Archive for November, 2006

My first basketball article posted on

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Well I know that most Cal blogs these days are “all football, all the time” but I’m going to be covering both football and basketball for

In case you didn’t notice Cal basketball is 6-1 and tearing it up:  These Bears are for real

It’s official: Texas A&M is Holiday opponent

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

OK, the Big-12/Holiday bowl announced this morning that Texas A&M will play Cal in the Holiday bowl.

Dang, I was 85% of the way through my article explaining why there was a 56% chance we’d be playing Texax A&M in the Holiday Bowl (26% Nebraska, 8% Texas, 8% Missouri, 2% somebody else (Oklahoma, KSU, Texas Tech.)).

Oh well, just goes to show that news breaks fast so you’ve got to be quick if you want to report it.

I’ll make sure I write an article next week previewing the matchup.

It’s official: Holiday bowl here we come!

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

OK, the BCS system released the Bears so the Holiday bowl was quick to snap up the Bears.  It’s really no surprise.

What is still a surprise is who the opponent will be.  Technically it could be any of the following teams:

  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Texas A&M
  • Missouri
  • Kansas State

However, most of those options are pretty unlikely.  It will likely be Texas A&M or possibly Nebraska based on whether Nebraska loses the Big-12 Championship Game.

Why’s that?  We’ll it’s complicated.  Welcome to the world of conferences with two halves like the Big-12 (North and South).  You’ll have to read my article on after it gets published tonight/tomorrow morning if you want the full scoop.  (I’ll have a post with a link once it gets published.)

The Big Game is alway Big

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

There’s some commentary out there that this year’s Big Game isn’t a big deal.  I’m here to remind everyone that it is.  The history of Big Game upsets is so long I can’t go into it here.  But here are just a few:

  • 1990: 3 loss Cal loses to 6 loss Stanford
  • 1986: 1-9 Bears beat 7-3 Stanford
  • And of course, 1982: Cal beats John Elway’s Stanford  with The Play denying them their bowl bid 

Sometimes no one realizes how Big the Big Game is until after the fact.  For some reason rivalry games come out odd ways.  But trust me, you’re going to want to be there on Saturday.  If Cal blows them out, what will be more therapudic?  If Cal wins a close one, won’t you want to have been them to cheer them on?  If Cal loses, won’t you feel like a complete idiot for having overlooked the Big Game on your over-priced flight to El Paso, TX for the “Sun” bowl when the Holiday bowl stiffs Cal for having lost to lowly Stanford?


Latest article posted on

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I got a chance to talk with Sandy Barbour after the USC loss: Sandy Barbour talks football.

2006 wasn’t our only chance

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I keep hearing from various people that what was so hard about the loss to USC was that “this was our only chance”.  Everyone looks to the next two years and assumes that Cal can’t beat USC.

I think that’s hogwash.  At the beginning of the season I agreed that 2006 was a great opportunity to beat USC because it was likely going to be a down year for USC.  But it turns out it wasn’t.  USC looks to be their usual self and likely is going back to the National Championship game.

There was less of an opportunity here than everyone thought.  Unfortunately Cal didn’t have USC on the schedule until they had 90% of a season to get the kinks worked out.  If Cal had played them when they played Oregon, I think it would have been a different situation.  But as it turns out, USC had hit their usual rhythm by the time Cal had them on the schedule.  Unfortunately, people can’t seem to get out of the mindset that we all had at the beginning of the year so they’re giving USC too much credit for how much better USC will be next year because they thought this was going to be down year for USC.

But it wasn’t.  Who can honestly call this a down year for them?

So I don’t think USC is going to be heads and shoulders better next year.  While I don’t see USC being worse next year, I don’t see them being substantially better.  They’ll be losing both their star recievers as well as a number of other talented players.  True, they’ll have lots of talent to replace them, but the point is, they’ll be basically the same team.

And so will Cal.  We’ll be losing some defensive talent, but we have lots of talented young guys who will be filling those spots.  On offense, I think Marshawn is going to stay and therefore we’ll have the same offense with probably a bigger and more experienced offensive line.  Even if he goes, between the experience of Forsett and the highly recruited talent behind him, we’ll be in good shape.

Also, I think people under estimate the offensive line problems we had this year.  Although the pass protection was OK, the run defense stunk.  I think that’ll be better next year with another offseason in the weight room.

And then there is the schedule.  Cal is undefeated at home this year.  Next year we get both Tennesee and USC at home.  That’ll make a BIG difference in those two games.  Also Cal gets the scary trap games at home: OSU, UA and WSU.  The “scary” away games are Oregon and UCLA because Cal has struggled at those two places.  However, both schools are struggling, don’t seem to have significant upside for next year and Cal handily won those games this year, making those games optimistic for next year.  Washington, ASU and Stanford on the road won’t be a problem.

So don’t buy into the “we’re doomed to be 2nd fiddle to USC” mindset.  This Cal team is young, just like USC.  They’ll be a reasonable challenge to USC next year.  Don’t sell your 2007 USC game tickets.  I think you’re going to want to be there.  Count on it.

Correction: The Big Game could matter

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Well, it turns out that similarly to the Sun Bowl, the Holiday Bowl gets to chose it’s team if there was a tie for 2nd place.  It can ignore tie-breakers.  So, if Cal loses to Stanford and OSU beats Oregon, they’ll be tied at 6-3 in the Pac-10 and the Holiday Bowl could conceivably take OSU over Cal.

I don’t think it’ll happen but you have to admit that as far as a fan base, OSU would be a lot more happy to travel to San Diego for the first time in a while than Cal’s fans will be to got for the 2nd time in 3 years.  From a TV/publicity perspective the Holiday bowl would be a fool not to take Cal.

That said, OSU and Oregon play this Friday at 12:30 PM on FSN (including the Bay Area affiliate).  We should be rooting for Oregon so that there’s no chance of a Sun Bowl trip.

USC road trip report

Monday, November 20th, 2006

Well I’m back from my trip.  Of course the result of the game was disappointing, but I enjoyed the trip overall.  Here’s a report.

I left my house in Roseville just before 7:00 AM on Saturdy with the plan to make it to a tailgating spot in the parking lot by 1:00 PM.  I made great time to the grapevine, even considering that I’m currently on a “speeding fast enough to get another ticket” ban.  I noticed a number of cars that were proudly displaying Cal insignias and were clearly headed for the game.

I stopped just before the grapevine for lunch.  The place I stopped at had a fast-food food-court and I was suprised when I entered that there was a lady handing out fliers for a massage parlor at the other side of the food court.  If I hadn’t have been on a strict timeline and pretty broke these days I would have considered it.  It’s an excellent idea to have the opportunity to get a massage on long car trips.

While coming down into LA, there was a large brushfire on the side of the road.  It’s pretty easy to see why they have such horrible fires down there.  It had clearly just started but was blazing hot and the fire-fighters were having a tough time getting control of it.  Of course, despite the fact that the fire was not directly affecting the roadway, I had to sit through 20 minutes of stop and go traffic so all the gawkers could slow down and watch.

I also hit bad traffic in LA.  Of course that is to be expected but now that I was running a little late it grated on my nerves particularly considering I was not getting close enough to game time that I expected the game traffic to be more of an issue.  I got to the streets surround the stadium about 1:30 PM, so only a little late.  While I had beat the game-time arrivals the tailgating crowd had obviously been there for a long time.

There are clearly a lot of opportunistic parking lot owners at the Coliseum.  Most privately owned lots wanted $60 to park and the highest I saw was $80.  I think they get away with it in part, because the information for the Coliseum online is so bad and it doesn’t tell you where to park, what the parking rates are and what the alternatives are.  It just says “we have 6000 parking spots.  Check elsewhere for other places to park.”  Thanks guys, that’s a lot of help.  No price, no how quickly it fills up, no how to get to the parking lots, no nothing of value.

I found a lot that was still privately owned but only wanted $25.  I thought I could probably get into the main lot for cheaper but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a spot and I didn’t know how expensive it would be, although I expected between $10 and $20.  I figured for $25 it was worth being able to park right now.

But at least there was a parking lot because it meant there was lots of tailgating.  It’s really a shame that there aren’t more tailgating opportunities in Berkeley.  I think Cal would have a better following if there was.  You could see how much of an all day, oh yeah there’s a game too, type of event at USC and I think Cal would benefit from the same environment.

I tailgated with the guys from  They’re the USC site for Rivals and the publisher of, the Cal site for Rivals, is good friends with them. put on a great tailgate.  It really challenged me to think bigger for the future of  It was also good to finally meet in person the publisher of who I’ve always communicated with via e-mail and phone up until now.

After tailgating I headed for the stadium at 4 PM.  I found my way to the press box via the elevator outside the stadium right by the press entrance (who would have thought?).

The press box at USC has two levels.  The bottom level is the boxes where the TV and radio are.  The top level is the standard press box.  It had three rows and each row got successively worse in it’s view.  I was in the middle row on the very end, which put me on about the 35 yard line.  That’s about the same place I would have been at Cal but since it’s a single row and lower to the field, Cal’s press box has much better seats.

Also of note from the 2nd row was my inability to see either the “big-screen” or the scoreboard.  I spent most of the game unaware of the time left in the quarter or the time on the play clock.  On the upside, I had a full wireless internet connection so I could overcome a lot of those visibility issues with technology.

Also on the plus side, I had a very enjoyable time sitting next to Chris Avery from  They’re the Scout site for the Bears just like I’m with the Rivals site for the Bears.  We talked a great deal about the game and the team throughout the game.

Regarding the pre-game, Cal brought their full band to USC and played their usual set of songs before the USC band played their song.  I could remember if other schools when they played at Cal were so bold as to play their usual fight songs on Cal’s turf.  In any case, the USC fans were not happy when they saw the script Cal on their turf.  They cheered loudly when one of the tuba players bit it while running.

The USC band came out and played their fight song.  MAN is it LOOOONG.  During the game it’s annoying because they play it every 2nd play but before the game when the play the whole thing it must go on for 15 minutes.

The other interesting thing I noticed is that the USC band had no “entrance”.  Cal’s pre-game songs have so much impact in Berkeley because of how they rush onto the field.  USC lacked a similar impact.  They just kind of marched on to the field long before the game.

I won’t comment on the game here except for crowd noise.  The Coliseum has the potential to be VERY loud.  It’s stands are much steeper than Cal’s so the noise echos back and forth much better than at the gently sloped Memorial Stadium.  That said, the Cal defense kept the USC crowd pretty quiet for most of the game.  Crowd noise was not a factor until late in the 4th quarter when Cal got desperate.

Another note about the Coliseum, it’s a dump.  Yeah Memorial was poorly designed for concessions and the such but the Coliseum was in much worse condition with cracked concrete and flaking paint just about everywhere.  I’m surprised I never hear about that when watching USC games.  I wonder if they’re thinking about building a new stadium.

The last thing of interest about the Coliseum is that field level is below ground level.  The lower of the two concourse entrances is at ground level and the field goes down a good 30 feet below that.  That made it hard for me to find my way to the field as when I got down to ground level I couldn’t find the entrance to the tunnel.  It turned out that was because it was below ground level (an actual tunnel).

Once on the field for the post-game interviews, I just didn’t have it in my heart to interview a number of the guys.  You could tell they were heart broken.  They knew they lost a game that was very winnable.  For a number of guys, this was their last chance at the Rose Bowl.  It was very tough on them.

Of particular note was DeSean Jackson.  He managed to get to the locker room mostly unscathed but a group of reporters were waiting for him when he left.  He tried to avoid them but they were not going to be denied.  I wasn’t willing to join in the ordeal.

That’s one of the things I don’t like about being a reporter.  I’m not going to put the interests of my articles above my desire to be a good human being.  If there are guys who are hurting, I’m not going to shove a microphone in their face.  Maybe it won’t make me good at this job but oh well.  These kids put their hearts and souls into this game for us.  They deserve to be treated with respect.

Along those lines I interviewed Sandy Barbour.  One could have easily walked up to her and said “does this shake your confidence in Tedford?” or something like that.  I just didn’t find that appropriate.  Instead I asked her if she had any words of encouragement for Tedford and the rest of the team.

Speaking of which, expect an article about Barbour to be posted on later this week.

It took about an hour after the game for me to get my few interviews and leave.  I went to my hotel which was by LAX.  I went that direction because it was fairly inexpensive and not in a neighborhood I worried about my car being there in the morning.  I was also able to get a room that was oriented towards business men so it had free internet and the such.

In retrospect that was a mistake.  Although it wasn’t too far of a drive, it was far enough that it would have been wiser to get a room farther from the stadium but in the direction of northern California.

By the time I had finished writing my article it was 1 AM.  I had a really hard time writing the article.  I didn’t want to just bash the team because there was a lot they did well.  On the other hand, this was a very winnable game and there was plenty of negative things to be said about the play calling and the play of Longshore late in the game.  I chose to write an article about not being able to play a complete game and the missed opportunities.

I was exhausted when I finally got to sleep and I didn’t set an alarm so I didn’t wake up until 11:30 AM.  Checkout was at noon so I rushed to take a shower and got on the road, after checking out at 11:59 AM, by 12:30.  I didn’t stop other than to gas up (speaking of which, I’m getting much better mileage on my Jetta these days: 31.4 mpg on this trip) and made it home a few minutes before 7:00 PM Sunday evening.

Overall I drove 853 miles on a 36 hour trip almost to the minute.  It was a very enjoyable trip despite the loss.  The comradie amongst the Cal reporters as well as the quality of the game made it enjoyable even if my next road trip will only be to the Holiday bowl.  Next time I’ll take more pictures.

Pac-10 picks

Friday, November 17th, 2006

OK, here are my picks for this Saturday.

Cal 35, USC 24: I know this is a bold prediction but I think it is right.  When I matched up the 6 common opponents (ASU, UA, UO, OSU, UW and WSU) and saw that USC gave up just as many points as Cal did against them but outscored USC by 50%, I was convinced that Cal should win this game.  Don’t buy into the “USC is back after the last two weeks!” crud.  Stanford is, well, Stanford and we demolished Oregon just as badly as USC did.  In fact, I though Cal did a better job against Oregon because Oregon shot themselves in the foot more often against USC.  So why should USC get credit for the ordering of their schedule to suggest they’re “peaking”?  Additionally when one looks at the overall picture of those 6 games, Cal’s advantage becomes more clear.  The only game where USC did a obviously better job than Cal was Arizona and there were 3 games in which Cal did substantially better (OSU, WSU and ASU).  There’s no reason to think that USC has an advantage in this one, particularly considering how well Cal has played USC during the Tedford era.  Expect a key pick from Hughes or DeCoud to be the difference maker.

OSU 33, Stanford 13:  It sounds funny to say, but I think Stanford is going to come out flat after their “big win” last week.  OSU will be looking for revenge after their big UCLA let down.  This game could get ugly in Palo Alto.

Arizona 17, Oregon 27: Watch out Oregon, this game could be trouble.  However, being at home and looking for validation after the loss to USC, expect Oregon to win this one in an ugly game.

UW 17, WSU 24: Both of these teams are sinking quickly.  WSU looked like a contender after the Oregon victory.  It’s been downhill ever since, losing to both mediocre Arizona schools.  Washington, minus the strong performance against Cal, has had the wheels fall off the bus without Stanback, culminating with the laughable loss to Stanford.  If I were a prune company, I’d be looking to get sponsorship rights for the “Apple” cup.  WSU prevails on the Frosen Potato Patch (not to be confused with the Frozen Tundra).

UCLA 24, ASU 27: This is probably the game of the week.  UCLA needs to win either this game or against USC to be bowl eligible and ASU wants to keep out of the Pac-10 cellar.  I think ASU is finally starting to put together some good football and will win this one despite it being close.

OK, tune in on Monday for updated metrics and my thoughts on the Cal vs. USC game.

Updated Pac-10 metrics

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Well, I was in such a groove when I last updated these metrics 3 weeks ago.  All of my metrics were going in the right direction and I was predicting almost every game’s outcome correctly.

What a fall from grace it has been.  Last week I didn’t call a SINGLE game correctly and I’m 4-9 in the last three weeks.  Basically, I had too much faith in Washington’s ability to win (who would have thought that Stanford’s first win would have been against UW…), just couldn’t bring myself to think that OSU was actually a good team and when I finally did, they let me down and frankly just can’t figure out ASU.  Sometimes they look like they’re gunning for Stanford, other times they look like they can compete with USC.

In any case, here are the updated metrics:

  • MVD: 15.6 (up from 13.9 a few weeks ago with a number of beyond 30 scores)
  • TPD: 12.7 (down from 12.9.  The only improved metric.)
  • Winning percentage: 73.0% (down from 83.7 after going 4-9 in the last 3 weeks)

Just horrible.  Two of my metrics are now below their target (14 for MVD and 75% for wins).  I’ll be back on my game this week.