona. Also, with Arizona coming off a big win against a ranked Washington St. team, some Cal fans might be worried about the dreaded "trap game". Let's try to put those fears aside.

When Cal has the ball...
The Bear's offense started to click again in the victory over UCLA last week. Longshore appears to be back on track after a couple sub par weeks. Arizona has a very talent DB in Antoine Cason. Expect him and DeSean Jackson to battle it out most of the game. Still, Longshore should be able to find open receivers against a young Arizona secondary. Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins are playing well so expect two Cal receivers to go over the 100 yard receiving mark.
Marshawn Lynch has really kicked things into another gear for the second half of the season. He should rush for over 100 yards against a solid Arizona defense. There is too much balance in the Cal offense for Arizona to load up against one aspect of it.
The offensive line should be able to keep pressure off Longshore as the Arizona defense is not known for sacks. Also, they should be able to push Arizona defensive linemen off the ball and open up some nice holes for Lynch and Forsett.

When Arizona has the ball...
Arizona has a very mobile QB in Willie Tuitama. He is fast and elusive and can also pass the ball with accuracy. It will be important for Cal's defensive line keep Tuitama in the pocket by staying in their rushing lanes. Cal has some very athletic linebackers who can help keep Tuitama from running away with the game.
Since Arizona switched offensive coordinators, they have moved to a power I running offense. This led to the emergence of Chris Henry at running back. Henry is a tough runner that will try to wear down the defense. But, because the Bear have a very deep front seven, they will be able to remain strong later in the game.
Arizona is second to last in the Pac 10 in passing yards above Stanford. With Daymeion Hughes and Syd Thompson manning the corners, the Bears could drop Arizona below Stanford in passing yards. After giving up significant yardage to UCLA, Bob Gregory (Cal defensive coordinator) has probably made some adjustments to plug leaks.

Other Factors...
- Jeff Tedford owns Mike Stoops. He is 3-0 against Arizona while shutting them out the last two games.
- Arizona has punted 55 times this season (second most in the Pac 10). When you are playing against DeSean Jackson, this can not be a good stat.
- Chris Henry originally orally commited to Berkeley, but signed with Arizona after they promised to give him a shot carrying the ball. He should be extra motivated to run well against the Bears. (See: Steve Slaton, WVU vs Maryland).

Final Thoughts
The Bears should easily win this game. This is a revitalized Arizona team that is looking for an upset against a possibly distracted Cal team. But, Tedford will not let his players look past Arizona, so expect the Bears to be focused and win in a rout.

Final Score: 42-17

Does Cal have a shot at the National Championship?

This is an interesting question now that Rutgers beat Louisville on Thursday. Let's take a look at what needs to happen for Cal to make it into the top 2, if only because if makes for interesting discussion.

1) The loser of the Ohio St. vs Michigan matchup on Nov 18th is blown out and drops significantly in the human polls.

2) Arkansas loses to Tennessee or LSU then beats Florida in the SEC Championship game. Auburn, by virtue of not playing in the SEC championship game, is not moved up in the polls.

3) Texas loses to Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. Nebraska did nearly beat Texas earlier in the season.

4) USC loses to Cal.

5) Notre Dame loses to USC.

6) Rutgers does not get respect and is ranked below Cal in the human polls or Rutgers loses to West Virginia.

If all this happens, then Cal will be in the National Championship game. Impossible you say? Well, after seeing Rutgers start the season 9-0, anything seems possible. But, in the end, the focus for this season should be the Rose Bowl and this week Arizona. Just thought it was interesting food for thought.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Random Thoughts

- FoxSports has a list of the top 25 mascots in college football. Colorado's Ralphie, a huge buffalo, is rated #1. Oskie did NOT make the list. Unbelievable. More unbelievable when you consider that USC's horse came in at #16, WVU's bearded man was #11 and Stanfurd's Bush was #19.
(Click here for full list.)

- The LA Times has an article about Karl Dorrell and his lack of emotions. My favorite paragraph is the following: (Click here for entire article.)
The emotions remain tucked behind Dorrell's game face. No extravagant smiles or grimaces as he walks the sideline. Hard to tell, at any given moment, whether his team has just fumbled or scored a touchdown.
The writer talks about Dorrell stoic nature as just his personality and that it is a reflection of his childhood. Maybe, he just does not realize that a fumble is bad and that a touchdown is good. UCLA fans have started a petition to have him fired. I was thinking the rest of the Pac 10 should start a petition to keep him at UCLA.

- The Tightwad Hill blog has a great piece that breaks down Cal's chances of receiving some individual awards at the end of the season. Interesting to note that Cal has won only one significant award and that was Deltha O'Neal in 1999 winning the Mosi Tatupu award for top performer on special teams. Maybe, significant was an overstatement on my part.
Also, Tightwad Hill is doing a countdown on the top 50 greatest Cal football players. Last update was #34 - Geoff McArthur. (Click here for blog)

- Mel Kiper, the ESPN talking head for the NFL Draft, has listed the top 8 underclassmen in college football. You would think that Marshawn Lynch would easily make this list. You would be wrong. Kiper is an idiot.
The list includes: Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech), Jake Long (Michigan), Sam Baker (USC), Alan Branch (Michigan), Glenn Dorsey (LSU), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio St.) and Reggie Nelson (Florida).
For all the hype he gets, I hope Calvin Johnson gets drafted by the Detroit Lions and he can disappear into the same abyss that Mike Williams, Charles Rodgers and Roy Williams fell into.

This Week = Upset Week

Oregon vs USC (Line: USC favored by 8)
I think Oregon will beat USC on Saturday. The USC pass defense made Oregon St. QB Matt Moore look amazing two weeks ago. Dennis Dixon should be able to shake off a couple weak games and gain yards through the air. More importantly, the Jonathon Stewart/Dennis Dixon running attack should be able to control the clock and keep Booty and Co. off the field. Also, what does a 42-0 victory over Stanford really tell anyone about a team.

Final score: 38 - 27 Oregon over USC.

Rutgers vs Louisville (Line: Louisville favored by 7)
In another upset, I am going with Rutgers over Louisville tonight. As I look across the river, towards the great state of NJ, it just seems like something is in the air (besides chemical residue). Louisville is coming of a huge win over WVU and is poised for a letdown. Ray Rice should have a great game against a bend and break Louisville defense.

Final Score: 28 - 17 Rutgers over Louiville

Tennessee vs Arkansas (Line: Arkansas favored by 5.5)
Okay, so this one is not an upset. But, many people are underestimating Arkansas and they should solidify their spot in the SEC championship game here with a win. Darren McFadden is on a tear and the Arkansas rushing attack is really clicking. Also, they appear to have upgraded at QB by putting in the backup Dick. Tennessee is coming off a tough last second loss to LSU. They have no shot at the SEC championship game and are probably looking at the Citrus Bowl. Tennessee will come out flat and Arkansas will roll.

Final Score: 31-21 Arkansas over Tennessee

Upset Special: Northwestern vs Ohio St. (Line: Ohio St. favored by 23)
Why? Because this is what college football is all about. Huge unexpected upset by underdog teams led by scrappy players. Also, because everyone will forget in a week that I picked this upset, if OSU wins. But, if Northwestern pulls off the upset, it will be remembered all season long.

Final Score: 24-21, Northwestern wins on a last second field goal.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cal vs Arizona - Key Matchups

The official preview of the game will come later in the week, but I wanted to highlight some key matchups for the game. So lets take a look...

Antoine Cason - DB (Arizona) vs DeSean Jackson - WR (Cal)
Cason is a Thorpe (award for top DB in the nation) semifinalist along with Cal's own Daymeion Hughes. He was also named the conference's defensive player of the week. He is a big part of the Wildcat's staunch defense. While, he might not be matched up all game against Jackson, it should be expected that the two will test each other.
Jackson, a Biletnikoff semifinalist, has been relatively quiet in the passing game the past three games. Under a 100 yards receiving per game and no touchdowns. But he is lightening quick, as seen in his punt returns, and has solid hands. Also, he seems to thrive on challenges and this is the best corner he will face outside of practice, all year.
If Jackson is able to consistently beat Cason, the Wildcats will have to rotate safety help over to his side of the field. This will allow Longshore more opportunity to find Hawkins and Jordan in single coverage. If Cason is able to contain Jackson (or whoever is on his side of the field) consistently, the Bears will have a harder time in the passing game.

Willie Tuitama - QB (Arizona) vs Worrell Williams - LB (Cal)
Tuitama has been out with injuries (2 concussions) for multiple games this year. But he led Arizona to a victory over Washington St. last week. He is a mobile QB, that can beat you with both his arm and legs. Last year, he singlehandedly destroyed an undefeated UCLA team. He is a dynamic player when he is on and can make it difficult for defenses to scheme against.
I chose Williams as the key matchup against Tuitama because he is faster and more athletic than Bishop. It is likely that Williams or another young linebacker will be faced with the task of containing Tuitama when he runs. Like his NFL LB cousin DJ Williams, Worrell is very athletic and has the speed to close of the most mobile of QB's.
If Williams is able to contain Tuitama and keep him from scrambling for long gains and first downs, the Bear's defense should be able to hold the Wildcats to a low score.

Chris Henry - RB (Arizona) vs Desmond Bishop - LB (Cal)
Henry had his coming out party last week in the win against Washington St. His numbers were good, 35 carries for 94 yards and 2 TDs. But more importantly, he was able to control the clock for Arizona and keep the WSU offense off the field. Don't expect Henry to break off any big runs but he is a grinder that can gain the tough yards.
Bishop had a solid game against UCLA. But he did forget to wrap up on occasion which led to yards after contact for UCLA's running backs. There were two distinct instances against UCLA where Bishop lined up the Bruin's RB and tagged him. Only problem was that the running back maintain his balance and gained more yards.
Bishop is usually a solid tackler and has a nose for the ball. Expect him to have a huge game with Arizona trying to run the ball. Henry should be motivated to prove he is more than a flash in the pan and will be running hard to prove himself against the Bears.

Spencer Larson - LB (Arizona) vs Marshawn Lynch - RB (Cal)
Larson is an underrated linebacker. He is first team all conference material but does not get much pub because of the Wildcat's record. A solid tackler and good in pursuit, he will have ample opportunity to match up with Lynch in both the running and passing game.
Lynch is a Heisman candidate and the most skilled player on the Cal offense. It takes more than one player to take him out of a game. The only thing that has slowed him down this year is two sprained ankles. He admitted this week that it is still difficult for him to make some moves in the open field. (I thought he made some good moves on the screen pass against UCLA.)
Larson will not be able to stop Lynch but he can try to slow him down. It is important for Larson to keep Lynch from reaching the second level of the defense where Lynch's size and speed are too much for safeties and DBs. Also, he needs to be aware of Lynch on passing plays, making sure to cover him in the flat and on screens. Lynch, on the other hand, is really on a roll and should have a great game against Arizona.

Arizona Punting Team vs DeSean Jackson (Cal)
I don't really have any stats on Arizona's punting team, but if they want to stay in the game, they should either kick the ball directly out of bounds or go for it on every fourth down. Jackson is THE most dynamic punt return man in college football. He has the moves and speed to take any punt to the house.
Note to Arizona defenders: Watch out for Thomas DeCoud when you are pursuing Jackson. (See UCLA game.)

So these are the key matchups for the game. I think Cal has the advantage in most, if not all, of these matchups but will save that insight for the game preview.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Please Stop Whining Mack Brown

Reason #8,565,764 why I love Coach Tedford - the man has class. Mack Brown, on the other hand, has begun his whining about the BCS, again. If you recall, this was the man that denied us a bid into the Rose Bowl back in 2004. He literally begged voters to put his team above Cal in the rankings. After a win against Southern Miss, Cal got robbed by the polls and I will always blame Mack Brown for this crime against humanity.

Here is what he is saying now:
"Looking back doesn't do any good," Brown said, "and I still can't figure out the computers. I'm proud the humans are voting us third and fourth in the country. And we are a really good football team."
Why can't this man just say things like, "If we keep winning, things will work out. We just need to focus on next week's game." Oh wait, then he would sound like Tedford. Let me explain to you how the computers work, Mack Brown.

1) You lost to Ohio St. and it was not close. Yes, they are the #1 team in the country but do you really think you should be above an undefeated Louisville team. Imagine what you would have said last year, if your undefeated Texas team was leapfrogged by a one loss team. But more importantly...

2) Who have you beat and how did you beat them? You beat Nebraska (on a fluke fumble), Oklahoma (on a down year) and Texas Tech (barely) and expect to get more respect than Florida or Auburn. Or maybe we should look at your non-conference scheduling of North Texas and Sam Houston St. Texas did not even play a road game until late October.

He also said:
"If all the coaches and athletic directors could understand exactly who the computers want you to play and where they want you to play them, and then if you could know how many games they were going to win, it would probably help all of us," Brown said.
I guess this has not been made clear enough. So let me make it clear. Play team outside the state of Texas and play teams where Vegas will still make a line on the game. Replace North Texas with a middle of the pack SEC team. Drop Sam Houston St. for a Pac 10 team. Oklahoma is doing a home and home with Oregon. It is really not that hard to understand.

Please Mack Brown just stop talking about the computers and the BCS. Focus instead on beating Kansas St. next week. Be proud of the fact that your team is playing well against such average competition.