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College Hotline - Cal football: Grading the Week

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Nov 16, 2015.

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    RSSBot News Junkie

    Jul 8, 2005
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    Note: Kickoff for Cal-Arizona State will be 7 p.m. on FS1 …

    What became a foregone conclusion (at least in this space) on Oct. 3, when the Bears beat Washington State for their fifth victory, turned official Saturday with a victory over lowly Oregon State — a game Cal had no chance to lose and, as expected, locked up early in the second half.

    A bowl berth is now assured. It’s a nice reward for the players, coaches, staffers and Cal fans who have waited four long, frustrating years.

    So … where are the Bears headed?

    It all depends on the results of the final two games and what else happens around the conference. But the Pac-12 selection procedure is critical to Cal’s eventual destination:

    *** After the New Year’s bowls are filled, the Alamo, Holiday and Foster Farms make their picks and are allowed some flexibility:

    They can jump one team for another as long as there is no more than a one-game difference in the conference record.

    The Holiday, in other words, could pass on a 6-3 team in favor of a 5-4 team (if there’s no 7-2 available). The Foster Farms could skip a 5-4 in favor of a 4-5 (if there’s no 6-3 available).

    *** The bottom three bowls in the pecking order (Sun, Las Vegas and Cactus) don’t have the flexibility. They must pick from the pool of remaining teams in order of record.

    If Cal beats Stanford and Arizona State, it will be a hot commodity: Attractive style of play, marquee quarterback and, most importantly, an energized fan base. (I’d imagine the Foster Farms Bowl would sell its soul to get the Bears.)

    If the Bears split their final two, they remain a valued participant but, because of a 4-5 league record, would be limited in destinations. (Psst: Cal has never played in the Sun Bowl.)

    And if they lose their final two, the only bowl that might want them (Foster Farms) probably won’t have the option, and Las Vegas/Cactus come into play.

    Anyhow, I’ll have much more on the Bears’ postseason fate in coming weeks. The situation is likely to change several times over and, don’t forget, depends partly on how many teams jump into the New Year’s Six.

    But the puzzle is a tad easier to piece together when you keep the league’s selection parameters in mind.

    Result: Beat Oregon State 54-24

    Grade: A-

    Comment: Aside from nine penalties, it’s tough to quibble with any aspect of Cal’s performance.

    But the quality of competition is considered when determining the grade, and OSU simply doesn’t pose the kind of challenge that makes an A or A+ possible in my estimation, especially when the Beavers are without their starting QB.

    They’re the worst team in the conference; it’s not close; and Cal would have cause for alarm had the game been in doubt in the fourth quarter.

    *** This was, to a large extent, a tuneup for the final fortnight — a glorified exhibition (sounds harsh, but again: OSU is awful).

    The Bears needed a chance to regain confidence, to find their rhythm offensively and to shore up issues with a defense that allowed 777 yards the week before.

    In those regards, the affair was a success: The Bears are as well positioned for Stanford and Arizona State as they could have hoped given the state of things last week.

    Will they execute against far tougher competition? And more importantly: Will they keep their heads and resolve when things inevitably take a turn for the worse.

    They aren’t going to cruise through Stanford and ASU from the first minute to the last. There will be setbacks from possession to possession. The Bears cannot lose their focus, or things could unravel quickly.

    It’s all about leadership.

    *** Daniel Lasco is questionable after injuring his ankle against OSU. His presence, if healthy, would be vital — and if he’s not available, then Tre Watson, Vic Enwere and Khalfani Muhammad must be effective.

    The Bears won’t beat Stanford throwing 50 times and averaging 2.5 yards per rush. They must have some balance.

    Oregon had 36 runs and 12 passes against the Cardinal.

    I don’t expect the Bear Raid to produce similar numbers, but Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin can’t get pass-happy — they cannot throw it 50 times and run it 15. Cal has no chance in that situation.

    The Bears must run early and stick to it, regardless of the level of success in the early possessions. And they much … must, must must … be effective on first down.

    If they have second-and-five all night, the game should be tight.

    If they’re facing second-and-nine every drive, big trouble.

    Next up: at Stanford

    The matchup: We took a look at one aspect of the matchup in the previous section — no reason to rehash the OSU game — and will have much more on the 118th Big Game during the week.

    But in general, this is about:

    1. Toughness on the lines of scrimmage
    2. Minimizing mistakes
    3. Running game
    4. Belief

    If the Bears hold their own in each of those four matters, there’s no reason they cannot be in position to win in the fourth quarter.

    *** The Bears opened as a 12.5-point underdog, and the line has held through the initial money flow.

    Will we see the Cal team that stood up to Utah and USC on the lines of scrimmage, or the team that caved against UCLA and Oregon?

    If it’s the former, buckle up.

    If the latter, go ahead and make other plans fr the second half.

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    by Jon Wilner

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