As Ohio State prepares to take on their first BCS conference opposition of 2012 in the form of the California Golden Bears, we thought what better authorities to bring in for 5 Minutes In The Holy Land than the motley crew from the authoritative Cal blog, California Golden Blogs. CGB is not just amongst the elite of the elites in the world of all things Cal-Berkeley, it's also a go to amongst Pac-12 destinations and college sports blogs in general. Doing the honors of joining us are Berkellum97, atomsareenough, and norcalnick. You can follow them on twitter at @GoldenBlogs.
I'm sure in the minds of many Cal fans, Jeff Tedford's leash is awfully thin at this point. What's it going to take in the diehard's minds for 2012 to be a success and Tedford to return as Cal's head coach in 2013?
Berkelium97: A win this weekend would get the bad taste out of our mouths following the Nevada game. A win against USC would snap our 8-year losing streak to them and practically buy Tedford another year. Those two are looking highly unlikely at this point, however. 8 wins this season, including a win over our rival Stanford, would probably be considered a successful season for many Cal fans. We also have to look like a solid, well-coached team. Even if we only win 7 games this season, it will be much easier to stomach if we're not putting up 10 penalties per game or making mental mistake after mental mistake.
With the way things are going so far, even the diehard Tedford supporters are wondering if this is the end. If his "buyout" (it's not a traditional buyout since it's spread over the life of the contract) wasn't enormous, he would be even less likely to return if this season is a failure.
atomsareenough: Well, I'm probably a little more patient than most Cal fans, but even I'm rapidly losing confidence in Tedford. A 5-7 season or worse, which seems like a very realistic possibility based on what we saw the first two weeks, would make me want a new coach immediately. If we get back to a bowl game, and especially if we win it, that will make me feel a little better, but I'll want to see a 9-10 win season next year. It has to feel like we're taking a step forward, and it simply hasn't felt that way for several years now.
Berkelium97: The primary reason for the loss to Nevada was our inability to defend and adjust to the pistol, not the QB situation. Whatever the issue was, it is behind us now. The official story is that Zach Maynard missed a tutoring session in June. I'm guessing it's one of those "three strikes" rules where he had already missed a few and the final one earned him a punishment. That or Tedford has lost his mind. The fact that Tedford didn't tell the team until the day before the Nevada game probably did not sit well with the team. Keenan Allen was visibly frustrated when talking about it post-game. Assuming no locker room issues are going on behind the scenes, this should no longer be an issue.
atomsareenough: Our starting QB Zach Maynard was benched for the 1st quarter due to missing a tutoring session, as Berkelium97 mentioned. It shouldn't have been an issue, but because backup QB Allan Bridgford ended up going 1 for 8 on three failed drives in that quarter of play, there has been a lot of talk about how Tedford handled the situation, only springing it on the team the day before the game, when they claim to have made the decision back in June. If they knew Bridgford would start, perhaps he should have gotten more reps with the first team during the week to prepare (Practice!? Yes, we're talking 'bout practice). Anyway, it was at best only a contributing factor. The team played poorly on defense as well as on offense, didn't establish much of a running game, made all sorts of mental mistakes. They were outplayed in the home opener of the our newly renovated stadium, which is a pretty damning indictment.
FCS Southern Utah hung with the Golden Bears for a lot longer than many of their fans (and ancillary Pac-12 backers) probably would've liked. What was the story of the first three quarters of that game?
Berkelium97: Cal is its own worst enemy. The Bears made mistake after mistake in the first and third quarters. We had a knack for penalizing ourselves and turning manageable downs into 2nd or 3rd and long. We also continue to have some ball protection issues in the passing game. The defense did an okay job until garbage time, but the offense was extremely sloppy at times.
atomsareenough: Yeah, lots of mental mistakes and stupid penalties, and even then the game was a lot closer on the scoreboard than it was in the rest of the stat sheet. Of course the scoreboard is what matters, but it wasn't quite as close as it looked. We had a couple of touchdowns called back for stupid penalties, and then they scored a touchdown on a fluke Hail Mary pass that was tipped. I mean, give Southern Utah credit, they made the most of their opportunities, and the Bears made enough mistakes to keep it close. We cleaned it up a bit in the second half though, and finally our talent and athleticism helped us put it away in the 4th quarter. Obviously that's not a formula we'll be able to rely on against the Buckeyes. If we don't play clean and smart, we're going to lose big.
The Pac-12 is off to a fever pitch start. What do you attribute this to and is this sustainable?
atomsareenough: Well, it's really difficult to say at this point. Oregon State was pretty bad last year, but their defense sure looked salty against Wisconsin. Usually they start off the season badly and then get better week by week, so this is a little surprising. Aside from Mike Leach getting off to a slow start at Wazzu, the other new coaches (Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, Jim Mora at UCLA, and Todd Graham at Arizona State) seem to have their teams focused and playing well. UCLA has always had the talent, so if Mora has been able to instill the discipline they've been lacking, they could be a legitimately good team. I was honestly blown away by the way Arizona dominated Oklahoma State. I knew Rich Rod was a good coach, but I figured it would take a season or so for him to adjust his new team to his system. Well, evidently not. Maybe Oklahoma State was a little overrated, but they were scoring at will on the Cowboys. Arizona State hasn't played anybody yet, so who knows if they're for real.
NorCalNick: I find that Pac-12 non-conference success often has a ton to do with where the games are held. USC was the only team that won on the road last week. Teams from east of the Mississippi have consistently had a tough time winning on the west coast, and Pac-12 teams other than USC consistently struggle to beat anybody back east. It might just be that the conference is lucky that a bunch of home-and-home series happened to all fall on the west coast this year.
The Pac-12 network had the luxury of going second (or third, if you include the late Mountain /rip). How beneficial has the young network been for the league early on and how much of an advantage is the revolutionary revenue model the league's concocted?
atomsareenough: I think the full impact of the P12N remains to be seen. We're still trying to get it out on enough cable and satellite platforms that people can actually watch it. It just got picked up by Dish, which is great news, but DirecTV subscribers still don't have it. Even with some of the cable providers we do have, I believe it's only available regionally. So, there will be some growing pains, but we're pretty optimistic about the long term potential of the model.
NorCalNick: Well, speaking purely from a Cal perspective, the money the Pac-12 network is supposed to bring in will be huge. We maintain a very large athletic department that has ran a deficit for years. When the California economy went into the tank, that deficit received all kinds of negative scrutiny and for a period of time it looked like the only solution would be to cut various sports. But alumni stepped up to provide short term funding, and the hope of many is that the new TV deal and the Pac-12 network will provide the necessary funding to keep Cal's athletic program very robust.
Also, if our athletic director decides that she wants to make a change of direction in regards to football leadership, it would be preferable if she had the money to pay the buyout. God, that sentence was depressing.
If you're Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell and game planning for Cal, what's the weakness in the Death Star for both sides of the offense? How do you hit Cal where it hurts and ensure Ohio State's spread offenses and 4-3/nickel defenses reach their maximum efficacies?
atomsareenough: The weak point of the Cal offense at this juncture is definitely the offensive line. There's not a lot of experience, and the experience we do have is playing out of position. If your front 7 can bottle up the run game, get pressure, and force us into obvious passing situations, between our young receivers and our inconsistent quarterback, you'll force us into 3-and-outs all day long, probably with a few delicious turnovers sprinkled in for your added pleasure and amusement. If you give Maynard enough time, or if he escapes before the pocket collapses, he can make a play, either by throwing on the run or using his feet. He's not awful, and he can throw the football, just not consistently. He'll miss wildly on a 5-yard swing pass, and then he'll beautifully thread the needle along the sideline. He's very much like a streetball QB. You just don't know what you're going to get from one snap to the next. If he gets flustered though, he is prone to making poor decisions just because he wants to make a play.
Berkelium97: Game-planning for our defense is pretty easy. First, operate out of the shotgun and throw quick passes to the sidelines. We've had trouble generating a pass rush this season and we particularly struggle when the opponent operates out of the shotgun. Our achilles heel on third-and-long against Nevada was our inability to defend quick sideline passes--Nevada QB Cody Fajardo ran those all day to complete third downs with ease. With the zone defense we've been fond of running, receivers have had just enough room to make these 10-15 yard catches before being brought down by a DB.
Second: deception, deception, deception. Do anything and everything you can to get guys out of position. We're a fairly aggressive defense and throughout Pendergast's tenure we've had a tendency to bite on playaction, pump fakes, and misdirection. Even our salty veterans over the years have been victim of these tricks. And you'll be happy to know we're fairly young throughout the defense, so these kinds of mistakes will continue to occur.
Finally, another tip for the passing game: rollouts. Use this to buy yourselves time against the pass rush and give your receivers time to pull the DBs down the field. The tight end will then have endless space to roam the field and pull in catch after catch. We absolutely refuse to defend tight ends, so use this to your advantage.