September 22, 2005

Cal at NMSU

My preview of the Cal game at New Mexico State is now posted online.

Go Bears!

September 15, 2005

Cal v Illinois

My preview of Illinois at Cal has been posted to The Bear Insider. Go Bears!

September 9, 2005

Cal at UW

Cal plays at Husky stadium for the second year in a row. The Bears are #17 in the country, 8-point favorites. The gamblers like the Huskies to cover; the line started at 11 and has fallen rapidly. Sagarin says the Bears are #45 because their 1-0 record is against a terribly weak, 1-AA opponent. Washington is #75, with sagarin predicting a 4-point Cal victory.

The Huskies stunk up the joint last year, going 1-10. Fortunately, they played San Jose State, though they only managed 21 points in their win against the Spartans. That was under Gilby, though, and the Huskies have Willingham in charge now. That alone should make Old Blues nervous. As we've all read by now, Willingham was 7-0 as a head coach against Cal, and 3-0 as an assistant. There is little doubt he will turn around the UW program and make them powerful once more, but it is hard to say how quickly.

Personally, I think the Willingham substory in this game is overblown and overwritten. He will make the Huskies better, but this game has more to do with the players than the coaches. Certainly this year's game will be much closer than last year's 42-12 whomping, in which the Bears gained over 300 yards rushing, but it shouldn't be a real nail-biter.

The story of this game is that of two offenses with big, experienced offensive lines but youth at their skill positions. The story of this game is turnovers. The story of this game is fourth quarter fitness.

Last week, UW held a 17-6 lead going into the fourth quarter but lost, 20-17, to a decent but not dominant Air Force team in Seattle. The game was just 3-3 at halftime, and even though the Husky offense seemed to improve after intermission, they didn't have enough to overcome the defense's weakness against the run. Air Force gained more than 200 yards rushing on the day, and they had two turnovers in Husky territory. The Huskies did show improvement on last year's 14 points-per-game average, and they did not turn the ball over once (in 2004 they were worst in the Pac-10 in turnovers). They start a new QB and have youth in other skill spots, but RB Rankin gained 112 yards on 23 carries for the Huskies. Essentially, they looked steady and reliable, but they went neither fast nor far. They had only two drives of five minutes or longer, both in the second half. They were 0 for 5 in 3rd down conversions in the first half, though they improved to 6 of 7 in the second half. They had just two drives of 3-and-out, but only two drives had 10 or more plays. They punted four times on the day.

All that is to say that the Huskies are not what you would call a dominant offense. Considering they scored 20 or more points last year only three times and were held to 16 or fewer seven times, they look improved but not terribly so. So far. I see no reason to think that they will improve significantly on their 17 points when they face the Bears on Saturday; Cal has a more athletic defense with more speed than Air Force, and experience in the DBs that will hold the passing game of the young QB in check.

The real question will be how Cal's offense performs.

UW's defense sports four seniors and four juniors, so there is experience there. The D line is not big, though, averaging 272 pounds. DT Hopoi is the giant of the group at 290. Compare to Cal, which has two D linemen at 305 and averages 283 pounds. Now, compare to Cal's O line which averages 334 pounds. I don't know about you, but I would rather not play an entire game giving up an average of one fifth of my body weight every play. This will be the single biggest factor in the game if the Bears win--Cal's O line will dominate the much smaller Husky line and linebackers (who as a group average 222--exactly the same as Cal's LB crew) as the game goes on.

We all know the question marks in the Bears offense, however. QB is the main one, where the Bears will start Ayoob, who was 0 for 10 in his debut. The good news? He is the only Cal QB who did not throw an
interception in the opener. There is little doubt Ayoob will improve on his first game; now, however, he'll be in a hostile environment on the road for the first time. Personally, I have confidence that he will have a solid game and will play well, though I have no basis in fact for this. Tedford will, no doubt, design a ball protection offense to allow Ayoob easy passes so he can take the pressure off the running game and really turn it on in the second half. The Bears MUST protect the ball after five fumbles (two lost) and two interceptions against the Hornets. Last year's Bears started the season with too many turnovers, but they controlled that problem by mid-season before going to the positive side of the differential.

My Prediction:
The Bears will again start slowly, and the game will be close at halftime. Like most of their games last year, however, they will begin to dominate with superior fitness and size in the second half. It is impossible to predict from statistics how the two offenses will execute, but Cal's offense was weak against Sacramento State and still put up 41 points. They will focus this week on execution and ball protection, so I expect to see very few fumbles and improved passing statistics as Tedford goes to simple passes and short gains to control the clock, keep the DBs and LBs honest, and open up the running game in the second half. Cal's astounding fitness will simply overwhelm the Huskies in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bears to expand their lead and keep the ball away from the dawgs. I look for Cal to score 13 in the first half and another 21 in the second for a total of 34.

The Husky offense is also unpredictable at this stage, but it is safe to say they will not put up big numbers against a fast, physically gifted Cal defense. They will have a reasonably balanced attack and gain some yards and score some points, but I will be surprised if they get into the end zone more than three times. I think their ceiling is 24 points, and I think they'll actually be held to 20.

Halftime: Cal 13, Huskies 10. Final gun: Cal 34, Huskies 20.

Go Bears!

September 4, 2005

in memory

Gary will never again need that fifth computer hummingly quietly by my side right now. He passed on shortly after 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 4th, seven days after going to the emergency room, two days after being discharged from the hospital, and 16 days before his daughter's 37th birthday.

September 2, 2005

that fifth computer

It's officially reached "ridiculous." I'm talking about my office. I have one desk and three computers, one lap and two laptops. Yes, I have five computers in my office, now that we've become the foster home for my father-in-law's Mac. That makes one Mac, two Windows PCs, and two linux machines. I'd say that makes a full house, unix over Windows. We don't even have five people living here.

I am loving this Mac, though. My father-in-law is a graphic artist, so when he got a new computer a few years back, he got some cool-looking Mac with this awesome, crisp, beautiful flat screen. Plus, it's not Windows, so it's got that going for it.

We are not sure whether my father-in-law will need it back. He spent this week in the hospital, and he was discharged just today to head home under the care of hospice. On Sunday he was in a very bad state with a terrible infection, but the infection is under control and he's become more lucid and at least can walk again in small bits, slowly, with a walker. The cancer has gotten very aggressive, and complications have caused the doctors to stop chemotherapy treatments.

We hope that he gets well enough, for a short time at least, to need his computer back. We would love it if he could answer his own emails. If he could converse with his friends and clients. If he could be strong enough to want to do those things. I hope that this beautiful Mac does not stay in my office long.

I hope, but a part of me sadly thinks there is little hope to be had here, really. We cling to that little bit of hope, but at the same time I can feel the clock ticking down. There is no doubt of the result, only the timing. It's that little bit of hope that we cling to, like a piece of driftwood on the ocean, that keeps us from slipping into a cold, dark despair. Just a little more time. Just a little better, even just for a short while.