Today's edition of Know Your Enemy focuses on the closest thing to a marquee out of conference game Ohio State has this season, the Golden Bears of Cal.
Q: Wait, aren't there like, 200 Cals? Which one are we playing again?
A: Wow, you're dumb. I jest; that's just how I make friends. We're playing *the* Cal; Cal-Berkeley, the flagship University of California school, just north of Oakland. It's kind of a big deal... In addition to having a storied football history, Cal is one of the most academically elite public institutions in the US. They also play in the Pac-12, which is a conference you might have heard of.
Q: Wasn't that also the school where stadium construction was delayed because students had decided to live in the trees and wouldn't leave?
A: It was a student training center next to the stadium, but yeah, that's the place. We'll make sure all of our dirty hippy jokes are in midseason form when Cal week rolls around.Q: Since Cal plays in the PAC-12, they must have played OSU before. Whats our all time record against these guys?
A: Ohio State is 5-1 against the Golden Bears all time, with the Buckeyes winning their most recent matchup, 35-18 in 1972. Cal's lone victory over Ohio State came in the 1920 Rose Bowl. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Cal tied the 1921 Rose Bowl against something called a "Washington & Jefferson". I will give them credit for evidently beating two teams on one field at the same time.
Q: Who are some famous people to have come out of Cal?
A: If you're a political nerd like me, you probably recognize Earl Warren, former Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, (the Warren Court gave us Brown v Board of Education). Techies can appreciate that Intel founder Gordon Moore, Apple co-founder Steve Wozinak, Dilbert author Scott Adams, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt are all Cal Grads. Writing this section was way easier than "Famous UAB grads".
Rube Goldberg was also a Cal grad, which makes sense, as recent Cal football teams have been extremely complicated, only to achieve perfectly ordinary results.
As far as football is concerned, NFL superduperstar Aaron Rodgers played at Cal. So did DeSean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and Tony Gonzalez, who also famously played basketball for the Golden Bears. Not a bad list for Cal.
Q: Wait, Golden Bears? Didn't we have the Golden Knights the week before?
A: Close. UCF stopped going by Golden Knights in the 2000s, switching to just Knights. It's true though, Ohio State is only a Tulsa game away from the elusive Golden Standard of college football scheduling. We're not sure what that means, but I'm pretty sure it would make Ron Paul happy.
Q: Weird. Was Cal any good last year?
A: As per usual, they were decidedly meh. Cal beat the teams they were supposed to beat, and lost to the teams they probably should have lost to. They finished 7-6, (4-5 in the PAC-12), and lost their Holiday Bowl game to Texas. They beat decent Utah and Arizona State teams, and almost beat Andrew Luck and Stanford, but they also got drilled by UCLA (??? lulz), and by the other actually good teams in the conference.
Q: Are they going to be better next year?
A: Maybe a little. The good news is that Cal returns some weapons on offense. QB Zach Maynard threw for nearly 3,000 yards last season, and still has his favorite target, Keenan Allen (1343 receiving yards, all conference honors). Cal's line has some experience, and returning RB Isi Sofele brings balance to what could be a pretty solid group.
Of course, there is bad news. On paper, Cal's defense didn't look so horrible. They gave up a respectable looking 25 points per game (48th in the country), and had to face USC, Oregon, and Stanford last season. A closer look shows that against stronger competition, they folded. Giving up 43 points to Oregon can be forgiven. Letting Colorado drop 33, Arizona State 38, and especially UCLA 31, can not.
To make matters worse, Cal only returns two starters from their front seven. With no linebacker on the roster with more than 30 tackles, Cal will have some big shoes to fill on defense. The Golden Bears better hope to figure things out during their tune up games, or OSU could gouge them on the ground.
Q: What are Cal's bowl prospects?
A The Golden Bears have two ostensible gimmie games before they face the Buckeyes, home dates against Nevada (which if there was a catch, could be this one) and auto-W Southern Utah. The Bears are famous for playing substantially better at home than on the road, and they get Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington at home. You figure Cal wasn't likely to beat USC at home, on the road, or on the moon, and their other road games are more manageable. The Bears won't challenge for the Pac-12 title, but winning 7 games (...again) seems like a reasonable expectation.
Q: How do you like Ohio State's chances?
A: I like 'em. Cal is typically not a great road team, and Ohio Stadium is no place to play if you're iffy on your defensive frontlines. Cal has some nice skill position talent, and they should be able to score a few points. But the Buckeyes should be able to expose their linebackers enough to win, especially if Jordan Hall is ready to go. This was a game that looked a lot more impressive when it was set up in the mid 2000s, but this Cal squad isn't expected to be sniffing the top 25 this season.
You might look at Cal's nearly 100 years without a win against Ohio State and figure they're due, but it doesn't look like its going to be their year either.