September 18, 2009

The Bears go on the road to Minnesota

I tried really hard to score a business trip to Minneapolis to see the Bears maul the Gophers, but in the end I couldn't because I just have too many obligations at home--scout events, soccer games to coach, soccer games to play in... and something I'm forgetting... something... oh yeah! My wife's birthday.

Anyway, here's a summary of the matchup as I listen to Sick Puppies' "War" from the Tri Polar album. Appropriate.

The Bears are 14 point favorites. Jeff Sagarin's ratings put Cal at #7 and Minnesota at #46, with a spread of 9.26, or a one-touchdown spread if the home field advantage is factored in.

The Bears have faced two weak teams and clobbered them, opening the season with two 50+ point outings for the first time in history. They have been very solid nearly everywhere, though kick coverage needs to be cleaned up a little bit. Also, the defense has a tendency to give up a lot of yards early in the game as they're adjusting. The offense has stalled from time to time, but for the most part they've moved the ball at will, particularly late in the game when they've out-fitnessed their opponent.

The Gophers will undoubtedly be a more difficult test. They have a capable offense with an efficient quarterback and a receiver that was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff award last year. They are less experienced at running back, but there is talent there. More importantly, the Gophers lost only one offensive lineman from last year, and they return experience--44 starts among the other four lineman. That said, a lot of that experience may be sitting on the bench since two of the OL starters are transfers (one from JuCo and one from Notre Dame). Overall, though, their statistics are not impressive for the competition they've faced. They came from behind to win both their games this year--OT at Syracuse, and vs Air Force. They gained an average of 343 yards per game, and an OK 3.9 yards per carry rushing (just 110 yards per game on the ground).

On defense, the Gophers start nine seniors and two juniors. The two juniors are both in the Safety spot, and the DBs may be the strongest part of the defense. Much has been made of the Bears being unable to scout Minnesota's defense because they have a new coordinator. Regardless, they look very strong defensively. Their two DTs have each started 21 straight games, and they're both over 300 pounds. Their three LBs are all highly productive, whether it's number of tackles or causing turnovers. They've allowed only 13 and 20 points in their two wins. Granted, Syracuse and Air Force are not amazing offenses, but the Minnesota defense should not be underestimated.

With the size of Minnesota's offensive linemen (the OTs are 336 and 365), and the quality of their QB and WRs, it's no wonder they have weaker rushing and stronger passing. The fact that they came from behind in both their wins says that they also have overall fitness and can play all 60 minutes.

Minnesota will be a good test for the Bears before facing Pac-10 opponents. I think Cal will pass this test and will find ways to score. I do think that even if Minnesota gets a lead, they will have difficulty protecting it with their weaker rushing game. They also have not faced a team as strong and as complete as California is this year. They'll get a lift from their new stadium and a sellout crowd I'm sure, but the crowd will be in the 50,000 range.

After seeing both of the first two games, I don't think Cal is overrated. I think both defense and offense are as good as advertised, and the team has insane depth. If the special teams can hold it together, and if the Bears don't get overconfident, I think they'll take a lead by the second quarter and pull ahead late in the third. I see this game coming out in favor of the Bears, 34 - 18.


1 comment:

jjdebenedictis said...

Yeah, I understood none of that. I salute your passion, however!