Rankings Insanity

September 14, 2008

Cal, according to some pollsters was ranked as high as 9 last week.  Overall, the Bears were ranked 25th in the Coaches Poll and 23rd in the AP Poll.  Today, the Bears received only 7 voted in the Coaches and none in the AP.  Yes, you read that right, none.

In the AP the following teamns received votes where as Cal received none: Arizona (2-1, lost to New Mexico), South Carolina (1-2, lost to Vanderbilt and Georgia), Tennessee (1-1, lost to UCLA, who lost 59-0 to BYU), and Arizona State (2-1, lost to UNLV).  That list doesn’t even include several teams that are undefeated and played absolutely no one of consequence (I am looking at you Minnesota, Nebraska, and Florida State).

None of this is to say Cal should be ranked.  I just cannot phathom why not a single voter would have Cal ranked after the garbage most teams have showed in the first three weeks.  Cal’s victory over Michigan State and walloping of the terrible Washington State should count for something.  And, one would think losing to Maryland by 8 wouldn’t be the end of the world.

For some reason voters dislike Cal.  They are unfairly dropped when other teams with similar flaws or resumes don’t face nearly the same level of scrutiny.  I assume the only way to change things is by actually playing in a BCS game and winning (as opposed to deserving to be in a BCS game in 2004).  Even then, you have to wonder why plenty of teams without BCS appearances faily to suffer the same fate as Cal.

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While I Was Away

September 14, 2008

So, apparently some trees have been knocked dow,m Jahvid Best was and now isn’t a Heisman contender, and Cal wasn’t then was and now isn’t ranked.

The sky is not falling.

Maryland, despite their early season struggles, has talent.  Cal, while clrealy more talented, is still very young and it wasn’t exactly a pleasant road trip.  None of that totally excuses the Bears.  Despite all the above, If Cal converts in the redzone with touchdowns 2 out of 3 times in the first half they win the game.  The defense made plenty of stops to keep it close in the middle but the offense, when it needed to, sputtered when it mattered most.  at one point in the first half, Cal was 0 for 6 on third down.  That’s inexcusable.

Going forward it was nice to see the receivers get going in the fourth quarter.  Boateng made some very nice catches and Cunningham and Calvin turned it up a bit too.  Thankfully, Vereen will probably be ready to play in two weeks and as it stands, the team isn’t suffering any serious injuries.

The fact is, second place in the Pac 10 is wide open.  Tier 1 is USC, Tier 2 is Oregon, Cal, and ASU, and Tier 3 is everyone else.  It’s a down year and there isn’t a single game on the schedule that Cal can’t win, including USC, though that will be the only game where the odds are less than 50 percent.  Most prognosticators pegged Cal somewhere between 7-5 and 9-3.  Not much has really changed, but after watching this team over the past three weeks I tend to think they will finish more around 9-3 than 7-5.


A Frustrated Team

August 23, 2008

Zack Follett was recently quoted diagnosing some of the problems Cal faced last year.  I do not know if his views represent the entire team – in fact, most of the reports say the team was fractured – but they are troubling never the less.  Bud Whithers of The Seattle Times quoted Follett saying, “We’ve been hearing the same thing the past two years . . .when I was a freshman, they promised [the improvements] were going to be here, and they promised it last camp [in 2007]. I’m never going to see it.”  Follett also said “We had too many individuals on the team last year” and “You’d see guys walk by on campus [last year], and they wouldn’t even talk to each other. That’s how our team was.”

None of this is that newsworthy but it does point to a growing sense of frustration that surrounded the program last year and continues to dog them today.  Most of these guys were promised word class facilities they never came.  They endured an epic collapse last year.  And, until this year, apparently the offense rarely spoke with the defense.  That was a recipe for disaster and the make no mistake, the seeds still exist for similar frustration in 2008.

That is not to say Cal will lose 6 out of their last 7 games and they will probably not finish 7-6.  However, while Tedford named Riley the starter against Michigan State, the quarterback situation is still not settled.  We still do not know how effective the defense will be against the run.  We also have suffered yet another setback in court, continuing the injunction at least well into September.

All of this, I believe, points to a make or break year for Cal football.  They don’t need to go to a BCS game, but they do need to improve upon last year’s record, they can’t finish so poorly, they can’t let team chemistry fracture any further, and the SAHPC construction has to begin within the next twelve months if Tedford is to stay and if we have any chance of continuing to put together top notch recruiting classes.


Shocked and Awed

August 22, 2008

Throughout training camp Jonathan Okanes reported daily that the quarterback competition was close.  Longshore started strong and Riley came on as of late.  But, they were essentially even.  Yesterday, Tedford again reiterated how close it remains yet Kevin Riley is the new starting quarterback for the Cal Bears.

Like a lot of Cal fans, I am surprised by the decision.  If indeed the competition is close and the players are even, shouldn’t the tie go to the 5th year senior that led the team to a 10 win season in 2006 and 4th, 6th and 7th in passing efficiency, passing touchdowns, and passing yards respectively. Given this, perhaps the competition was not as close as reported.

On the other hand, according to Tedford, Longshore will play against Michigan State.  There is no reason not to believe him, Tedford made the same statement before the Armed Forces Bowl and indeed, both Riley and Longshore started.  However, while both players will get time this season, I still do not expect a dual quarterback situation.  Usually, when that is implemented the prototypical dropback quarterback starts and the more mobile quarterback plays in relief or in the redzone.

Personally, I am disappointed for Nate.  I do not know him, but in private I have been a Longshore supporter for quite some time.  I realize I’m in the minority, but I still believe Tedford was generally right to stick with Nate.  It cannot be easy to deal with dropping from being named the number one junior quarterback in the country to backup within one year.  That said, there is some silver lining for Longshore.  If Tedford chose Nate, the scrutiny would be at an all-time high and any slip-up would be amplified.  Now, if Riley stumbles, the scrutiny of Longshore will be lessened and perhaps the fans will actually appreciate his efficiency, professionalism and the success he has had over his career at Cal.

In other depth chart news, true freshman place kicker David Seawright has won the field goal and extra point duties and will probably perform kickoffs as well.  In addition to Seawright the following newcomers will also see playing time: Marvin Jones, Veeran Tucker, Kendrick Payne, Mychal Kendricks, Anthony Miller and Bryant Nnabuife.

Interestingly, Tedford also alluded that Nyan Boateng will not be a starter.  Boateng transfered to Cal from Florida with high expectations.  Boateng was heavily recruited out of high school and showed playmaking ability throughout spring practice and training camp.  Nevertheless, the additions of Jones and Tucker must have affected the depth chart quite a bit.  As it stands, Mike Calvin, Layrelle Cunningham, Jeremy Ross and Sean Young will play in addition to the above three receivers.  Cal typically runs very few plays that require more than three receivers so it is unlikely that all 6 players will see significant playing time.


WR Depth

August 14, 2008

This is the second time Cal has attempted to replace its top 3 wide receivers – in 2005, Desean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, and Robert Jordan replaced Geoff McArthur, Chase Lyman, and Jonathan Makonnen.  This time, Cal has the luxury of choosing from what looks like a stable of at least 6 quality wide receivers (i.e. Mike Calvin, Nyan Boateng, Jeremy Ross, Layrelle Cunningham, Sean Young, and true freshman Marv Jones).  That list doesn’t even include JC transfer Verran Tucker and true freshmen Jarrett Sparks and Charles Satchell.

I realize Jackson-Hawkins-Jordan were and are NFL capable receivers.  However, I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb by saying this is the deepest group of receivers of the Tedford Era.

Prior to training camp opening, Calvin and Ross were penciled in as starters and Boateng and Cunningham were the backups, with Boateng likely the third man.  After a little over a week and a half, Boateng has amped up his focus, Marv Jones has made a huge impression, and Sean Young finally looks healthy.  In other words, Cal is going to have one heck of a time choosing who to play, who to redshirt, and who gets the ball.  And, that equation doesn’t even include variables like the receiving abilities of Jahvdi Best and Shane Vereen.

Perhaps it will take some time for this group to jell and as we have seen with USC, talent doesn’t always mean success at wide receiver.  But, to say the cupboard is bare at Cal would be foolish.


KILL EVERYBODY

August 6, 2008

Closed Practice

August 5, 2008

Yesterday at 6:00PM Cal’s training camp opened.  Unfortunately, our only exposure to the camp is through the eyes of Jonathan Okanes – who provided excellent reporting on day one of camp.  Unlike counterparts USC and UCLA, Tedford closes practice to the public and even limits media access.

Presumably, Tedford doesn’t want opposing team scouts to infiltrate Memorial Stadium.  I call bullshit.  Ted Miller is right when he says “No team in the history of college football has ever won or lost a game based on its open-closed practice policy.”

Early in Tedford’s tenure Cal was outgunned on the field.  After years of average to below average recruiting, Cal was often overmatched.  Tedford won with scheme and guile.  Now, Cal compiles excellent recruiting classes eyar in and year out.  Every year Cal has multiple players on preseason award watch lists.  Concerns about spying are a bit muted now that the playing field has leveled somewhat.

I don’t expect these practices to be heavily attended.  A couple thousand attended the open spring practice and only about 75 attended Arizona State’s first day of training camp.  Still, openness enhances the experience for fans and if college football is for anyone other than the student athletes and their families, it’s about the alumni and fans that have stood with this program through too many years of mediocrity.

In any case, football is finally back.