As we get ready for the game against those lovable California Golden Bears, who have been good for Beaver wins in 10 of the last 12 meetings, including the last 4 years, we got together with California Golden Blogs to exchange questions and answers.
Here's our answers to their questions.
And here's what they had to say about some things we were wondering about:
Isi Sofele appears to be having a pretty good year. He's certainly under the radar as a Pac-12 running back compared to LaMichael James, Chris Polk, Stepfan Taylor, and Derrick Coleman. Does he belong in the conversation with the "elite" RBs in the conference? And what happened against USC and Utah, two games where his productivity seemed to be down? Did the Trojans and Utes do something unique defensively that particularly limited him?
Kodiak: He runs hard and has heart, but to be elite I think he'd have to be a guy who can really make something out of nothing. Put him in space, open holes for him with good blocking, and he's a solid back. The Trojans limited him early by selling out to stop the run with a stacked box and run-blitzes. Later in the game, after the derp-fest which was the parade of interceptions, we were in desperation mode and abandoned the ground attack.
Against Utah, we had a brief flicker of an effective passing attack. Utah also played a lot of man-free in the secondary while stacking the box; basically, they were daring us to throw. Somewhat inexplicably, we did so successfully.
LeonPowe: At the risk of hearing from the CGB readers how I'm still hating on Sofele, I don't think he's elite. He is a very shifty back who is stronger than he looks, and operates in space very well, but he doesn't have breakaway speed, or beast mode like power. And he's had the (at least for comparisons sake) misfortune to follow Arrington, Lynch, Forsett, Best and Vereen.
I do think, however, if we had Sofele behind any of the olines we had in the middle of the decade, his numbers would be better. Not having gone back and watched USC or Utah, I would only hazard a guess that both teams stacked the box and dared Maynard to pass.
Is anyone actually serious about wanting to fire Jeff Tedford?
Kodiak: No. But, a number of his supporters are starting to become neutral. It's a bit sad that a few years ago the very notion of his leaving would have been ridiculous and met with outrage. Now, we're a bit resigned and could go either way. I think we all accept that we're not the ones writing the big checks or making that call. From a contractual standpoint, it seems likely that he'll get at least another year.
Unless, of course, your team continues it's proud tradition of ripping our still-beating hearts out, and then selling our remaining organs on the black market. Then, all bets are off.
LeonPowe: Yes - even as early as 2007 and 2008 - but they were generally dismissed as crazies. However after the disaster in Pasadena two weeks ago, that bandwagon gained a LOT of momentum to where lots of Tedford defenders started saying "well if they let him go I'll understand."
I'm now in the minority where I still actively want him to coach through 2012, and I think most people pro or anti Tedford rationally see this as the most probable course of action, due to the size of his buy out, and shallow pockets around the athletic department lately.
Continuing on that theme, the Bears have only had one close loss, against Washington. The wins have been against struggling teams, and the other losses have been lopsided. A major change of something appears to be needed. But what? Has the conference passed Tedford up? Or is it more about his staff? After all, this is an issue that "Cough" Oregon St. fans don't have any experience with.
Cugel: Only one "close" loss against Washington is somewhat misleading, at least to fans with blue and gold eyes. Only the Oregon loss was a blowout, and we led that game at halftime. All the other losses were games that the Bears either could or should have won, and were certainly competitive into the second half. Overall, the Bear offense has looked more creative and dynamic this year than it has for many years in the past. I think the real answer to this question is found in your next question.
LeonPowe: Here's the thing - in my opinion we've changed too much. When Tedfords Bears were competing for conference crowns we had a very distinct identity - big offensive line pro style passing attack with a balanced running game and NFL ready running back. I'm not saying that Tedfords game plan is too complicated, but I think in those days we rolled in and told teams what we were doing ahead of time, and then just did it. It doesn't seem like that happens anymore - and Tedford has spent a lot of time tinkering with everything to fix it. Spread. Pistol. Zone read. Wildcat. And it has been . . . Mixed.
Kodiak: The hell if we know. We'd be sacrificing kittens by the pale moonlight if we had any notion of a solution. The past few years, I would say that he hired very poorly in some key positions - most notably offensive line coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and special teams coach.
You could also argue that he's had some recruiting or coaching (lack of development) whiffs in the all-important position of quarterback. It's hard to say why the team's collective psyche seems to be so fragile and inconsistent. Ultimately, you'd have to suspect leadership, consistency, and accountability - that starts at the top. It's a disturbing question, to say the least.
Much has been made of Zach Maynard's inconsistency. But having watched a couple of Cal's games, it looks like he's pretty consistently inaccurate. I haven't seen all of his games, though. Have his better outings really been games he has actually played that much better in, or are they more a product of struggling opponents?
LeonPowe: Maynard can make throws - occasionally he'll unleash one that says "wow" - but I think that's part of inconsistency instead of just outright bad. For some reason he makes the throws we want when the pocket is moving, or he's rolling left on a bootleg. His throws on the run can turn into turnover roulette, but it seems to the only ball he can hit consistently.
Cugel: Nail hit on the head here, the problems the Bears have faced for the past 5 years (ever since Longshore was injured at the Oregon game - what is it with teams from Oregon?) has been inconsistent play from the quarterback position. This is especially galling to the Bear fan base, since Tedford has been anointed a quarterback guru. This is the answer to your above question.
Regarding Maynard's inconsistency this year, in our opinion, he has been improving since the beginning of the year. Weighing the games for strength of opponent, his worst game was his first against Fresno State, a not very challenging opponent. His improvement has not been in a straight line, and there is clearly room for further improvement, but he also has demonstrated the ability to make very high degree of difficulty throws as well. The key for the Bears in this game is if he can make correct reads (much improvement shown) and make accurate passes to the open receivers (a more iffy proposition).
Kodiak: Generally speaking, his better outings have been against weaker opponents. His best game was against Utah who actually have a decent defense statistically. But their offense was so ridiculously gimped that it put their D in a bad spot. He had a decent game against UW and CU - in fact, he was really good on 3rd downs earlier in the year.
Getting rocked by Oregon, 'SC, and UCLA seems to have affected his confidence, however. He's not consistent with his footwork so his accuracy suffers. He also doesn't read zone coverage very well. We have no idea if the game will ever slow down for him, or if he'll be another in the long line of Cal qbs who tantalize us just enough to make the inevitable face-palmage hurt even more.
Looking at the positive, which Bear has had the best season? Keenan Allen? And who is going to lead the effort that breaks Cal's recent losing streak against the Beavers?
Kodiak: On offense, I'd give it to Keenan Allen with a small tip of the cap to Sofele for proving a lot of doubters wrong. On defense, Williams has really emerged as a lock-down type corner and DJ Holt is having a great year in the middle. If we're going to break the losing streak, we'll need all the hypno-therapy, incense, and kumbayas we can muster to bring out Good Maynard. More seriously, it'll be determined in the trenches. We need to be able to run the ball and get pressure on Mannion without having to send the house.
How is it going playing at AT&T? I've heard attendance has lagged. Has it really impacted support, or has that been much more due to the team struggling at times? And how excited are Bears fans about possibly becoming bowl eligible this week? Especially since it means probably getting to go to the Kraft "Hungry for a Bowl" Game at exotic AT&T Park?
Kodiak: Well, the good news is that if an earthquake strikes the stadium, the ensuing fleeing masses of people will be more like a pretentious gang than an actual mob. Coming off a losing season + inconvenience getting to games + struggling this year + over-priced tickets = tumbleweeds. We're not excited about becoming bowl eligible because we know you're going to harvest our organs. Again.
What should Oregon St. fans expect Saturday? WSU clearly "Couged It" with reference to how they handled their game at CenturyLink in Seattle, as far as hosting an event off campus. Exclusive of winning or losing, will fans enjoy game day at AT&T? Or should they go down to Stanford for the "big game" in the Bay Area this weekend?
Kodiak: Playing the odds, Oregon State fans should expect to win, win big, and win in the most horrifying fashion. (from a Cal perspective) By the end of the game, you should feel embarrassed for breaking our will to survive. On paper, our D should be able to handle itself.
I'd expect plenty of man coverage on the outside and a variety of stunts and edge blitzes to put pressure on Mannion to throw some picks. Provided your run D remains porous, a game plan like the one we used against WSU that leans on the ground game and limits Maynard to being a manager has the best chance of avoiding epic fail.
Provided the weather cooperates, I think fans will enjoy AT&T. It's a beautiful park and San Francisco has a lot to offer that OSU fans might not normally see. Like electricity and indoor plumbing.
Not sure why you'd go down to the farm. The Big Game is next weekend.
Given that the Golden Bears hoops team should be really good, and better than the football team, have fans already shifted into basketball season mode?
Kodiak: I think many of us are holding onto a gallows-type of hope that the football season will provide some flicker of life. Admittedly, it's quite reassuring that Mike Montgomery really knows how to coach and has put together a tough group.
Finally, who (besides anyone from Stanford, USC, or UCLA football) would you like to punch?
CGB: Everyone on the furd, 'sc, and ucla basketball teams. Plus those Occupy Whatever idiots. And maybe a random Greek protestor or two. That rude guy at the DMV who kept near-trampling my kid. I have a lot of angst. I think I've watched too much Cal football.
Lots of great insight there!
Thanks again to Kodiak, Leon, Twist, and Cugel for taking Beaver fans for a walk through the state of the Golden Bears.