Archive for September, 2006

Bears game wrapup

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

After being bored out of my mind at the Cal vs. Portland St. game, I was rewarded for picking the Bears game over sailing yesterday.  I had SOOOO much fun.

The thing I will be most interested to see in regards to this game is how it affect’s Cal’s ranking.  One would hope that the pollsters would begin to see the Cal vs. Tennessee game as an aberation with 3 straight 42+ point blowout games particularly with the most recent of them coming over a ranked team.  However, we know how there are those “anchor” games that stick in the pollsters mind.  It may be that the pollsters see this as further evidence that the Pac-10 is weak because they “know” that Cal is mediocre and that must mean that ASU, supposedly one of the better teams in the Pac-10, is really pretty weak (along with the rest of the Pac-10).  If that’s what happens, then Cal won’t be able to redeem itself until it plays Oregon in two weeks.  Oregon is the one Pac-10 team with a quality non-conference victory so provides the only opportunity to cause pollsters to rethink Cal’s ranking.

(UPDATE: We’re up to 20 in both polls but it is hard to tell from that as almost all teams in the top 25 won.  Basically, the win wasn’t good enough to leapfrog lots of teams, but at the same time we weren’t leapfrogged by a bunch of teams like last week either.)

On to the game, as much as I feel vindicated, I think it is important for us not to get over-confident.  The reality is that the Cal running game has still not developed into what everyone was hoping/expecting and our run defense was downright pathetic vs. ASU.  To some degree I’m willing to discount the run defense issue because as I said in my preview, Cal was focusing on stopping the passing game of ASU and was willing to accept a moderate ASU running game as a penalty for that.  There were a lot of two linebacker sets that Cal ran.

But that run offense… I’m starting to get worried.  Marshawn has not had the consistency I’d like to see from him.  It’s great that he can break a 70 yard run at any time, but his ability to get 5 yards every run is seriously diminshed from last year.  The reason a strong running game is so valuable is because of the ability to control the clock and the tempo of the game.  For that to work, you need to be able to consistently get yards on every play.  That hasn’t been happening this year and there have been WAY too many tackles for losses against the Bears.

On the other side, the pass offense is clicking so well.  It’s funny to think we’re just two games removed from the quarterback controversy because it couldn’t be further behind us.  Longshore has the composure, the accuracy, the intelligence, he’s the real deal.  In years to come (remember he is only a sophmore) he will be considered a Heisman candidate.

The final two things to be concerned about is the slow starts and the lack of production in the 2nd half.  While the slow start is not a big deal against teams that we can handle, particularly on the road (remember that we’ve only had one road game: Tennessee) and against more difficult teams, we can’t afford to be spotting the opposition a touchdown and a bunch of momentum every game.  Additionally, there will be a game or two where we’re going to need a strong second half and thus far we haven’t shown that we can do it.  I’m hopeful because necessity is the father of all ingenuity and thus far we haven’t had the necessity.  However, I’d sure like to see that we can do it before necessity requires it.

To close out this post on a couple of positive notes:

1. What an improvement with penalties!  A big part of the success of Cal in the first half was the lack of penalties.  Once the game was a blowout, the Bears had more penalty problems (and it should be noted that it stalled a handful of drives that could have turned this game from a blowout to a ridiculous dismantling) but overall the penalty situation was far improved.

2.  How about Hughes?  That guy is amazing and just seems to get better every week.  While it obviously wasn’t his intention to do so (he wanted to jump over him), but the stomp on the chest of Carpenter after intercepting his pass on the way to the endzone was a moment of brilliance.  It had a Delta O’Neil like swagger to it.

Updated Pac-10 metrics

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

Well, I knew the Washington vs. UCLA game was the game I didn’t know enough about to predict and sure enough, it was the one game I didn’t call the winner correctly.

Here are the rest of the metrics:

  • MVD: 15.6 (down from 16.3 with new scores of 10, 18, 1, 8 and 23)
  • TPD: 14.6 (down from 14.7 with new scores of 26, 0, 1, 28 and 17)
  • Winning Percentage: 79.4 (up from 79.2 after going 4-1)

So my numbers are starting to get closer to the targets I have (80% of wins and under 14 points for both MVD and TPD).  With a couple more solid weeks I can hopefully get on the good side of those targets.

But while we’re on the topic of predictions, I have a form letter for everyone out there who doubted Cal’s ability to beat ASU:

I, (your name here), will no longer doubt that Cal has ASU’s number, particularly in Berkeley.  I will remember that ASU is never as good as their numbers suggest until they’ve reached the meat of their Pac-10 schedule.  I will also remember not to let a complete dismantling of ASU cause me to be over confident regarding Cal’s future opponents because it is not that Cal is that good but because ASU is that bad against the big teams in the Pac-10.  This I pledge as a reader of the Bear Territory blog.

Signed (your name here)

Pac-10 picks

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

OK, time for this weeks picks:

Cal 31, ASU 13: See here for details.

Washington 20, UCLA 28: This is a pretty hard call for me.  Neither team has had a non-conference schedule that brings clarity to their situation.  The best think I’ve got going is that Utah is kicking butt after their sound defeat to UCLA.  However, Washington did beat Fresno St., and Fresno St. scared the living daylights out of Oregon the previous week.  That said Washington barely squeeked by San Jose St..  However, UCLA didn’t exactly stick it to lowly Rice either.  Confused yet?  All in all, despite the fact that the game is in Washington, I’ve got to go with UCLA.  Coach Dorrell has that program moving in the right direction and they’ve showed some strength in their non-conference schedule.

Stanford 10, WaZoo 35: If these were pro teams I’d call this the Reggie Bush Bowl redux because these two teams are going to be the basement of the Pac-10 this year.  Unless I’m given a reason to have faith in either one of these teams as the season goes on, expect this to be the only time one of them is predicted to win by yours truly.

Arizona 13, USC 38: Man, USC has the sweetest schedule possible for a rebuilding year.  They start off with all the weak teams and build up to the tough ones.  The only downside for them is they have to play all of the tough teams in order at the end of the season.  As a consolation, they’ve got all 4 of those games at home.  In any case, I’m sure you can tell by the nature of these comments that I don’t see anything interesting in this game to comment on.

OSU 35, Idaho 20: OK, I’m giving OSU a second chance!  I think that theBoise St. game was an aberation.  While I don’t think they’d beat Boise St. no matter how many times you played them, I think that the game would normally have been a great deal closer.  Since Idaho is no Boise, I think OSU will have what it takes to walk away with this one pretty easily.

OK, that’s this weeks predictions (it’s a lot shorter when we get into Pac-10 conference games isn’t it?).  Tune in on Monday for updated metrics and a Bears game wrappup.

Cal vs. ASU preview

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Well, after getting another pessimistic comment about the likelihood of a Bears victory this Saturday vs. ASU, I feel compelled to do my prediction for the Cal game before the rest of my Pac-10 predictions tomorrow.

There are 5 reasons I think Cal will win on Saturday (in no particular order):

  1. ASU is soft after weak non-conference schedule
  2. Strong run defense/weak ASU run offense will allow Cal to shutdown the passing game
  3. Cal has too many offensive weapons for ASU’s defense 
  4. ASU struggles in Berkeley
  5. Tedford has ASU/Koetter’s number

Let’s start with the weak non-conference schedule…

I accept no statistics of how strong ASU is from how they’ve done thus far this season, particularly their defense.  The reality is that they’ve had a WSU worthy non-conference schedule (although how were they to know how much Colorado was going to stink when they scheduled them).  Northern Arizona is a joke and is 1-2 having beaten Dixie St. (who?) (and remember that they were up 14-0 over ASU in the 2nd quarter), Nevada lost a great deal of their 2005 talent and is struggling this year (they’re 1-2), and Colorado is 0-3 having lost to Montana St. and Colorado St. as well as ASU.  So don’t tell me about ASU’s 18 sacks and only giving up 4 touchdowns.  There’s no way to know what those numbers mean against the craptastic schedule they’ve had.

Beyond that, a weak schedule means a soft team.  They don’t know what a hard hitting team feels like.  They won’t be used to the speed of play.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if they were going to play Stanford first and could ease into Pac-10 play.  ASU doesn’t get that luxury.  They’re coming to Berkeley and are going to play one of the hardest hitting fastest teams in the Pac-10.  They won’t be fully ready for it.

Now, compare that schedule with Cal’s: Tennessee, Minnesota (which by the way has shutout both of their other opponents 106-0) and Portland St..  While I’ll agree that Portland’s offense was nothing spectacular, their defensive line was, as advertised, the best I-AA line I have ever seen.  That makes three teams with stout defenses all of whom hit hard.  The only team in the Pac-10 who may be more battle tested than the Bears is Oregon.  The Bears are ready for anything.

But if you’re a fan of statistics, we can talk about those too.  Statistics like, ASU hasn’t beat Cal in Berkeley since 1997 (even Holmoe only lost to ASU once in Berkeley).  Or how about ASU is 0-10 in the state of California in their last 10 games.  Or how about the one where Tedford has never lost to ASU.  Let’s face it, ASU has a soft spot for Cal and particularly in Berkeley.  Doesn’t everyone remember the 2004 game where Cal was going to face it’s toughest opponent yet when ASU came to Berkeley and we shut them out?

But enough with the statistics and schedules, let’s talk about the two teams.

ASU is going to have a very hard time keeping track of all of Cal’s offensive weapons.  The Cal offensive line is definitely a grade below last year’s line and it’s been readily apparent.  What that means is that Cal will not be able to run the ball when strong defenses are loading the box.  However, unlike last year, Cal’s passing game is vastly improved and Cal will make ASU pay if they try and shut down the Cal running game.  Expect Tedford to come out of the gate throwing to loosen up the ASU defense.

On the other side of the ball, ASU does present the strongest passing attack Cal has seen to date.  But, just like balance will be the key to Cal’s offense, a lack of balance will be ASU’s demise.  ASU has always had a weak running game and I haven’t seen anything in them that suggests an improvement this year.  (Again, don’t tell me about the 158 yards per game… that’s meaningless against their opponents.)  Cal will be able to keep it’s safeties back and drop a line-backer or two into coverage while still having the push needed to keep the ASU running game in check.  If this was a balanced team, I’d be worried, but they’re not so I’m not.

So, as I’ve said, I’m confident.  However, there are three things that worry me:

  1. Turnovers – Turnovers can kill any team and Cal has had just a little bit too much fumblitis this season.  I think we can afford a couple of turnovers but no more.  Thankfully, Longshore looks to be much more disciplined that Booya in the INT category.
  2. Penalties – In some sense this is the one that bothers me the most because Cal usually plays a very disciplined game.  The last couple weeks have been very distressing in this sense.  However, those games were blowouts and sometimes teams get sloppy when they’re way ahead. I’m hopeful that Cal returns to its disciplined track-record for this game.
  3. SydQuad Thompson – OK, I’ll admit it, I miss Mixon too.  The key to this area is that Bob Gregory (the defensive coordinator) gives Thompson the help he needs as a young defensive back.  Thompson has got the speed to play the position, he’s just not experienced yet (although getting better).  If he knows he’s got a safety inside him and a linebacker underneath, he’ll be able to focus on not getting beat deep.  That’ll be the key, not getting beat deep.  My biggest fear however is that Gregory won’t modify the gameplan to account for his defensive weaknesses (which is what killed us against Tennessee).  Luckily, from the last two games, it seems that Gregory learned his lesson.

These weaknesses are very overcomable and I expect the Bears to be ready to play.  They’re still hungry for respect after the Tennessee game and are not going to let another National audience see them fail.  They’ll be hitting hard, playing with intensity with a loud home crowd behind them (Cal has one of the most under-rated home field advantages) and win this one with ease: 31-13

Now do you guys see why I’m confident?

I think the term is ‘sore losers’

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Boy, I can’t remember a time when a team has displayed as bad of sportsmanship as the Oklahoma Sooners football team.

For those not in the know, last Saturday they played a very tight game against Oregon.  The game went back and forth.  Late in the 4th quarter with the Oregon Ducks down by 13 points, the Ducks scored a TD to cut the deficit to 6.  On the ensuing kickoff they went for an onside kick and recovered.  But wait, there’s a rule for an onside kick that the ball must travel 10 yards before it can be touched by an Oregon player and the replay showed that it might have been touched after about 9 yards (which would give the ball to Oklahoma).  The instant replay team reviewed the play and decided the video evidence wasn’t conclusive and let the play stand.

To make a long story short, Oregon marched down the field, scored a TD and then blocked a last second field goal attempt by Oklahoma to win the game.

Oklahoma has been on a crusade the last 4 days to tell the world how large of an injustice has been committed against them.  Not only has the coach been on the rampage, the President of the University (not just of Athletics, but the whole University) wrote a letter to their conference asking that the game be declared void. (source – about 2/3rds of the way down)

Of course that is never going to happen, seeing as how this is the 4,394,328th game in which the refs “stole” the game from losing team, but thanks for the attempt.

Nevertheless, the Pac-10 conference reviewed the play in question and decided that Oklahoma was correct and that they should have gotten the ball.  They apologized to Oklahoma and suspended the refs in question for a game. (source)

So you’d think that Oklahoma would be satisfied, or at least placated, yes?


Now they’re saying they’re not going to play any more games against Pac-10 teams including canceling an existing contract they have with the University of Washington in 2008 if they don’t get their way and get to pick their own refs for future games in the Pac-10. (source)

I’m sorry but this is just pathetic.  As a friend of mine says, if one call by a ref is enough to change the outcome of the game, the game was so close that any bounce of the ball could have had the same effect.  To claim that you were robbed is overstating.  If you want to keep fate out of the equation, you need to make sure that you’re victory is more decisive.

But beyond that, talk about being sore losers.  Apparently people at the University of Oklahoma don’t realize that football is a game.  I decided to file this both under the sports category as well as the morals category because it seems that we’re marching farther and farther down the road to where people don’t seem to realize the difference between a game and live and death issues.

I’m a very intense fan.  I cheer loud. I rant and rave during the game.  I call referees good judgement into question and whether they need a new optomitrist.  I question what kind of unprescribed medications the coaches are taking.  I even occasionally question whether a player deserves their scholarship.  But you know what, when the game is over, I remember that it is a game and it’s supposed to be fun.

Apparently those at the University of Oklahoma have lost sight of that.

What the pope really said

Monday, September 18th, 2006

I’m sure some of my readers have been reading about the bru-ha-ha that is growing regarding the Pope’s speech last Tuesday.  What most people have not seen is what the Pope actually has said.  Here is the pdf of the speech itself.  However I’ll go beyond that to show the quote that is the source of this outrage for those who don’t want to read the whole thing:

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

Note: Italized quote is what is drawing the criticism, bold is my emphasis.

I will not deny that the Pope chose a poor quote for the point he was trying to make considering today’s political climate.  However, it is clear from reading the document that the Pope’s intent was clearly NOT to defame Islam, but to stress the importance of dialogue over violence.  The Pope makes it clear that he is quoting someone else and both prepends and postpends a disclaimer speaking to the harsh language being used (see bolded phrases).

What strikes me about this is how much the Pope’s point is being made in the events since the speech.  While his speech calls for dialogue, those who codemn him have responded with violence and hatred.  One influential Muslim going so far as to say “Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence.” (source)

If that isn’t an ironic statement, I don’t know what is.

When I first read about this controversy, I didn’t think much of it.  I figured it would blow over in a couple of days.  Sadly this has not been the case and violence in the middle east towards Christians is on the rise.

This is a time for prayer:

Heavenly Father, forgive me my sins and help me to rise above my weaknesses.  Help all of us to see the precious gift of life that you have given us all.  Help us to see that violence in your name is not your Will but an offense against your Will.  Give us all the strength to forgive those who have wronged us and that same strength to those we have wronged.  Lead us to peace in your Holy Name.

Bears game wrapup

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Gee, I really don’t know what I want to say about this game.  As I was telling one of my friends at Chruch this morning, Saturday was about the most boring Cal victory I’ve ever been in attendance at.  I mean, even when Portland St. had just intercepted the ball in the 1st quarter and were threatening to score, was the outcome ever in doubt?  I guess one had a little bit of doubt, but that was quickly ended when Portland St. called for a run play on 3rd and goal from the 6.  Didn’t the coach realize that he had to strike hard and quick if he hoped to turn the tide against the Bears?

In any case, I think there are a few things we can take away from this game:

  1. Marcus O’Keefe deserves more playing time.  I’ve been pretty unimpressed with Forsett so far and O’Keefe showed he’s as good as I think he is.
  2. Levy is more popular than Ayoob.  While they both got an ovation when they entered the game, Levy’s was louder.
  3. Neither of them are the QB we need.  Didn’t they both stink?  We’d better hope that Longshore stays healthy if we want that shot at the Rose Bowl.
  4. We won’t be seeing any of Kyle Reed this year.  If there was a moment he was going to get some time, it was Saturday.  (Too bad, I was hoping to see him play.)
  5. Syd Thompson continues to improve.  He gave up that one touchdown play, but he was in position and made a reasonable play at a ball the reciever made a great catch on.
  6. Instant replay is meaningless when Comcast is doing the TV coverage.  I watched the TV coverage last night and today.  I can now see why they didn’t overturn that Forsett “fumble”.  They only had two angles, the bad one and the worse one.
  7. There is an upside to Comcast covering the game: When ABC or FSN would be going back to headquarters for their “impressive” halftime show, we were treated to meaningful stuff like an interview with Sandy Barbar in the press box about the stadium renovation.
  8. The new bus tickets that are for sale at the BART station are a HUGE improvement over the old cash situation.  Now everyone can load the bus quickly and all of the “what’s the fare?” or “Do I need exact change?” obstructionists are out of the way.

OK, that’s all I have for this week. Thankfully, next week’s game is shaping up to be a lot more challenging, although one I am very hopeful will turn out in the Bear’s favor.

Updated Pac-10 metrics

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

It’s interesting how things work out.  Just when I think I am much better at projecting the over/under than the margin of victory, I have a week where it’s exactly the opposite.  My worst game was the Cal game where I was 24 points off of the margin of victory, but just about every other one was within two touchdowns.

So here are the updated metrics:

  • MVD: 16.3 (down big from 19.3 with new scores of 7, 7, 14, 4, 16, 9, 3, and 24)
  • TPD: 14.7 (up big from 12.0 with new scores of 35, 1, 12, 24, 14, 41, 29 and 4)
  • Winning percentage: 79.2 (up from 75% by going 7-1 this week)

OK, tune in late this week for predictions for the upcoming games including as detailed analysis of ASU as possible for the Bear’s first conference game.

Pac-10 picks

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Well, it’s that time of the week again: Time for me to show why it’s really hard to make money in Vegas.

Cal 56, Portland St. 6: I keep hearing about how tough Portland is and that it isn’t the cakewalk everyone thinks it is.  I’m glad that Tedford has that much control over the media to keep his players focused, but I’m not buying.  Cal is going to crush this team, tough defensive line and all.

Oregon 21, Oklahoma 17: I had a wider margin in this game, but the injury report coming out of Oregon is as ugly as the 2nd quarter of last year’s Sac. St. game.  I still think Oklahoma is a fundmentally unsound team and Oregon’s front seven will be strong enough to slow down Adrian Peterson enough to put another hash mark in the ‘W’ column.

WaZoo 42, Baylor 31: This game has shootout written all over it.  Thankfully, that’s where WaZoo is at it’s best and they’ll help the Pac-10 to regain some of it’s pride after so many conference losses to the BCS conferences

Washington 20, Fresno 35: Poor Washington.  They just can’t seem to catch a break.  They’re going to play a Fresno team that is just aching for revenge after a tough loss to Oregon.  Washington is just not going to have what it takes to beat this team.

USC 38, Nebraska 24: I want so badly for a good team to come in a beat USC on their home turf.  Sadly, Nebraska is NOT that team.  They’re going to be very soft after two powder-puff games at home and are not going to be able to cover the speed and raw talent of USC.  Looks like we’re going to have to wait a while for that USC upset because they don’t play another ranked team until 10/14 (and even then it is the under-achieving ASU at home) and don’t hit their tough stretch until 11/11 when they start their series against Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA in order.

Stanford 10, Navy 24: This is a team that can’t figure out how to move the ball nor how to stop others from moving the ball.  They’re facing a very consistent team that isn’t going to blow anyone away, but will put up 20+ points every week.  Stanford doesn’t have a chance and their new stadium will be spoiled right out the gate.

Arizona 31, SFA 6: Thank goodness for Arizona that the scheduled whoever the heck SFA is.  They need a repreive after the LSU debacle.

ASU 42, Colorado 17: Colorado is 0-2 versus teams that suck… somehow I don’t think they’ll be able to win this one.  ASU is consistently putting points on the board but their defense is a little pourous.  They’ll win easily, but Colorado will put some points on the board.

OK, that’s it for this week.  Tune in on Monday for a Bears game review and updated metrics.

Breaking News: Stanford marching band suspended

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Wow, I really didn’t think this would happen.  I mean, they’ve done so many things before without being actually disciplined (lots of stern warnings however).  But I guess every rope has its bitter end and the Stanford Band has passed it.

The short of the matter is that they won’t be able to play at any event, not even the home opener for their brand new stadium until the end of September and they won’t be able to travel to any events for a year.

Way to go Stanford Band!