CALIFORNIA 77 WASHINGTON 69 (OT)
1. We're terrible at picking these games, and will hereafter always pick against the Bears;
2. Freshman of the Year? Sorry Spencer, we'll take Mr. Anderson (above) and his 18/14.
3. If Washington's the 24th best team in America, then Cal figures to be a #6 seed in the Western Regional. How does Cal out-rebound the Huskies? Seriously - how does that happen? If this was Washington football, alums would be storming the castle right about now.
Full report to follow tomorrow. GO BEARS!
A QUICK PICK - WASHINGTON AT CALIFORNIA
Will you hate us if we say that tomorrow is a winnable game for Cal? OK, we won't, then.
The Huskies are turnover-prone no matter who is running the point (Appleby, Dentmon, etc). They go into bizarre stretches where they seem to lose the ability to run an offensive set, let alone score. Defensively, they're very ordinary on the perimeter and seemingly get very little out of an intimidating inside presence (middle of the road in block %).
And yet, they are a hugely talented bunch with the best front-line in the conference. They are monsters on the offensive glass, ranking 2nd in the nation in Offensive Rebound % (the frequency with which they grab an available offensive board). Despite turning the ball over far too much, the Huskies get second chances and convert them for a high overall FG % (52.2% from two; 39.1% from three).Keys to the Game
- Play Ubaka at the two. It's time to take the shackles off one of the two guys who can score 20 points a game for the Bears. Give Randle an extra two-three minutes a half (at least) and let Ayinde (right) create for himself.
- Pressure the Husky guards. Cal isn't deep enough to pick up full court against UW, but maybe we could try some half-court traps or pressure in the front court. We'd like to see Cal dare the UW guards to beat them off the dribble, and hopefully generate a few turnovers.
- Limit second shots. Cal's going to get out-rebounded, but there's a big difference between a bad performance and a ridiculous one. With a merely bad performance, Cal can stay close and maybe get the W.
: Nothing about this game suggests a Cal victory. The Huskies desperately need a win at 1-4 in conference, and Cal has no answer inside for Hawes and Brockman. Our instincts tell us this is all pointing to a Cal upset, but we're not in a listening mood.
Washington 82 California 72
DO YOU WANT TO PLAY FOR ARIZONA STATE?
Check out the home page for ASU football
. There, at the top of the page where you would expect a news blurb about Erickson's new special teams coach, you see this:
As the odd html promises (what's with the jagged border?) you can indeed fill out a brief questionnaire and put yourself or someone you know into the hopper for a late scholly from Dennis. We'll see how far our contribution - JC running back Felonious Gotnogrades - gets in the process; our fingers are crossed that Dennis can look the other way on that weapons charge.
Nothing says "I have no respect for my predecessor or his recruiting staff" like putting up a solicitation for new players on your website. We'll be tracking the success of this novel recruiting technique all the way through LOI day.
BREAKING NEWS - KEITH RIVERS IS STAYING IN SCHOOL. NO, NOT THE RECEIVER, THE LINEBACKER. NO, NOT THE WHITE GUY OR THE GUY WITH ANGER ISSUES...
For all those who have inquired over the past several hours, let me put all speculation to rest. I am indeed planning to order the spicy green curry from the corner Thai place for my late lunch. I just strongly believe that this is the best solution for me and my appetite, if not my lower GI tract. I do not plan to have any salad rolls at this time, 'cause they don't put mint in them and that ain't right. I'd like to thank the guys at the corner Thai place, especially for ignoring California's minimum wage statute and making my curry both tasty and a real bargain.
I guess USC football is big enough that anyone can call a presser
to announce anything. Did anyone really think a linebacker who played pretty well this year and had a very nice Rose Bowl was worthy of a press conference over his draft status? Brian Cushing has man-boobs, and it can totally be explained without any reference to chemicals
- News at 10! C.J. Gable's doing pretty well in freshman English - stop the presses! The one legitimate Trojan presser saw Dwayne Jarrett cry the tears of the just
, which made us like him for exactly ten minutes. That feeling will be gone after his first inane end-zone celebration in an NFL pre-season game.
Tis the season for attrition and renewal. Let's focus on the former and see which starters our '07 opponents are losing. But before we do, one word of caution - KEITH RIVERS IS STAYING AT USC. I, for one, despair to even carry on with this post.....but carry on we must.Tennessee
- (WR Robert Meachem (early), WR Jayson Swain, LT Arron Sears, LG David Ligon, DT Turk McBride, DT Matt McGlothlin, MLB Marvin Mitchell, CB Antwan Stewart, CB Jonathan Wade)
Wow - the Vols lose both starting wideouts, both starting DTs both starting CBs, and the left side of their OL. And they'll just replace them with bigger, faster cyborg versions.Colorado State
- (RB Nnamdi Ohaeri, FB Tristan Walker, FL Dustin Osborn, LT Clint Oldenburg, RT Josh Day, SLB Luke Adkins)
CSU loses some skill people, and their best O-lineman in Oldenburg, but return 10 starters on defense. Should be much improved from 4-8.Louisiana Tech
- (TE Anthony James, C Jacob Peeler, WR Jonathan Holland, WR Eric Newman, DB Dez Abrams, FS Anthony Moss)
Tech loses their top two receivers and a couple of DBs. We'll figure out how important that is a little later in '07.Arizona
- (WR Syndric Steptoe, SS Michael Johnson)
Antoine Cason announced yesterday he was returning. If the Cats aren't a bowl team next year, they will run Stoops out of town with good reason.Oregon
- (G Palauni Ma Sun, C Enoka Lucas, TE Dante Rosario, WR Jordan Kent (leaving early for some reason), DE Darius Sanders, DT Matt Toeaina, LB Blair Phillips, LB Brent Haberly, FS J.D. Nelson)
Ducks lose their best O-lineman in Lucas, and lots off their front six. That may be a blessing in disguise, because their front six stunk on ice this year.Washington
(LG Stanley Daniels, RG Clay Walker, RB Kenny James, FB Mark Palaita, WR Sonny Shackelford, LB Tahj Bomar, LB Scott White, CB Dashon Goldson, SS C.J. Wallace)
The Huskies lose some important performers on D (White, Goldson, Wallace) but their fans are assuming this will be mitigated by improved offensive production. We're skeptical.Oregon State
(LT Adam Koets, TE Joe Newton, QB Matt Moore, FL Ruben Jackson, DE Joe Lemma, DT Ben Siegert, SS Sabby Piscitelli)
Koets is a very good lineman, and Piscitelli was fun to watch. They need a new QB, which is never a sure thing.UCLA
(C Robert Chai, WR Junior Taylor, DE Justin Hickman)
Does it matter if you return everyone from an underachieving team with an automaton for a head coach? We'll find out next year in Westwood.Arizona State
(TE Zach Miller (early), DE Kyle Caldwell, LB Beau Manutai, LB Derron Ware, DB Keno Walter-White, SS Zach Catanese)
The Devils lose two of their best defenders (Caldwell, Catanese), and their biggest weapon in TE Miller.Washington State
- (LG Sean O'Connor, RT Charles Harris, TE Cody Boyd, WR Jason Hill (finally), RB Chris Jordan, DE MKristo Bruce, LB Scott Davis, LB Steve Dildine, CB Tyron Brackenridge, SS Eric Frampton, CB Don Turner)
Coogs lose a ton, including three of their four best players (Hill, Bruce and Frampton). Looks like a rebuilding year, unless WSU scores big in juco recruiting.USC
- (WR Dwayne Jarrett, C Ryan Kalil, RT Kyle Williams, FL Steve Smith, LB Dallas Sartz, LB Oscar Lua)
The Trojans lose both playmakers - and no matter what their apologists will tell you, it's hardly automatic that Turner and Hazelton will step in and replicate that level of performance. Kalil is a bigger loss than people realize. Their D looks scary good, though.Stanford
- (OG Josiah Vinson, OG Jon Cochran, LB Michael Okwo, SS Trevor Hooper, CB Brandon Harrison)
Interesting - Stanford has already purged its seniors from its official website. Makes sense, I guess - no one has ever wanted to turn the page more than Captain Comeback. The Furdies lose a couple of good defenders, and two starters off the worst OL in conference history.
BLOG EXCHANGE - Q&A WITH UDUB DISH
We'll try to put last night's 73-56 loss to Wazzu behind us and focus on Saturday's tilt with the suddenly struggling Washington Huskies. Actually, before we get off last night, a minor rant: We understand Cal scoring 56. WSU's a good defensive team, they play at a deliberate pace and we don't have many options offensively.
mind letting any opponent shoot 58%. What happened to our Trademark Defensive Intensity? WSU had too many open looks - just like DePaul, and San Diego State, and Arizona, and USD. On several occasions this year, Cal just hasn't brought it - and fatigue doesn't explain lousy performances in the first half.
OK, that felt good. On to U-Dub.
The Huskies, SI cover boys at season's beginning, dropped their fourth conference game at Stanford last night 78-77. As we suggested
, Justin Dentmon has struggled at the point, and too many Husky possessions have ended in turnovers. When UW gets it to their extremely talented front line, good things happen. We asked fellow blogger U-dub Dish
for his thoughts on Coach Romar's blue-chippers and their game with Cal this weekend. He'll post our responses to his questions sometime today (and we'll post a prediction sometime today).Tightwad Hill
: The Huskies have been great in the front court, but Dentmon
seems to have struggled at the point. Are we correct in thinking this way, and what are your thoughts on where he is right now?U-Dub Dish
: You're absolutely right about Dentmon. He's struggled big time this year and has been replaced in the starting lineup by Ryan Appleby
), who splits the point guard position with freshman Adrian Oliver
Dentmon is a very emotional player; one of those guys who really needs to get involved early. When things are going bad, it gets in his head and his emotions seem to take over for his instincts on the court.Tightwad Hill
: UW's had one big win - v LSU - and a few disappointing losses. What was different in the LSU game?U-Dub Dish
: First off, I say the same thing to everyone I talk to about Huskies' hoops: that Northern Iowa win is going to look really good come March. As for LSU, well the big men just took over. Brockman
) and Hawes
were unstoppable on the glass and did a number on Glen Davis, holding him to single digits.
Turnovers - a big problem thus far - were minimal and the Huskies played the game at their pace...they did against Arizona too, but the Wildcats shot too well to lose.Tightwad Hill
: Speaking on behalf of the conference, we were ready for Hawes, but did anyone expect Quincy Pondexter
to play this well this soon?U-Dub Dish
: Not sure what the consensus was on Q-Pon, as we like to call him in Seattle. I really didn't know all that much about him coming in, but anytime a freshman can contribute the way he has, you have to be a little surprised.
With that, he has been inconsistent and did lose his starting job to fellow freshman Phil Nelson
: Anyone outside the starting 5 that Bears fans should look out for on Saturday?U-Dub Dish
: Probably the aforementioned Dentmon and Pondexter. Neither has been starting after the UCLA debacle two weeks ago. If they were to get back in the starting lineup, Phil Nelson, a freshman from Oregon, can get hot from behind the arc.Tightwad Hill
: What are your expectations (realistic and stretch) for the Huskies this year?U-Dub Dish
: Expectations were higher before the 1-3 (now 1-4) start in conference, I'll tell ya that. If everything breaks right, the Dawgs could still realistically go 12-6 in conference, lose to Pitt in February, and win two games in the Pac-10 tourney. That would leave them with over 20 wins and maybe a 4-6 seed. That'd be good.
Though if things don't break right - lose most road games save ASU and OSU, lose at home to UCLA, lose to Pitt on the road and don't win a game in the Pac-10 tourney - I really think the Huskies could be a bubble team. I'd like to think UW can make the Dance with the talent it has, but with the Pac-10 being so damn strong this year, just going .500 in league could be a moral victory.
Kudos to whomever disconnected the cryo-chamber in Walnut Creek, for it appears that the chardonnay-swilling weenies at the Pac-10 have arisen and discovered the concept of
inter-conference challenges in basketball. Huzzah, indeed - good work, old men. You're a decade too late, but good show nonetheless.
Of course it's not clear that any of these games will be on the WWL
, so the Pac-10/Big 12 matchups probably won't get 1/5th the publicity of the ACC/Big 10 challenge. Instead we'll force the broadcast stylings of Barry Tompkins and Dan Belluomini on the good people of the Plains states, which will thank God those two rarely invade the Fox Sports Wasteland channel.
Here's hoping against hope that this thing can be marketed to make it truly worthwhile for the conference's schools. There are actually some interesting matchups here (in '08, the matchups will flip - i.e., Cal will travel to Mizzou).
11/25/07: Arizona at Kansas
11/29/07: Oregon at Kansas State; Oklahoma at USC
11/30/07: Washington State at Baylor; Iowa State at Oregon State
12/1/07: Washington at Oklahoma State; Missouri at California
12/2/07: Arizona State at Nebraska; Stanford at Colorado; Texas at UCLA; Texas A&M at Arizona
12/22/07: Texas Tech v Stanford (Newell, we suppose)
* * * * *
On to football, where we're pleased to note that most Pac-10 schools are trying to play at least one real non-conference tilt in '07. Next year sums up like this:Cal
(Tennessee, at Colorado State, La Tech) - not bad, one tough game, one OK game on the road, one gimme - BArizona
(at BYU, NAU, New Mexico) - BYU and New Mexico were bowl teams, NAU is embarrassing. C+ASU
(San Jose St, Colorado, San Diego St) - In fairness, this schedule looked a lot better when it was put together and Colorado was a somewhat functional program. No road games gets a demerit, though. D+Oregon
(Houston, at Michigan, Fresno State) - No screwing around here. Houston's the breather, and they were in a bowl this year. Fresno will be back. A-OSU
(2 open dates + Utah) - I guess the Beavers just forgot about the whole putting together a schedule thing. Actually, what happened is they dropped a series with Georgia, which earns them negative points. Utah's a reasonable game, but we're assuming the other two teams will be gimps. DWashington
(at Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State) - Have fun, Huskies. Your one winnable non-con game is being played six hours away in an airplane hangar. AWSU
(at Wisconsin, SDSU in Seattle, Idaho) - Wisconsin's going to be scary good next year. The other guys, not so much. B-Stanford
(at TCU, SJSU, at Notre Dame) We've always thought TCU-Stanford was such a natural rivalry. 'Bout time they set that up. B-UCLA
(BYU, at Utah, Notre Dame) Very solid - UCLA has moved on from the SDSUs of the world, as they should. B+USC
(Idaho, at Nebraska, at Notre Dame) - The Vandals stick out like a sore thumb, and SC is trying to get a new opponent. Assuming they can't, its one gimme and two really difficult road trips. Adds up to about an A-
We'll soon take a closer look at the courageous scheduling choices of other BCS conferences, including the Mighty SEC, which will undoubtedly lead the weenie list again in 2007. Here's a little teaser:Arkansas Razorbacks
: (Troy, North Texas, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Florida International)
Will need to go 12-0 for us to rank him
PREVIEW - WASHINGTON STATE AT CALIFORNIA
Cal and the 14-2 WSU Cougars are actually pretty similar teams. They play at about the same pace, their offensive statistics are similar
, and each are among the stingier teams in the conference on defense (though WSU is superior in that last category).
WSU isn't very deep, but their starting five is very strong: Point guard Derrick Low
is their MVP thus far. Takes great care of the basketball, with a turnover rate below 10.0 (by contrast, Ayinde is at 14.9% - still a good number). Low is a tremendous shooter from both two and three (41% from behind the arc). Kyle Weaver
) is his back court mate - much taller (6'5") and more athletic, he presents match-up problems for opponents. Gets to the line far more often than any other Cougar.
One big question for WSU before the season was whether its front court could hold its own in conference play. So far, so good. Sophomore Daven Harmeling
is a three/four who plays outside
quite a bit. He's statistically the best shooter on the Cougars, with a Pomeroy effective FG rate of 63.9%. Interestingly, he's taken 61 threes and only 36 twos this year. Ivory Clark
) is very active on the offensive boards and is the Cougars' best shot-blocker. Lastly, 6'10" Robbie Cowgill
is the man in the middle, averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Their bench is a big drop-off from the starting five. Mac Hopson
offers 6.2 ppg off the bench as a combo guard; Taylor Rochestie
is a former C-USA All-Freshman PG at Tulane who's stuck behind Low, and there's a couple of other guys. Bottom line - get the Coogs in foul trouble, and your chances of inducing the upset spike up dramatically.Keys to the Game
- Attack offensively. Ayinde needs to keep the momentum going from the Stanford game and really try to break down Low and/or Weaver and get them in foul trouble.
- Control Clark and Cowgill on the glass. This is a game where Cal need not be blown out of the water in rebounding.
- Get some consistent wing scoring to slow down the defense collapsing on Anderson. It would be nice for Vierneisel or Omar to step up and have a nice outside game tonight.
: We think this will be a lot closer than one would think given the rankings (#22 team in America v unranked MASH unit). We still like the Cougars, but think this could be a memorable contest for those who (hopefully) fill Haas this evening. Prove us wrong, Ayinde, for the second game in a row.
Washington State 65 California 63
BLOGPOLL AWARDS REDUX (II)
In our fourth month of operation, we've been nominated for Pac-10 Blog of the Year as part of the College Football Blogger Awards
. While this feels a little bit like the Javier Bardem Oscar nod in 2000 (honoring work that no one had actually seen) we are grateful nonetheless to whomever is responsible.
We're on the left, metaphorically speaking
Our competition? Stiff - a Beaver
, a pack
, and the scorched earth dystopia of Bruins Nation
, which is making its annual evolution into a kinder, gentler blog that reports on basketball victories.
Anyhow, thanks to our readers. Without you, this blog would certainly have fewer comments. In all seriousness, it's gratifying to know that many of you make us a regular stop. We hope it's the best wasted time you spend all week long. And for new guests - voters who have no idea who we are or why we were nominated, enjoy a jog through our brief archives. You'll still wonder why we were nominated, but you might learn something.
LOOSE ON THE PALOUSE
Before the season we memorably picked the Washington State Cougars and their new coach Tony Bennett to finish 10th in the Pac-10. Instead, the Cougars are 14-2 and ranked 22nd in the nation. What happened? Today in part one of our game preview, we'll look at the numbers in an attempt to explain this resurgence of basketball interest on the Palouse.
The Cougars are essentially playing at the same pace they did under Bennett pere
, though they've cranked it up a wee bit. This year they are averaging 63.9 possessions per 40 minutes of play. Last year's team averaged 61.9, and the previous two teams were under 60 possessions per game. Cal's only slightly faster this year at 67 possessions per forty minutes of play, so expect a deliberate pace Thursday night. No surprise there.
So if it's not a big change in philosophy, what accounts for the improved offensive results?
Well, for one, much improved offensive efficiency. The Cougars have always played good enough defense to climb into the 1st division of the Pac-10, but their offense was slow, boring and inefficient. Wazzu had to hope for hot shooting nights for notch what upsets they could claim. This year's squad, by contrast, fields an above-average offense and improved defensive rebounding, while maintaining the Cougs' lock-down perimeter defense.
Some of the offensive improvement is simply due to better shooting - WSU's percentages are 50.4/37.8 as opposed to 46.7/33.2 last year. But just as significant, they're not wasting possessions - WSU is ranked 9th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy in turnover percentage (a simple pace-independent measure of ball security).
It's worth noting that Cal is also very good here - the Bears are ranked 13th in the country in turnover percentage. In fact, Cal's numbers compare very favorably to Wazzu on the offensive end:
2 pt FG - WSU 50.4%, Cal 49.3%
3 pt FG - WSU 33.2%, Cal 38.5%
Turnover % - WSU 16.9%, Cal 17.4 % (both excellent)
Offensive Rebounding % - WSU 27.5%, Cal 26.3% (both lousy)
FTM/FGA - WSU - 23.2%, Cal - 22.2% (neither team gets to the line)
Overall Efficiency - WSU 87th, Cal 78th
So why are the Cougars thought to be a better team than Cal? They play typical Cougar defense, which historically has been even stingier than typical Golden Bear defense. In particular, the Cougs are doing a better job of keeping opponents off the offensive glass than Cal (or previous Cougar teams); opponents get offensive boards only 28% of the time - placing the Cougars 22nd in the nation.
WSU also leads the nation in a KenPomStat known as Assists/Field Goals Made - this suggests that the Cougars are good at disrupting an opponents' offensive flow and tend to force teams to score with isolation and dribble drive. An examination of a couple WSU games confirms this - they're not UCLA, but they are certainly active on defense in passing lanes.
We'll look at individual matchups tomorrow. Also look for our first Q&A of the hoops season with Udub Dish on Friday.
Some people now think that Devin Bishop is actually coming to Cal after all. We'll believe it when the fax machine tells us so. If he does decide to follow brother Desmond to Berkeley, he'll immediately figure into the rotation at linebacker (probably outside). Minnesota's the other school in play, and they're still without a head coach.
We slag on recruiting quite a bit, but occasionally we become irrational and obsess about an undecided recruit or two. This year our target is Woodland Hills OLB Malcolm Smith. We need linemen, and Smith figures as a WLB or even rover (6'2"/215), but read this quote:
“I'm down to Cal, SC and Notre Dame," Smith said. "I'm taking my visit to SC on the (Jan.) 19th and that'll be it. I'll probably make a decision sometime after that. Cal and Notre Dame are really high on my list because of academics. They both have a high percentage of graduation. SC has great family ties, and they're trying to get better in academics
. That's good because that's what college is all about.” Smith said he's taking a long look at things off the football field when it comes to making a decision. "I want to major in engineering
," he said. "I think Notre Dame and Cal have a better engineering program. Well, actually, I don't know because SC got a big grant - so they're all about the same."
Um, not really: Undergraduate engineering programs (US News '06 survey): Cal tied for 2nd, USC tied 31st, Notre Dame tied for 41st with ASU (!).
If there was ever a home for geeks who can run a 4.44, it's Berkeley. We officially have a recruit-crush on Smith.
ROOTING GUIDE TO THE NFL PLAYOFFS
The NFL is entering its two-week period of watch-ability. CFB is finally done, and the pros will play six games over the next fortnight to determine which teams qualify for the perpetually underwhelming Super Bowl. These are typically entertaining contests, though we confess we lack the proper frame of reference to assess the teams and likely outcomes. Perhaps you're like us - CFB fans who just can't devote the grey matter and energy to care about a bunch of play-alike teams who are pulled steadily by the powers-that-be towards .500 each year. If so, we've got a handy rooting guide to the playoffs.Indianapolis at Baltimore
- a tough game for Cal fans - the Colts have two Golden Bears on their roster, Pro Bowl tackle Tarik Glenn
and safety Matt Giordano
, while the Ravens counter with backup QB and Cal fave Kyle Boller
. Tie-breaker - Baltimore's QB coach is one Richard Neuheisel. Go Colts!New England at San Diego
- I almost abstained here based on my support for the Lightning Bolts, because the Patriots have it all over the Chargers in the ex-Cal category. Ryan O'Callaghan
is a starter at tackle, and Tully Banta-Cain
is an important part of their linebacker rotation. San Diego has David Binn
, who is the dean of NFL long snappers. Great guy, but we gotta hand it to the Pats on this one. Good thing this isn't predictive.Philadelphia at New Orleans
- here's an easy one. Scott Fujita
is the heart and soul of the Saints' defense. Philadelphia, after being a great Cal team for some time (Brandon Whiting, Eric Zomalt, John Welbourn), has no Bears on its roster. Worse, their special teams coach is John Harbaugh - Jim's brother. They will undoubtedly be punished this weekend. Go Saints!Seattle at Chicago
- No Golden Bears on either side! But a closer look reveals a clear preference. Ron Rivera
is the architect of Chicago's punishing defense, the 18th greatest Golden Bear (according to some folks), and hopefully a head coach next season. What does Seattle counter with? Gaze with fear upon the image of their offensive line coach:
It perhaps need not be said, but Go Bears!
SECOND AND SHORT
During the year Tedford and Dunbar came under fire (relatively speaking) for their alleged conservatism in play-calling. We thought it fair to do a quick and dirty analysis of the play-by-play for each of the Bears' conference games and the Holiday Bowl to see whether this criticism was supported by the data.
One can look at aggregate data to see that Cal threw the ball more in '06 as we did in '04 (413 to 331 with only one more game played). That's not what we're after here. Instead, we want to examine situational play-calling to determine a) whether Ted-Bar are generally conservative in situations that lend themselves to stretch plays and b) whether Ted-Bar are more conservative than other successful teams - namely USC, who is often held up as an example of how to be aggressive on offense. For the USC data we looked at their conference games plus ND and Michigan.
For this first look we're examining a down and distance that usually offers good insight into the mindset of an offensive coaching staff: 2nd and short (defined as 3 yards or less). This down and distance is a good test of a team's "aggressive" philosophy, since it offers coaches the opportunity to go for the jugular, assuming that a 3rd and short is makeable in the event of an incompletion.
(We thought of using 1st and 10, but decided against it since many teams ran a pretty deep zone against Cal as their base defense in '06. Under circumstances where the defense is taking away the intermediate and long routes, any coach would be more prone to dink and dunk or run the ball more frequently than normal. 2nd and short, however, usually offers a more vanilla defensive response. That, and we're too lazy to look at all the data).
We analyzed competitive situations in which Cal either trailed or led by no more than two touchdowns, and did not look at possessions at the end of the 2nd or 4th quarters, when the Bears might be expected to pound the ball to kill clock, or 2nd and goal situations.
The numbers back up our collective suspicion - Cal was indeed very conservative in these situations
in 2006. Cal faced nineteen 2nd and short's in 2006, and ran the ball 17 times
. The two passes were a short completion to DeSean Jackson in the Stanford game, and a more ambitious incompletion to Robert Jordan against the Bruins. Another interesting number: Cal faced eight competitive 2nd and 1's and converted only three of them - a crazy number considering the quality of Cal's running backs.
USC, thought by some to be a paragon of go-for-broke offense, faced 29 such situations and passed nine times
(four times on 2nd and 1). So, yes, the Trojans were significantly more aggressive in this down and distance in 2006. Not sure what this proves - nor are we sure that giving the ball to Lynch or Forsett is a bad thing - but it's food for thought.
WE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS
This probably wasn't the best year to launch a blog named Tightwad Hill. The denizens of the real Hill are suing the University
to block the stadium re-design on the grounds that it threatens their free view of Cal games.
The legal grounds here are something of a mystery. Dan Sicular and crew clearly don't own the land on which they squat. Their suit claims that Tightwad Hill is a cultural resource, and that the University hasn't taken that into account in its planning. OK, but as we understand it, the re-designed stadium would obscure only a portion of the view from the Hill. If this is true, and Tightwad Hill can still accommodate fans on gameday, then Sicular has no legal leg to stand on. Are we missing something?
Don't steal my free stuff
Don't know about you guys, but we've never seen a favorite get so completely worked in a big game. Hats off to Urban Meyer, who is officially the King of CFB. All hail Orson and Stranko
- here's hoping they find a reason to carry on after two championships in twelve months. If we could get just one, we'd probably call it a day.
PAC-10 BASKETBALL - INSIDE THE NUMBERS
First, if you haven't please visit Ken Pomeroy's website
. Bookmark it if you care a whit about college hoops.
Pomeroy does RPI projections, like lots of folks, and he has his own ratings system. They are possession-based and measure offensive and defensive efficiency adjusted for factors such as tempo, 3-point shooting (for a more effective FG percentage stat) and the like. His stats are possession-based; his efficiency rankings show how frequently teams turn the possessions they're given into points (and vice versa). The math is available on his site for your reading pleasure.
In the Pac 10, Pomeroy's overall rankings aren't too much of a surprise (national ranking in parentheses): UCLA (4), Arizona (16), Oregon (25), USC (29), WSU (49), UW (55), Cal (57), Stanford (78), ASU (145), OSU (170). The only surprise (or disappointment) is his low national rankings for the Pac relative to the polls. Non-Pac teams he loves? A&M (2), Memphis (10), Georgetown (12), Indiana (14).
- Arizona has the 2nd most efficient offense in the nation. Defense not so hot - 89th.
- SC has the 13th most efficient defense in the nation, which explains their success this year.
- Cal is 56th in offense and 61st in defense (last year Pomeroy rated us 42nd in offensive efficiency and 58th on defense - who knew Braun was such a genius offensive coach?)
- Omar Wilkes never gets to the line. He averages 5.7 free throws per 100 FG attempts, a ridiculously low number.
- Ryan Anderson takes care of the basketball, averaging only 9 turnovers per 100 possessions. He's 24th in the country in this stat.
- In fact, Cal is very strong in ball security - 13th best in turnover percentage.
Anyway, check out the site for more details - the Cal report is here
AN EARLY DEPTH CHART - SPECIAL TEAMS
Punter: Andrew Larson (Senior)
/Bryan Anger (Freshman)
He's not quite Nick Harris yet, but Larson is a terrific punter who was a major part of Cal's success this year. His hang time and directional kicking were the major reasons the punt cover unit was much improved and did not yield big returns. Anger is rated the #2 punter in the nation by some recruiting services; we actually trust their ratings when it comes to this position. Cal is very solid here. No idea how the punt or kick cover units will measure up.Placekicker: Tom Schneider (Senior)
/Jordan Kay (Junior)
12-13 inside 50; perfect on PATs; the 55-yarder in the Big Game. Yeah, we'd say that Schneider has been a pleasant surprise. Makes those long Tedford FG attempts a little more palatable. Punt Returns: DeSean Jackson (Junior)
/Brandon Hampton (Senior)
We've got the suspicion that heralded return guys tend not to have repeat performances the following season. We're too lazy to look at all
the All-America teams, but we looked up the FWAA teams out of curiosity. 11 underclassmen have made All-America as kick returners, but only two have repeated (Tim Dwight and Rocket Ismail, if you're interested). Hopefully DeSean becomes the third. He'll need to if he hopes to contend for the Heisman (more on that later in the off-season). Kick Returns: Tracy Slocum (RS Freshman)/Jahvid Best (Freshman)
Hughes is gone, and as the feature back Forsett isn't going to be used here. So auditions will begin in the spring for our new kick returners. Here's a wild guess that the unit winds up being Jahvid Best (assuming he signs) and Tracy Slocum. Slocum is fast and shifty; Best might wind up being the fastest man on the team unless he bulks up. They are probably the best athletes for this role, but will JT put two frosh on kick return?Summary
- This looks like another strength for the Golden Bears. Only one of the four kicking game units is unsettled, and Cal should be able to field great young talent in kick return. We return our long snapper (Nick Sundberg) but must get a new holder (Reed, Riley?). Anyone who thinks this is trivial hasn't been watching the past few weeks of the NFL. Lastly, what's it going to take for Cal to block a punt or a field goal sometime soon? I know we rarely get after it with DeSean back deep, but why not a FG once in a while?
Overall, special teams is another team strength. 2004-5 seems like a distant memory.
MARIO DANELO 1985-2007
What a tough year for the USC family - first Ryan Francis, now this
. God bless and RIP.
AN EARLY DEPTH CHART - DEFENSIVE BACKS
Cal will be reshuffling the cards in its secondary this off-season. Fortunately, there's a lot to work with, and for the most part decisions are being made from a position of strength. The rumored move - of Thomas DeCoud to corner - is driven by the emergence of Bernard Hicks and Brandon Hampton more than any weakness on the corner. The Bears lose Lott Award winner Daymeion Hughes, but return a unit that overall should be as strong as the one in '06.CB: Syd'Quan Thompson (Sophomore)
/Darian Hagan (RS Freshman)Others
: Brandon Jones (Sophomore)
Has any Cal player made more improvement during a season than SQT? Great games against SC and Stanford, a deserving freshman AA. Hagan will compete with Peele to be the fifth DB; he was one of two top recruits last year and could press for starting time elsewhere. Jones was highly regarded out of high school; a pretty good third guy.CB: Thomas DeCoud (Senior)
/Robert Peele (Sophomore)Others
: Charles Amadi (RS Freshman)
Scuttlebutt is that DeCoud will switch here unless Peele makes a big leap in '07. He's tall and great in run support, but we worry a bit about position changes, especially to corner. Peele looked a lost at times this year, but should improve with experience. He saw quite a bit of the field this year, which shows that coach Littlejohn likes his game. Jones was highly regarded out of high school; a pretty good third guy.ROV: Brandon Hampton (Senior)
/Marcus Ezeff (Sophomore)Others
: Brett Johnson (Sophomore)
Another returning starter, Hampton had 58 tackles and two picks in '06. Not bad for a walk-on running back. Ezeff is a nice #2, a super special teams player and good tackler.FS: Bernard Hicks (Junior)
: Gary Doxy (Sophomore)
Hicks started the last nine games of the season and played pretty well. He seems to have pretty good ball instincts, though he could use some work in the run game - too many times he goes for a knockout and doesn't wrap up. We're guessing that Doxy fits in as a depth guy here, but who knows.Summary
: No unit is less settled than the Cal secondary, which is actually not a bad thing. Cal returns lots of talent and experience, and some of it is interchangeable, allowing Tedford, Gregory and Littlejohn the flexibility to adapt to different situations (schemes, injuries, etc). This unit could further be shook up depending on whether Cal lands any one of three outstanding recruits - JC safety Terry Mixon, JC corner Chaz Thompson, and HS corner Donovan Warren.