Archive for the 'Sports' Category

Big Game to be televised on “Versus” TV station

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Man, this MUST be the year that Cal got the short straw in TV coverage.  Not only will the road game versus Colorado St. be on CSTV, the Big Game will be on Versus.  It’s hard to say which is a worse TV package.  I know for me, I get Versus but will have to pay a package upgrade fee to get CSTV.  From the sounds of it, Versus is included in a lot more cable packages that CSTV.  On the other hand, if you’ve been reading my Americas Cup blog entries you’d know that Versus gets extra points from me for covering my beloved sailing events.  At the same time, CSTV at least is a channel that focuses on college sports unlike Versus which covers everything from sailing to the Premier Darts League and in fairness to Versus, playoff NHL hockey.

Speaking of which, every Cal fan really needs to read SFGate’s editorial about the Big Game TV deal.  Here are a couple of the highlights from it:

  • “It televises the Louis Vuitton Cup, which is either a yacht race or a competition among airport baggage handlers.”  (Of course all my readers know it is the lead-up to the Americas Cup.)
  • “The Versus series “Holy @#%*!” is not a religious program but rather a roundup of “snowmobile crashes, rodeo wrecks, bungee-jumping disasters and skydiving mishaps.” Stanford football highlights could be added to that mix, depending.”  (A well played shot if there ever was one)
  • “Cal supporters should remember that the Big Game isn’t exactly a dream matchup for much of America, although some viewers might be drawn in by the Stanford Band’s halftime ‘Salute to Bungee Jumping Disasters.'” (Another good shot!)

Finally, although the Versus/Big Game deal makes the headlines, two other games got standard issue TV deals announced.  The game at ASU will be on FSN at 7:00 PM and the WSU game in Berkeley will also be on FSN at 7:00 PM.  Personally, I think I might revise my ASU game prediction with the new late start time… I think that works in Cal’s favor.

So, to sumerize, here is the current list of Cal Bear games on TV:

  • Tennessee – 9/1 @ 5:00 PM on ABC
  • @Colorado St. – 9/8 @ 11:00 AM on CSTV
  • @ASU – 10/27 @ 7:00 PM on FSN
  • WSU – 11/3 @ 7:00 PM on FSN
  • USC – 11/10 @ 5:00 PM on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2
  • @Stanford – 12/1 @ 4:00 PM on Versus

New HPC earthquake fault data released

Friday, June 1st, 2007

The Cal High Performance Center (HPC) that has been blocked in court pending a full trial that will review pending and more detailed seismic data, is looking good right now.  The Althletic Department released a press release yesterday saying that the new detailed seismic data confirms that there is no active earthquake faults on the building site.

This is really no surprise, but it’s nice to get the confirmation.

The other interesting tidbit in this VERY well written press release (it both makes the case of the University well while sticking to the facts and addressing common questions) is that it looks like the date of the trial will be pushed back from earlier expectations.  It was previously thought that the trial would happen in June or July yet the press release says “late summer or fall”, which means likely September or October (at least to me).  If I had to guess, the completion of the seismic review was a key piece needed to set a trial date.  Since it wasn’t released until effectively the beginning of June, I suspect that’s the reason for the delayed trial date.  If so, that’s a blow to the Athletic Department because the completion of that report was completely under their control.

In any case, since construction wasn’t going to start until the football season was over, it doesn’t much matter whether the trial is in the summer or fall, just that it’s all done before November 10th (the last home game), with the possible exception of the tree-sitters still having trees to sit in during the season.

In the end this is very good news and likely clears the way for the construction of the HPC.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some back-room dealing is occuring right now between the University and the City of Berkeley and the Panaramic Hill Association (the big players in the lawsuit) to work out a compromise that avoids the court case entirely.  Now that it looks far less likely that the City can block the construction, they need to work out a compromise that protects their interests instead of losing out on everything they want by proceeding to court and losing.

Great analysis of Tennessee game

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Over on The California Golden Blogs (CGB) there has been a series of 4 posts (one, two, three, four) about last year’s Tennessee game and what was the cause of Cal’s demise.  Although I have my points of disagreement and generally think it’s trying to be too quantitative for something that requires a qualitative answer, it’s still very good analysis and worth reading.  Well done Hydrotech at CGB!

The guys over at CGB have a knack for finding something to blog about during this slow portion of the college football news.  Not to be outdone, I’ve got my blogging plan for June and July all worked out.  Here’s the teaser:

  1. Re-review of each game last season with an emphasis on what it means for this season.
  2. Coverage of the “Tree Hugger Trial” (date not yet known).
  3. Predictions for every Pac-10 game, including non-conference matchups in 2007.
  4. Improved online stat comparison tool (expansion of last years stats I provided).
  5. A Pac-10 prediction game (similar to a “pick’em” league but with more ways to compare participants).
  6. Re-design of visual layout of blog with a lot more data/info.

Make sure you keep tuning in on a regular basis!

USA out of Americas Cup

Monday, May 21st, 2007

(See the introductory post for background and my previous race updates)

Well, for the third time in a row, and only the third time in the 150 year history of the America’s cup, an American team will not be in the America’s cup itself.  Team BMW Oracle, the lone USA representative, lost their 5th race to the Italian Luna Rossa team to be eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup (the winner of which gets to challenge for the America’s Cup) on Sunday.

Needless to say, I’m very disappointed.

It seems to me that 5 things went wrong for the American team:

  1. Having Chris Dickson run the campaign all by himself:  Chris Dickson is a great sailor who would kick my oversized behind in any and every race in any type of boat in any type of conditions on any day of any week of any year that we were both alive.  So while I don’t want to be overly critical of Dickson, I do think he was the wrong guy to have such ultimate control of the syndicate.  Dickson is a VERY fast sailor and can make any boat go its fastest.  He also seems to have a gift for working with designers to make fast boats.  In that sense, he was the right guy to lead the challenge up through the round-robins.  What Dickson lacks is that killer tactical instinct on the water.  He was just destroyed by James Spithill in the pre-start in all 6 races of the semi-finals.  Dickson looked utterly over his head and seemed shocked that the tactical intensity had made a big jump from the round-robins to the semi-finals.  While any idiot should have been ready for that jump, since it’s just not his strength, he was completely blind-sided.  What the team really needs is a guy like Paul Cayard or John Kostecki (both American I might add… we all seem to have that killer instinct us pesky Americans) on the helm for the pre-start and then hand the helm over to Dickson for the rest of the race so he can make the boat go fast.  This would have the added benefit of having a guy like Kostecki helping Dickson be more aggressive later in the race as well.
  2. Having a boat that was optimized for fast downwind sailing: I’ve touched on this before, but in retrospect, it just killed Oracle to have a boat that was a touch slower upwind than Luna Rossa by trading off fast downwind speed.  It’s really hard to pass downwind unless you’re right on the tail (<50 meters) of the competition rounding the windward mark.  But Luna Rossa did a great job of making sure they used their speed and resulting tactical advantage to work a 70+ meter advantage at each windward mark making it nearly impossible for Oracle to pass downwind.  It’s much more important that the boat be fast upwind that downwind and it showed in the semi-finals.
  3. Late changes to the boat: Along those lines, Oracle made a change to the boat after their come-from-behind win in race 2.  While I’m all for making improvements, that was not the time.  You could tell that after the change, whatever it was, the team just didn’t have the confidence in knowing how they would perform against the Italians.  Sometimes it’s better to know and risk not making an improvement, that being unsure of how you’re boat will perform.  It helps you have confidence in tactical situations knowing what you can and can not get away with.  If the change was indeed a larger rudder as was speculated for better pre-start performance, it’s quite clear that it didn’t make a lick of a difference in the pre-start while hurting their speed all around the race course.  That’s where a guy like Dickson, who lacks that killer instinct and doesn’t realize that it’s not the boat, it’s the personel that makes the difference in those situations, really hurts.
  4. Heavier wind as the regatta continued: I was suprised how little I heard about this in the TV commentary, but I think Oracle was the fastest boat in the light wind, perhaps by a great deal, but their speed advantage went away when the wind picked up.  In the first round-robin, one that was plagued by light wind, Oracle cleaned everyone’s clock, including both Luna Rossa and TNZ.  (OK, they did have one odd loss to the Spanish team).  In the second round-robin when the winds were more stable, although they beat everyone except TNZ (and the Chinese when they breakage issues), their victories were not nearly as decisive and their loss to TNZ showed a chink in their armor.  (As well, it should be noted that their win in round-robin 2 over Luna Rossa was one of the lightest days of round-robin 2.)  Moving to the semi-finals, the only time Oracle looked substantially faster was in the light stuff, and the come-from-behind wind was a fairly light day with dying breeze on the last leg.  With all of that data, I’m pretty convinced that Oracle wasn’t as fast as everyone thought when the wind was “normal”.  To some degree their fast light-air performance decieved everyone, perhaps even Oracle themselves.
  5. Holding cards close to one’s chest:  In this case, it was Oracle’s lack of doing so that was the problem.  They seemed to be out for blood from the start of the first round-robin.  Perhaps they even set their boat up for the lighter conditions of the first round-robin and weren’t able to make the mode changes in the heavier winds that were seen later.  It was almost as if the team didn’t realize that it was nearly a given that they’d be in the semi-finals along with TNZ and Luna Rossa and they’d likely have to beat both of them to get to the Cup.  The round-robins were nearly meaningless except for the 4th spot.  Oracle would have done well to spend more time experimenting and trying odd configurations, going for the kill in the pre-start and going for more tactical flyers during the round-robins knowing it would have cost them a couple of wins instead spending all their effort trying to kill the weak competition.  Sometimes it makes sense to hold one’s cards close to one’s chest and only step up the competition when it counts.  Luna Rossa seemed to time that perfectly and was ready to pounce in the semi-finals.  Despite losing 3 of the 4 races against the other big two in the round-robins, they look really strong going into the finals having destroyed the caught-by-surprise Oracle.

That’s the way I see it anyway.

As I said I’m extremely disappointed.  I was really looking forward to watching the America’s cup from the Golden Gate bridge.  The good news for the Cal Bear fans who read this site is that there will be no more sailing updates, although you can be sure that I’ll be watching the rest of the racing, albeit with a lot less ownership.

LVC cup continues terribly

Friday, May 18th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background and these posts for my previous race updates)

Well, Oracle lost again, again unable to use their downwind speed to their advantage.  At least today Oracle got a pretty even start against Luna Rossa, although they were still about 15 feet back off the line.  The problem was that Luna Rossa was able to grow enough of a lead of about 100 feet by the time they reached the windward mark both through better upwind speed, particularly their ability to accelerate out of their maneuvers, and strong yet traditional tactics.

I had thought this before, but after today’s race it was confirmed.  If I had to pick between a boat that was fast upwind and downwind, I’d pick the fast upwind boat every time.  The issue is that in match race sailing it is VERY difficult to pass.  Since the first leg of the race is upwind, it’s the place where the initial leader is determined (along with the start).  So the faster boat upwind is much more likely to have a lead at the windward mark and it puts the boat that is faster downwind in a difficult situation because of the difficulty of passing downwind.

So Oracle is now down 1-3 (best of 9), and must win 4 of the next 5 to win.  They’d better find a way to get some upwind speed or tactical upwind advantage because they’re just not going to get it done with their downwind speed.

No Gameday!?!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Well, I was always a little unsure about the whole ESPN Gameday crew coming to Berkeley based on the scout article considering their was no announcement from either ESPN or the University.  It turns out that I was right to be a little skeptical.  According to the new Cal Sports lead for the Contra Costa Times Johnathan Okanes, the Gameday deal is still in the works and could still fall through.

So, while there is still reason to be optimistic, the reality is that this is not a done deal and we shouldn’t bust out the champagne quite yet.  On the upside, it also means that the decision on a location for a Gameday visit is also yet to be made.  So if you have any suggestions, an e-mail to Sandy Barbour might result in a better location choice.

Finally, it’s interesting that Mr. Okanes thinks that a Gameday visit for the Cal vs. USC game is also a strong possibility, seemingly even if Gameday comes for the Tennessee game.  While I think a Gameday visit for the USC game is a real possibility, it’s only a possibility as an alternative to the Tennessee game.  I’ll bet my season tickets that Gameday isn’t coming to Berkeley twice in one season.

LVC cup takes a turn for the worse

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background and this post for my previous race update)

Well, today team Oracle couldn’t pull off the miracle that they did on Tuesday.  It’s funny how quick something like this can turn on its ear.  The reality is that Oracle has started all three races in a hole.  While it is awesome that they were able to dig out of one of the three, its unreasonable to expect that they’ll be able to do it consistently.  They need to start winning some starts and picking the correct side of the course off the start line if they’re going to have any hope.

Tomorrow is an off day.  Hopefully they can spend some time reflecting on their starting strategy and win some starts in the racing starting on Friday.

Great racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background)

I didn’t write a post about the end of the 2nd round robins for the LVC because I was dissappointed.  Oracle, the lone American boat, had been in 1st place for the entire 1st and 2nd round robins until the last day when a painful loss to Team New Zealand (TNZ) saw TNZ leapfrog Oracle by one point.  That was important because it allowed TNZ to choose their opponent for the semi-finals (top 4 boats) and they naturally picked the 4th place boat, forcing Oracle to race the 3rd place, but far more dangerous Italian team called Luna Rossa.

The semi-finals started yesterday (they’re actually on live TV on “Versus” which is formerly OLN and is channel 608 on DirecTV… albeit at 5:30 AM PDT).  I didn’t post yesterday because Oracle got crushed by Luna Rossa (LR).  It was a horrible race where Oracle split from their competition at all the wrong times and stayed close at all the wrong times.  The only good news was that Oracle looked blazing fast downwind and managed to erase the big lead LR built on both windward legs.  Unfortunately, Oracle ran out of room on both downwind legs and couldn’t pull off the pass either time, losing by over a minute on the final run (the race consists of 2 upwind and 2 downwind legs).

So this morning I wake up at 5:30 to get my daily Oracle/LVC fix and the start of the race goes 10 times worse than Monday.  For the Cal Bear fans, imagine if last season the Bears in their 2nd game, after the humiliating Tennessee loss, got pummled in the 1st quarter by Minnesota.  Imagine being down 24-0 going into the 2nd quarter.  You’re thinking, “what they HECK happened to my team!?!  We were supposed to be good!”  That’s how bad it was.  The pre-start (the equivalent of the 1st quarter) went horribly wrong with LR able to nearly lockout Oracle from starting at all.  Heroics managed to get them out of the jam, but they started over 9 seconds back, an absolute eternity for a start and giving LR all kinds of opportunities to extend their lead on the 1st upwind leg, extending to a mindblowing 58 second lead at the windward mark.

Yes it was bleak.  It was looking for sure like they’d be down 0-2 in the best of 9 series and without a prayer unless they somehow got their act in gear.

Now imagine that after a middling 2nd quarter, the halftime score being 31-7, the Bears charge back in the 3rd quarter with 21 points to get to a 3-point deficit 31-28 before Minnesota scores another touchdown to stretch the lead to 38-28.  Well, that’s about what happened, as Oracle was able to make up most of the 58 second deficit they had dug themselves on the first leg of the race downwind.  Yet again they showed great speed downwind.  Yet unlike the Tennessee, er the 1st race on Monday, they mananged to stay tight with LR on the following upwind leg setting up a crucial yet still unlikely opportunity for a pass on the final downwind leg.

And they pulled it off.  Man is Oracle fast downwind.  They waited for the right opportunity to split away from LR and then just flew right by them.  It was a very impressive display of both tactics and boat speed.

Now the series is inexplicably tied 1-1 despite seeming down and out just an hour earlier.  The momentum is squarely in the US’s corner.  I’m sure their downwind speed has LR as nervous and Texas A&M was of DeSean Jackson and I wouldn’t be surprised to see LR make the kind of mistakes that nervous teams make.  What an awesome turn of events.

I expect to see all of you in front of your TV’s tomorrow at 5:30 AM to catch the next installment. ;-)

Go Oracle and the USofA!

ESPN Gameday coming to Berkeley?

Monday, May 14th, 2007

It is being reported by Scout that the nation’s biggest college football preview show is coming to Berkeley the week of the Tennessee game.  Supposedly there will be official announcements from the Cal Athletic department and ESPN “shortly”.

If true this is great news.  I’ve been hoping that Cal would get the respect of having Gameday in Berkeley and was disappointed when the 2006 Cal vs. Oregon game didn’t net a Gameday appearance.  The two locations most being discussed are Sproul Plaza down in the heart of campus and there is some discussion of Maxwell field, the artificial turf field right next to the stadium.  I must admit that I’d prefer Maxwell field over Sproul plaza, although I’d also like to hear discussion of the Witler Rugby field above the stadium towards Strawberry Canyon.  While Maxwell field will get a great view of the side of the stadium and the main entrance, Witler field, with a properly located and elevated platform could get a view of both the inside of the stadium and of the beautiful views of the Bay one gets from the stadium.

I’ll update this post with a link from the Athletic department when it is available.

RBBID comments on my predictions

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

RBBID linked to my post with 2007 Cal game predictions with the following comment:

 Over at Bear Territory, Ken has done a post spring practice Cal game prediction. I would say I agree with most of his analysis except for any game he picked us to lose. Also, he picks Cal to lose to ASU and USC and sneak into the Rose Bowl after USC goes to the National Championship Game. I am not sure Cal would finish high enough in the polls to get picked for a BCS game if it did lose two Pac 10 games.

First of all, I sympathize with their desire to predict all games as wins.  That said, I’m too much of a realist for that.  The reality is very few seasons result in a team being undefeated and it’s not practical to expect that of any team, with an occasional exception.  So, I sympathize, and it does indeed pain me to write that Cal gets beat by ASU, a craptastic team that doesn’t deserve the respect of that prediction, but I’ve got to think that Cal loses one of its tough Pac-10 road games and that’s my best guess as to which of the three it is.  As for USC, I hope that I’m wrong, but the realist/”Cal fan who lived through both the Gilbertson and Holmoe years” in me says that I’m not.

As for the 2 losses being too much for a Rose Bowl bid, with 3 losses last year Cal was just a couple of poll spots short of being BCS eligible and it was quite clear that the Rose Bowl wanted Cal if they were eligible.  2 losses puts Cal in the top-10 (I’d guess #8 with my predicted wins/loses) and that’s plenty high enough for a Rose Bowl selection.  Perhaps RBBID is thinking of 2004 when #6 (or said differently #5 plus Mack Brown) didn’t get Cal into the Rose Bowl, but what one can’t forget is that there are now 2 extra BCS spots with the BCS championship game being a separate game from the 4 BCS bowl games.  Those two extra spots change a great deal and allow the bowl game selection committees a lot more flexibility.  The Rose Bowl desperately wants the Bears.  They know that a Cal Rose Bowl will bring 49 years of waiting Cal fans out of the woodworks and it’ll be a popularity/financial windfall for them when they finally have the opportunity to pick Cal.

Cal would have been in the Rose Bowl in 2004 had the current BCS lineup.  Texas would have played in the Orange Bowl against likely either Georgia or Virginia Tech, since USC and Oklahoma wouldn’t have played their pathetic blowout game in the Orange Bowl but a week later in the separate “BCS Championship Game”.  With these new rules, a top-10 2nd place Pac-10 team will always play in the Rose Bowl if the 1st place Pac-10 team goes to the BCS Championship Game, particularly if Notre Dame isn’t BCS eligible (that’s my prediction for this year).

Now that I think about it, perhaps RBBID’s thought is that 2 losses doesn’t get Cal 2nd place.  Considering that I’m predicting USC to go undefeated (hence giving every other Pac-10 team at least 1 loss), I think 2 losses will be good enough for 2nd place, particularly if that loss is to ASU.  A big part of the reason I put ASU with one loss (to Boise St. edit: I meant Oregon St.) when they got to the Cal game is because their schedule is very tail heavy.  Because of a desire to keep a semblance of brevity (pause for laughter) I edited out the part of my ASU prediction where I said they then go on to lose at least 3 of their last 4 games (@Oregon, @UCLA, USC and Arizona).  Basically, assuming USC goes undefeated, for Cal to keep 2nd place with 2 losses, whoever Cal loses to has to have 2 other Pac-10 loses (3 total).  I’m confident ASU will, and think it is likely that either Oregon or UCLA will as well.  For my money, I think Oregon is the team most likely of the three teams to be trouble to take 2nd place away if Cal doesn’t beat them.

In any case, I’m not predicting a loss to Oregon.  I’m predicting ASU.  And at the same time I’m predicting ASU loses 3 of their last 4 to let Cal pass them by for 2nd place in the Pac-10 and a Rose Bowl bid.

Any other questions? :-)

Post-Spring practice Cal game predictions

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

I’ve done my analysis of each of Cal’s opponents this upcoming year and am prepared to show off my prognostication skills by doing my very early prediction of each of Cal’s games.  I’ll even give you scores!

Cal 38, Tennesse 30: In a game that was not as close as the final score, Cal is able to rebound from a handful of painful defensive mistakes.  Unlike last year, not all of those mistakes go for touchdowns, but do result in about 13 unearned points.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears down by as much as 10 early in this game, depending on when the defensive mistakes happen, but as the defense settles down, Cal’s offense, which is strong all game long, wins the day. The crowd is a huge factor both in getting the Cal players pumped up and helping them rebound from their defensive mistakes.

Cal 42, Colorado St. 16: In a game that is reminiscent of the mid-2006 season, Cal wipes the floor with a Mountain West team that continues in its struggling ways.

Cal 31, Louisiana Tech 20: In a game that is never in doubt, but one where Cal looks surprisingly vulnerable, Cal manages to win despite looking shakey.  Despite the fact that there was no reason to think Louisiana Tech would put up any more of a fight than Colorado St., Cal looks like they may have taken them for granted and was looking forward to their revenge game against Arizona the following week.

Cal 23, Arizona 13:  In a generally low scoring game, Cal manages to get their revenge for the 2006 upset over the now 2-2 Arizona Wildcats (their other loss to BYU).  Generally, the Cal defense looks the best it has all year as the Arizona offense continues to struggle in Berkeley.  On the downside, the Arizona defense continues to keep the Bears in check and the game is closer than Cal fans feel comfortable with.

Cal 31, Oregon 24: Cal will similarly demoralize the Oregon Ducks like it did in 2006 and will lead this game 28-10 going into the 4th quarter.  Unlike 2006, Oregon who already has one loss to Michigan and a tight game versus Fresno St., with its fans behind it, manage a strong 4th quarter with two TDs to end with a respectable score.  Nevertheless, the game will have a “Cal-Tennessee blowout” feel to it and Cal will get lots of props for the big win and will be rising in to the polls, into the middle of the top 10.

Cal 17, OSU 12: In a highly billed and nationally televised Pac-10 showdown of undefeated teams, a defensive struggle that is frustrating to Cal fans for it’s lack of offensive fire-power, results in Cal squeeking out a victory in a game where it scores fewer times than its opposition.  Despite the fact that OSU came into the game undefeated because of upset wins over ASU on the road and an over-rated UCLA at home, Cal’s defense proves too confusing for OSU’s young QB.  On the plus side, the victory can be given to the stout defense that kept OSU out of the endzone including an important mid-4th quarter goal-line stand that will have OSU fans questioning why their beloved Beavers didn’t go for it on 4th down with that little time left and the potential to tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion.  Cal’s ability to beat an undefeated team catapults it into the Top-5.

Cal 45, UCLA 31: In a high scoring affair, Cal FINALLY wins one at the Rose Bowl upsetting the biggest home-field advantage for a Pac-10 matchup (neither road team has won this game since 1999, a 17-0 Cal/Holmoe (go figure) win in LA).  The game ends up being the death-noll for a UCLA team with high expectations, it being their 3rd loss of the season (BYU and Oregon St. being the other two), as they sink into mediocrity despite having beaten Notre Dame at home the week before in a revenge game for them after the 2006 collapse in South Bend.

Cal 24, ASU 31: While it pains my to write it, I think Cal is going to lose one of the Oregon, UCLA or ASU games.  They’re luck just won’t hold for all 3 road games.  I’ve got to think ASU, with a new head coach leading the way, is the one that is going to pull it off.  It’s the 2nd of two tough road games back to back for Cal and  ASU has an ax to grind against a Cal team that has abused and embarassed ASU for multiple years in a row.  Cal goes into the desert with too much confidence and loses their first game to a quickly rising in the polls 7-1 ASU team, at the same time sending Cal reeling in the polls because in the end, the pollsters really have no respect for the Pac-10.

Cal 27, WSU 10: In another game noted as a defensive struggle, but one where the score is never all that close, WSU continues their downward spiral into the Pac-10 basement at 2-7, only above Stanford.  The younger Mixon brother, Terry, regrets the decision to go north instead of playing for his older brother’s school.

Cal 20, USC 21: In one of the biggest heart-breakers in Cal football history, undefeated USC comes into Berkeley and beats the Bears in a very, very tight game.  Cal will make one too many mistakes in a game where it was clear that Cal could have won, similar to 2004 down at the Coliseum, but just didn’t play consistently enough to get the job done.  USC continues on as the #1 school in the country on their way to a national championship.  Nevertheless, Cal holds onto a low teens poll spot because of the tight game that has pundits around the country saying good things about Cal, despite the loss.

Cal 38, UW 13: Poor UW.  They’re wallowing in misery late in a disappointing season with very little talent.  They’re very much like the 2005 Stanford team that managed more wins than anyone expected through discipline and good coaching.  Nevertheless, although they’ve managed 4 wins (Syracuse, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford) and still had a shot at a bowl game coming into their home game against Cal, there is just too much talent on the visitor’s sideline and they go down fast and easy in the first half, ending their bid at bowl eligibility.

Cal 37, Stanford 6: Stanford gives up their last shot at a Pac-10 win early in this blowout of epic proportions giving Cal its 6th Big Game victory in a row.  In the end, Cal’s desire to impress the Rose Bowl committee combined with their superior coaching and talent were too much for Stanford despite their determination to get a conference win before their season comes to an end.  They end the season 1-11, their only win being an uncomfortably close home game against San Jose St. in week 2.

Cal 21, Michigan 24: In their first Rose Bowl since 1959, Cal comes up short, despite “sneaking” into the spot via USC going to and winning the National Championship game.  The joy of being in their first Rose Bowl was too much for this Cal team to keep their focus through and although capable of a win, the Bears didn’t come with their ‘A’ game.  The loss was to Michigan, not Wisconson as many pundits suggest because, just like many overhyped “alternative” Big-10 teams, they couldn’t beat either Ohio State or Michigan, finishing the season 10-2.  Ohio St. loses a couple of painful games to Penn State and Michigan to put them out of the running despite their powder puff non-conference schedule with Youngstown St., Akron, Kent, and their only non-conference opponent with anything resembling teeth, Washington.

OK, that wraps it up.  The key thing to remember is that the Bears go 10-2 (3 with the Rose Bowl loss), losing to USC and one of UCLA, Oregon or ASU on the road, while beating Tennessee and make it to the Rose Bowl by USC making it to the National Championship game.  Just remember, you heard it here first.

Cal blog #6 or top 3?

Friday, May 4th, 2007

I’d like to give a heart-felt thanks for Rose Bowl Before I die (RBBID) listing my blog as the 6th best Cal football blog.  He also says that he would have ranked me in the top 3 had it not been for the “Rivals falloff” that caused this blog to suffer last year.  Which to me is a very generous statement.  Between particularly Tightwad Hill (#1), the California Golden Blogs (#3) and Cal Golden Bear Football News (#4) as well as the not to be mentioned here #2 blog, to think that this blog’s content has been good enough in the past to bump two of them off, well, it’s very humbling.

So thank you for both the #6 ranking and for speaking so well of the blog’s potential.

While we’re on the subject of ranking Cal blogs, I want to remind everyone that I update my list of Cal blogs I link to every fall just as the season is starting.  There will be some changes this year as some blogs have unfortunately gone out of business and some new blogs have proven themselves worthy of inclusion.  As a additional reminder, I take which blogs I link to very seriously.  There are those sites out there that’ll post a link to just about any blog they know of, and while that is a fine way to go about it, it has the downside of the list getting so long it is meaningless and hard to find the good needles in the haystack.

Here are the criteria I use:

  1. Moral content: The #1 thing to prevent your blog from inclusion on the list is any content that is morally offensive.  The most common example of this is frequent swearing and why the #2 ranked blog does not and will not get a mention here unless one particular poster cleans up his language.  Does it really add anything to a post to say a player is f-ing pathetic?  Find better words to describe yourself.  Other examples include any suggestions of violence against anyone, this is college football not a war, or personal attacks against players or coaches beyond just their capabilities on the football field.  It’s OK to say that Joe “Booya” Ayoob is the worst player to ever grace the Cal sideline and Tedford is a complete coaching moron to have let him stay behind center for as long as he did (even though I’d disagree), but to say you want to rip out his bowels and force-feed it to Tedford crosses the line.  Finally, I expect the comment sections being in line with my moral standards and that the comments of the blog’s author on other blogs meet the standards as well (one blogger in particular suffers from this problem).  For the comment sections, I don’t expect one to moderate to the degree that all comments meet my moral standards, but that truly, wildly objectional comments are deleted and somewhat to moderately objectionable content is somehow rebutted/chastized.
  2. Frequency of posting: I’m only going to link to blogs with somewhat regular posting.  Generally that means at least a couple posts a week during the season.  I’m not too concerned with off-season posting but someone who is consistent all the time gets extra props.
  3. Quality of posts: What this means depends on what your blog is trying to accomplish.  If you’re just trying to report news, I’m not going to hold it against you that you don’t have detailed analysis.  At the same time, if your goal is news and you’re always a week behind everyone else, well, that’s not very good news.  On the other hand, if you’re a game-analyst type guy, I’m not going to hold slower posting against you, but I do expect that your analysis is meaningful.  Generally what this means is if when I go to your blog, do I find something worth reading?
  4. Longevity: I generally like to see that a blog has been around for atleast a year before it gets the nod.  This is partially to give me time to judge based on the above criteria and also because lots of bloggers drop off within a month or two of blogging.

If you don’t care if you get a link on this blog, that’s fine.  But if you do, those are the criteria I judge by.  Consider this post a good place to put your blog’s URL so that I can see if it is one I want to include in the fall.

TV contracts starting to trickle in

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

We heard about the Colorado St. game getting picked up by CSTV about a month agon and now we have the preliminary ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 schedule for the Bears.  The short answer for the Bears is that both the Tennessee game and the USC game will now be at 5:00 PM and that the Tennessee game will definitely be on ABC.  It’s being incorrectly reported in certain cirlces that the USC game will be on ABC as well.  While that is the likely case, it could still be on any of ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.  I suspect that’s what will happen if Cal or USC loses 3 or 4 games by the time the November matchup rolls around.

While we’re on the topic of TV coverage, since I’m sure I get a ton of readers from the Cal Athletic Office (har har), this whole “we’ll let you know the game time and channel 12 days, or in the worst case 6 days out” really sucks as a ticket holder.  I’ve got small kids that I take to the games and it makes life a lot easier to know what the game times are ahead of time.  I’ll take them to any game between noon and 5:00 PM for the start, but the late FSN 7:00 PM games are just too late for a 3 year old.  It would really be nice if you guys got rid of the whole “exclusive time blocks” crud that requires all of the game time manipulation.

Similarly, if I knew a road game wasn’t going to be televised more than a week or two in advance, I’d be tempted to arrange travel plans to go see the game in person.  But with that little warning, it’s much more difficult, particularly for places like Oregon where getting tickets can be difficult.

The reality is that there are enough channels these days for every Pac-10 game to be on every week.  There is no excuse for TV contracts that make it impossible for that to happen and require us fans to constantly be adjusting for changing game times and which cable/satalite package we need to watch all of the games.

Post draft signings

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Many people forget that a fairly large percentage of NFL players were undrafted.  After draft day, all the NFL teams go out and sign contracts with the guys that they like that didn’t get drafted.  In Cal’s case, 6 players signed free-agent contracts after draft day:

  • Tim Mixon went to Seattle
  • Nu’u Tafisi also went to Seattle
  • Erik Robertson went to San Diego
  • Marcus O’Keith went to Kansas City
  • Byron Storer went to Tampa Bay (no word on whether Storer Buses will get the Tampa bus contract)
  • Mickey Pimentel went to Carolina

To me, the most interesting pick-up was Marcus O’Keith.  This guy hardly got any caries stuck behind Marshawn and Forsett, so you’d think it would be hard for a pro team to justify his salary.  That said, I’m glad to see that someone besides me thought highly of him.  Every time he was in the game he impressed me with his determination despite being a backup.  You know he’s a team player as well because he never complained about being 3rd on the depth chart.  He’s probably the best college RB that spent his entire career 3rd on the depth chart.

Oracle the top boat!

Monday, April 30th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background)

The first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup wrapped up over the weekend.  The great news is that the Oracle team is in 1st place.  They only lost one race, a tight one to the hometown favorites Desafio Espanol.  In that race, the Spanish got a great start, squeezed Oracle out, forced them to tack away on the first beat and managed to hang onto that lead for the rest of the race.  More importantly, Oracle beat both of the other favorites, Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand (TNZ) in their races, concreting their spot as the boat to beat in the LV Cup.

Go BMW Oracle!  Bring the Cup home!

America’s Cup action

Monday, April 30th, 2007

For those who don’t know me well, my main sport is sailing.  I never played organized football in high school (and of course that means no college either), but I was one of the bay area’s best youth sailors.  I won’t bore you with my list of championships won as a teen, because the point of this post isn’t my accomplishments.  I’m just giving some background on the below post and follow up posts on the America’s Cup:

The Americas Cup is the superbowl of sailing.  It’s where the big boys go with their VERY expensive toys to prove that they’re the best.  The America’s cup happens every three to four years and the cost of a competitive campaign is around 200 million dollars.  Since sponsorship dollars can’t raise that much, most of the sydicates are owned by billionares like Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame) or Ernesto Bertarelli (a biotech billionare) or Patrizio Bertelli (of Prada fashion fame) and then supplimented by sponsorship dollars.

The America’s Cup dates back to 1851 when a US boat called “America” sailed to England and won a race around the Isle of Wright called the “One Hundred Guinea Cup”.  It then took the trophy back to the US and dared challengers from England to come take it back.  Over time, more countries became interested in winning the cup from the US.  With each successive victory, the cup more firmly established its name as the Americas Cup.  In fact, the winning streak of the US lasted 132 years (the longest sports winning streak ever) and 24 victories before the Austrailians won it in 1983.  In 1987, the next race after 1983, the US won it back, defended it twice in 1988 and 1992 before losing it to New Zealand in 1995.  New Zealand became the first country outside the US to successfully defend in 2000, in the first cup match that didn’t include a US team.  In 2003, New Zealand lost the cup to Switzerland.

Which brings us to the 2007 cup, currently going on in Valencia, Spain (nowhere to sail in Switzerland)…

The format of the America’s Cup is fairly complicated.  Unlike most boat races where there are lots of boats in the same race, the America’s Cup is what is called match racing.  There are only two boats in each race.  Furthermore, because one race isn’t very indicative of who the better boat is, there is a series of races, similar to how basketball and hockey have 7 game series to determine the winner.  In the America’s Cup, it’s a best of 9 series.

To add to the complication, more than one country is interested in challenging for the cup each time it is held.  Some times there is more than one challeger from a single country (Italy has 3 this time).  As a result, there is a long regatta held before the America’s Cup to determine who gets the right to challenge for the Cup.  That regatta is called the Louis Vuitton Cup.  For 2007 the format of the LV is as follows:

  • There will be two round robins, where each boat races every other boat.
  • At the end of those round robins, the top 4 teams (two points for each win in the round robins plus 1-4 points for seeding based on pre-LV Cup racing) will go to the semi-finals, a best of 9 series.
  • The winners will race in the LV Cup finals, another best of 9 series.
  • The winner of that series gets to race in the Americas Cup.

This year there are 11 challengers.  Only one of those teams is from the US, BMW Oracle Racing.  It’s funded by Larry Elison, CEO of Oracle and is sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht club (each team needs a yacht club sponsor) in San Francisco.  Three different Bay Area yacht clubs (Golden Gate, St. Francis and San Francisco) have challenged for the Cup over the years and although they’ve come very close, they’ve never been able to win.  The Cup was always raced in New York during it’s first stint in the US for 132 years and was then in San Diego for its second stint.  If BMW Oracle were to win, the Cup would be brought back to the Bay Area for it’s next iteration in the 2011 timeframe.  For all Bay Area sailors, the idea of the Cup being in the Bay Area is very thrilling, and so we’ll all be rooting for BMW Oracle to win, as will most US sailors who want to see the America’s Cup back home.

Next up… the current LV Cup standings.

List of Cal Bears taken in draft

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Here’s the final list:

  • Marshawn Lynch: 1st round, 12th pick to the Buffalo Bills
  • Brandon Mebane: 3rd round, 22nd pick (85 overall) to Seatle Seahawks
  • Daymeion Hughes: 3rd round, 32nd pick (95) to Indianapolis Colts
  • Desmond Bishop: 6th Round, 18th pick (192) to Green Bay Packers

Overall, I’m glad for those players because they all ended up on teams with either a tradition of winning or currently very strong.  In the end I thin the Bills and the Colts will be most happy with their picks long term, with perhaps the Packers getting the best deal of the bunch but it’s hard to say.

Neither Tim Mixon nor Mickey Pimentel were selected, which makes sense overall.  I’ve always thought Mixon was great, but I think college may be the top of the ladder for a guy of his size.  While he was a great shutdown corner against average WRs, he had a tendency to get burned against speedy recievers.  That was partially a speed issue and partially symtomatic of how he played, very agressively.

Finally, I think the numbers show just how good of a coaching staff is in Berkeley.  As I was scanning the list, I saw 3 instances of some college named “Stanford”, two in the 3rd round.  Obviously 3 guys don’t make a team, but nevertheless it is a sign that there is talent on that team.  Obviously the big schools out there like USC had far more than 4 players picked.  In other words, Cal is still ramping up on getting elite talent and to be in the position it is now, where two out of the last 3 years it has given the concensus best college football team of the decade a run for their money for the Pac-10 crown, is a sign of just how well coached Cal is.

Sports and faith

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Today, the combination of two different blog posts (one from Mark Shea about a new documentary and one varia post on TBIOOTF that ends with the following video that you must see) helped me to find the words to comment on the Virginia Tech tragedy in a way that could sound crass but I believe is meaningful.

One of the reasons I love college football over pro football is because college football is about more than an owner and his team.  The NFL tries to deceive people into thinking they are there for the community just like corporations try to fool people into thinking their motives are bigger than the bottom line, but it’s all a joke.  The reality is that the job of the NFL is to make the 32 owners money just like it is the job of corporations to make money for their owners/shareholders.  Sometimes the best way to do that is by being a “good citizen” but in the end, they exist for one and one reason only.

Not so with college sports.

There are many out there that think college football is just as comercial as pro football.  While it may seem that way, and while there are definitely comercial aspects of college football, the reality is there is far more there.  To make my case I give you two proofs:

  1. Name me a pro-football team that has “boosters” who are willing to donate money to the cause?
  2. There was no talk of the New Orleans colleges and University leaving for a new town like there was with the Saints after Katrina.

At it’s heart, college sports are about people.  It’s about students at a college and the alumni who used to go there.  It’s about the hope and pride of those individuals.  No matter what happens, those people have a link to that college.  The college can’t just move and no longer be the Houston Oilers and now is the Tennessee Titans.  Nope.  My diploma will always have the same name on it.  I will always be bound to that school.  While in good times it will be easy for me to show my pride, it is just as true that in bad times I can not deny my ties to them.

That’s why when I watch the video I linked above, it gives me chills and makes my eyes water.  Because it’s the same people who filled that stadium with hope and joy who were struck down by fear and sadness last week.

May God give peace to those affected by the tragedy so that they may again find hope and joy. 

Post-Spring depth chart released

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

The post-spring practice depth chart for the Cal Bears has been released.  You can find it here.  This is always interesting to look at because it is the only real quantitative data one gets from spring practice.  One can only trust all the quotes one gets from the coaches so much.  They’re playing a delicate game of cat and mouse with the other coaches of the Pac-10, the media and their players.  Everything is a bit too veiled to take too much away.

But the depth chart has cold hard facts.  It has who would start and who would be the backup if the season started tomorrow.  Here are my thoughts on it:

Offense:

No surprises here.  Even the offensive line, the one area in flux, turned out just about as everyone expected.  Probably the most noteworthy thing is that, again as expected, Montgomery is indeed Forsett’s backup at tailback.  Considering just how much talent there is at RB, it would not have been surprising for there to have been a surprise here… er… you know what I mean.

Defense:

The biggest surprises here at cornerback and linebacker.  Robert Peele, a guy who got a fair amount of playing time last year in a backup role in the defensive backfield but didn’t get that much attention during spring ball, locked up the spot across from Syd’Quan Thompson.  Charles Amadi takes the backup role along with Darian Hagan the backup behind Syd’Quan.  The backups were frequently mentioned as the likely candidates for the starting role, so the Peele decision is, at least to me, somewhat of a surprise.

The other surprise is that Zack Follett didn’t get a starting role at linebacker.  He’s still fighting it out at strong-side linebacker with Justin Moye and is consider the backup to Anthony Felder on the weak-side.  I would have expected him to get one of the two jobs to himself with how strong of a spring he had. 

Outside of that, the fairly wide-open situation on the defensive line now is a little clearer with Cody Jones, Matt Melele, Mika Kane and Tyson Alualu getting the starting nods across the front.  The only one of the 4 that may have pulled a little bit of a coup is the sophmore Alualu who got an defensive end nod over senior John Allen.  Rulon Davis may feel a little snubbed as well on the other end.

Special teams:

No surprises at all here.  The only noteworthy thing is that Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins and James Montgomery will be fighting it out to return kickoffs next year.  Since the ball will be moved back 5 yards next year, there will be a lot more return opportunities meaning a good return man will be very important.

That’s it!  I’d like to welcome you to the slowest part of the football calendar.  No recruiting news.  No practices.  No calendars to be announced.  No TV info.  Nothing besides the potential sounds of precisely thrown beer glasses from frustrated backup quarterbacks to hold us over until early August when fall ball starts.

Congratulations Warriors

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Since I grew up in Oakland, anytime an Oakland sports team does well, even one that I don’t follow nor care that much for the sport, I still cheer.

So Congrats to the Warriors for getting into the NBA playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  While they were only 2 games over .500 and more than half of all teams make the playoffs, they still had better records than 3 of the 16 playoff teams and let’s face it: it’s a LOT better than the Warrior teams of the past.

And I will make no comment about how they only went to the playoffs after my brother was fired as a cheerleader… oops.