Archive for May, 2007

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.

3rd baby is baking

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Well, now that all the important parties know, I can make a blog announcement:

God has blessed my wife and I with another baby growing (as I like to call it “baking”) inside my wife.  We are of course praying that it is a healthy pregnancy, one that will result in a healthy baby born later this year.  The current due date is December 8th, but we’ll get refinement on that in a few months when we do an ultra sound.  While it doesn’t really matter, I’m praying for a December 12th birth, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Of course there is nothing wrong with a birthday of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th either, nor any day in between for that matter.

Thanks be to God!