Homecoming in Style

It’s been a weird season for us, the hosts of our tailgate gang. This will be our first game as tailgate hosts as a funeral and then injury prevented us from attending the first two games. So it will be nice to get back to Underhill with the gang and some burgers and brats. Also, the game times have been challenging – we’re more used to afternoon tailgating so this game will be great. Not being a morning person, the brunch tailgates have not been my cup of tea, but the gang has persevered with bagels and pastry which don’t go quite as well with wine and beer. Since it is our first game of the season, I’m forgoing cocktails and going for the champagne – it’s also a birthday tailgate so why not be festive. Highlight will be taking the ’71 Mercedes 220 to the game – it hasn’t been to a game in a couple of years so the conditions seemed to be right to take it on a road trip to Berkeley. This was my father-in-law’s car and he (and my mother-in-law) are post-war Cal grads. I restored it 5 years ago after it sat in my in-law’s basement for almost a decade. If any of you have tried to get an old car back on the road, it can be challenging and the breakthrough finally came when I connect two batteries together to give me enough cranking power to blow through all the crud that had accumulated in the fuel system. Unfortunately, I didn’t think I had a chance in hell of getting it started so I hadn’t opened the garage door. When the car mysteriously decided to turn over after several weeks of obstinate refusal, I had to keep it running long enough to clear the system, but no long enough to kill me with CO poisoning. The neighbors CO alarm went off and I did get out of the garage in time. But it was an adventure I’ll never forget. Since the restoration, it’s been to car shows, Lake Tahoe, a 4th of July parade (the American flags were a nice touch), and a few tailgate parties – it has a massive trunk for a relatively small car so can hold more tailgate gear than most cars. But alas we’re going to part with the old jalopy this year – too many things going on in our lives to maintain the classic – so this will be it’s farewell ride.
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Momentum in Memorial

Cal has shown that it can score points, rack up yards rushing and passing, and even demonstrate some competency on special teams (and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that). Let us remind everyone that they are playing the Dawgs not the Hawks so this talk of D-Fence isn’t quite the same – the Sherman Tank isn’t on the other side of the ball. Dub’s got a decent defense, but it isn’t ‘furd and it doesn’t have playmakers like $C. And UW QB Cylon Mileage – as they say yours will vary – is #63 in QB rating with only 6 TD’s in 5 games. I think most Soccer teams have more than 6 TD’s. And do they have a back that can make a difference against Cal – I don’t think so. Lasco actually has more yards than Coleman, and you’re comparing a Junior to a Freshman. Cal’s defense spent the week in punch the ball out drills since turnovers win games. Cal’s secondary is getting better this week and playing against a limited passing attack will help. If the Dawgs attempt to break out of their ground game, expect Cal to get a couple of picks. Unlike Dan, I don’t see UW making their average – Cal 42-28 with Cal focusing on ball control and scoring half the points on turnovers.

This is probably one of the biggest weeks in the Soft Drink Playoff Division following the October meltdown last week with 5 of the top 8 teams losing, throwing the Committee of the Chosen Ones into complete chaos since all of them had picked their top 4 teams in February. The P-12’s perennial candidate, the Quacks, may have played their way out of the Playoff and can bury themselves further with a loss in the Rose Bowl against an L.A. College of Mimes squad that seems to hate its own QB – that’s the only thing I can figure after seeing Hundley on the turf more than he seems to be upright. Battle of the Heismann Trophy candidates – hardly at this point with Mariota having an OK year. Although at the rate other candidates are dropping out due to criminal charges or other malfeasance (taking money for autographs???), perhaps they are still in the running. Line is Mimes by 3 and I’ll go with that.

‘zona gets tested ‘gainst $C in a game that sends L.A.’s angry wounded animals to the desert on a mission – one of those don’t come back if you don’t get a W. Problem is that $C is full of talent that just isn’t being realized on the field. On the other hand, ‘cats look good, have guts, and seem to have all the pieces. Can Sark the Shark figure out an O or D scheme that will work? Maybe this one goes to OT and gets decided by the kickers. Coin flip.

‘furd got tested vs a thoroughly exhausted and somewhat confused Wazoo. With some of the worst refs ever seen in the P-12 (and that is saying something), both teams came close to losing their coaches to “gosh dumm” and “dag nabbit” as Shaw broke is perpetual smile and Leech got even grumpier than usual. The Cards played through so many mistakes that the announcers thought that this was the local high school game. ‘furd still stinging from realization that they ain’t going to the Soft Drink Playoff.

The Utes face the Beavs next Thursday in another battle of 4-1 teams with major implications in both the Norris and Queen of England divisions. Utes are everyone’s pick as the spoiler in the QoE and the Beavs seem to have potential but are having all sorts of problems this year. I’m going with the home team by 3, although weather could play a factor and put the game into the ugly zone.

In the rest of the CFB world, three more huge games with Auburn traveling to Miss State, Ole Miss heading over to A&M, and TCU visiting Baylor’s new stadium. Easy to take the home team in all 3, although I’m less confident in A&M’s ability to stop Ole Miss. Baylor is #1 in scoring and I don’t expect the home cooking to be spoiled even against TCU’s #1 defense. Auburn just won’t know what hit them in Starkville – they may not even be able to find it on the map to begin with.

Huskies: A Good Team On Paper, But…

The Washington Huskies started the season ranked in the Top 25, and won their first four games — but didn’t look good in the process. They only beat Hawai’i by 1, narrowly avoided embarrassment against Eastern Washington, 59-52, and had a miserable first half against the Georgia State Panthers of the Sun Belt Conference, going back to the locker room trailing 14-0. They finally woke up and won, 45-14, but the game helped to illustrate just how poorly these very talented players have managed to play as a team most of the time. OK, new coach, new system, maybe not all the players have bought in; maybe they don’t see Chris Peterson as a big-time coach (after all, Steve Sarkesian, the last coach, went back to be the Head Coach at USC). Whatever it is, these guys haven’t played all that well for a majority of the quarters they’ve played.

Central to this team under-achievement is soph QB Cyler Miles, who still hasn’t cracked the 200+ passing yardage barrier. Honestly, the UW passing game is just what the Cal defense has needed. With starting safeties Avery Sebastian and Stefan McClure [maybe] returning for Cal, the Bears could very well limit UW to under 250 yards passing. Or will Coach Peterson roll the dice and give QB Jeff Lindquist more playing time? With 2 weeks to prepare, they might be able to pull it off…

The Huskies’ ground attack is led by their massive OL, and they might be able to run the ball on the Bears if they had Bishop Sankey back for a day, but none of the Huskies’ RBs has stepped up to fill his shoes. Bottom line: the Bears were able to stop Arizona’s vaunted ground game, and deal with their OL, so look for the Bears to stop UW on the ground, and get enough stops to keep the Cal defense off the field for a while.

Cal’s offense will put up points, but receivers will be wary of SS Shaq Thompson, who will be on duty to put big hits on Cal’s prolific WRs, and blow up the bubble screens.

Here’s a good synopsis by ducky23 on BearInsider:

The clear facts are these (and they cannot be disputed);

Cal is elite in passing
Uw is awful at pass defense
Cal is awful at pass defense
Uw is awful at passing
Uw relies on running
Cal decent in rush defense

This isn’t difficult.

Jeez, it’s late! Time to land this plane.

Prediction: Cal beats UW, 48-38

Passing out on the Palouse

After two straight white-knuckle games, Cal heads to the Palouse for yet another. When we knew we had problems with our defense, I was keeping track of points against – we’re now up to 143 points in 4 games which ranks 107th in the Playoff Division. Wazoo is ranked 90th in scoring defense so let’s safely say that the point total could easily pass 100 again (even though the over/under is around 70). Cal is facing the #1 passing team in the country but ‘zoo QB Halliday can be pressured and has thrown 7 picks and been sacked 12 times – which accounts for their 2-3 record.

Cal needs to keep the ball out of Halliday’s hands. For once the weather will be quite pleasant in Pullman so it will be good conditions for the Cal running game to eat the clock. The Cal offense is looking pretty sharp with 4 games under their belt. As for the Cal defense and their problems with the passing game – perhaps this is an opportunity to test the power of prayer. The key will be putting pressure on Halliday to get him to make some mistakes so this game may be decided by the performance of the Cal D-line. Cal is a 3-point underdog so let’s spin the table with Cal scoring late for a 52 to 49 win.

As for the P-12, 10 of the 12 teams have at least 1 loss and every team in the Norris division has a CONFERENCE loss. And it isn’t going to get easier. ‘zona dumped the Quacks AGAIN on Thursday night probably killing their Big Corporate Trophy chances. ‘furd travels to Our Lady of the Touchdown for what will certainly be a scary game well in advance of Halloween. Meanwhile $C embarks on a get well program with the ‘devs while the Utes bring their reign of terror to the other LA football stadium to end the undefeated season of the College of LA.

On the national stage, ‘bama travels to the other Oxford to face Ole Miss in a meeting of undefeateds that could further confuse the SEC race for the Big Corporate Trophy. Maybe lightning will strike in Oxford, maybe not.

Quick Predict: Cal vs. Colorado

It’s Saturday morning, Bears!

And I have to scoot to make tailgate happen…

So there’s one more detail to finalize: The traditional Prediction.

Simply put, the Bears will bounce back. They’ve put the heartbreak behind them.

Cal will run on the Buffs, and then burn them with the pass. Once again, fear of Goff & WRs will make Colorado’s already-awful run defense even worse.

Cal struggles some with pass defense & gives up a few big plays, but generally keeps everything in front of them.

And Cal gets better at holding a lead.

Prediction: Cal 48, Colorado 28

Go Bears!

Ambush in the Canyon

Dan aptly described last week’s contest as the “Shootout in the Desert” in which case this game becomes the “Ambush in the Canyon” because it really becomes Cal’s trap game. How can anyone recover from last week’s game. We had a business meeting at Cal this week and everyone in the room was just besides themselves about the epic collapse. I will just say one thing: pass interference is not a spot foul in college and Cal should have just tackled every receiver before the ball even got there. Sure, ‘zona might have tried a fifty-something yard field goal on the final play but I’ll take my chances with that. And frequently the refs don’t call PI on a hail mary play because everyone has an equal shot at the ball.

Anyway, CU offers a different set of challenges. The fan who attends the game will certainly get to see Cal run the ball even more. And if we do jump out to a lead, expect to see the first quarter offense continue into the fourth quarter so the score could get ugly. I’m not sure I should even guess. OK, call it 45 to 28.

In other P-12 action, College of LA body-slammed the ‘devs 62 to 27 – is that right? Holy mother of god… ‘furd travels to Seattle to play some combination of Werewolves and Hawks in a real trap game. Beavs walk into a large lawn mower in So Cal. Wazoo and Utah in a game we should care about (we play ‘zoo next week) but we don’t.

One other comment on last weekend’s action – Quacks survive the zoo 38 to 31 in a game the announcers were not quite sure was really happening before their very eyes. I think both of them had planned to take early flights home. So Cougs found a way to slow down Quacks and score a few points of their own.

How Good is Cal?

This is the question that every opponent is going to be asking until Cal exhibits some sort of emotional or physical breakdown.

So far they’ve passed the tests.

  1. Early season road game?  Check.
  2. Trap game against Division 1AA?  Check.
  3. Two weeks of practice without a slew of season-ending injuries (or arrests)?  Check.

Now a Pac-12 road game against a middle-of-the-road AZ team that has been spending a lot of time in the rain of late.  So expect a thoroughly disoriented pack of Devs wondering whether they are playing in that soccer stadium in the amazon rain forest.  Game time forecast is for temps in the 70s and humidity over 60% with T-storms during the day – so much for the dry Southwestern desert.

Cal’s offense got a chance to settle in against the Tomatoes and most of the roster got playing time which will be important for a game which will likely go deep into the fourth quarter or overtime.  On paper, the teams look well matched, with a slight rushing edge to ‘zona, although they are led by a freshman RB Nick Wilson and if you’ve been around football long enough, you know what that means.  Fumble!  If Cal hasn’t spent the last two weeks working on punching the ball out of Mr. Wilson’s hands, then something is wrong in Strawberry Canyon.

A game this close will inevitably go to the team that can hold on to the ball.  Cal has demonstrated a much better ability to do that this year, and a well-rested and practiced squad should be able to force a fumble here and jump on an interception there.

Dan and I are competing this year to see who gets the most predictions correct.  We’re 1-1 going into this game.  He’s more offensive minded here, I’m going with more defense and a 28-24 final with Cal pulling out a seesaw battle in 4Q.

Shootout in the Desert

The Cal Bears are 2-0 (yesss!!) and full of confidence.

So are the Arizona Wildcats.  This should be an exciting game between two evenly-matched teams.

The Wildcats have put up some very impressive numbers in 2014 with their rushing attack, and their offensive scheme will put a lot of pressure on Cal’s defense.  That said, the Bears are probably the best defense that the Cats have seen this year, and with an extra week to prepare, hopefully DC Art Kaufman will come up with a way to confuse RS Fr QB Anu Solomon on the zone read plays, and get him to cough up the ball.

AZ’s O-line is the heart of their offense.  Four out of five OL starters return, and they’re coached by former Cal OL coach Jim Michalczik.  They’ll be looking to blow Cal off the ball & run.  We’ll see if Cal loads the box, & tries to force Solomon and his smaller/less experienced WRs to carry the load.  Rich Rodriguez’s offense is about taking what the defense gives them, so look for a lot of offensive production in this game.

On the other side of the ball, Cal’s short passing game should be very difficult for Arizona’s defense to stop.  Look for the Bears to move the ball with the pass to create opportunities for the running game.

Prediction:  Cal, 42-38.  Jared Goff shreds the AZ defense.  Cal’s defense slows AZ just enough, and creates a couple turnovers.  Look for 2+ interceptions and 1+ Solomon fumble.

Game Day Salmon

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Dan bought fresh local King Salmon off-the-boat at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay from Jimmy of the Kimberly Rose – he may still have some today (415) 317-7437.

I’ll hand it over to Dan to tell you about his marinade and approach to cooking.  I had a taste this morning and it was fabulous.

And the nice thing is that you cook it at home and bring it to the game so no BBQ mess and smoke at the tailgate.

Hornets Beat the Spread?

As in beating the Spread Offense?  No.  As in beating the point spread.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think that Cal will win by a fair margin, but I don’t think it’ll be the shootout that some are predicting.

Just a guess:  Coaches Dykes and Franklin take the opportunity to run the ball.  And run.  Two rushes or more for every pass.  Give the OL practice with moving bodies, running the ball a lot in long, clock-killing drives, and blocking at the 2nd level.  The focus will be on the OL and blocking by WRs.

This offense is hungry to prove itself on the ground, and I think they were somewhat disappointed with their rushing production against Northwestern.  They have something to prove.  The whole point of a Spread offense is to spread the defense and open up the running game.  If we can’t sustain long drives on the ground against the Sac St. defense, then we’re destined to cling to the lower rungs of the Pac-12 ladder.

Look for Goff to throw deep occasionally to keep the Hornet defense honest, but I think they want to win this one the slow way.

 

Prediction:  Cal wins, 31-17.