In honor of Cal week, we've done a Q&A with California Golden Blogs, SBN's fine Cal blog. They'll be posting our reponses to them sometime today; in the meantime, here are their thoughts on Saturday's game. Thanks guys, and good luck (most of the time) on Saturday!
Although Jeff Tedford has a 56-28 record coaching at California, some fans have suggested that he is not the coach to take Cal to the next level. Is there a coach out there that would take the coaching job at Berkeley that could take Cal to new heights, or should Bears fans be happy with the relative success they've enjoyed under Tedford?
Of course there's a coach that would take the coaching job at Berkeley that would take Cal to new heights, somewhere out there. After all, isn't it the duty of every fan to remind everyone within earshot that their favorite team's current coach is incompetent, inadequate, and just can't plain get the job done? Just don't ask these same fans to name a potential replacement, because God knows they don't have one. They're just sure the incumbent is a fool and anyone off the street can do better. That is, until that guy off the street comes in and does worse.
Probably the strongest argument for Longshore over Riley is that we don't want Riley to die. He suffered a concussion apparently against Oregon and had to come out of the game. It looks likely that he might not be able to play against USC.
Which is unfortunate, because Longshore's road numbers aren't as good as his home numbers. And he has a nasty habit of throwing rough second half interceptions. However, Nate has shown some good things against USC. In 2006, we were right in it until the tail end of the game. I believe we led at half and were tied going into the 4th quarter. Last year, things were incredibly close up until the Longshore Classic 4th Quarter interception.
This is a fierce USC defense Cal is going up against, so I do not have high hopes for Longshore and the offense. Some might say that "veteran leadership" is the #1 reason to go with Longshore. But for right now, it's "Don't Kill Kevin."
watching him play…will he have a better career at Cal than Marshawn Lynch or
Probably not. Best is an amazing athlete and might (might!) be a better athlete than either Marshawn Lynch or Justin Forsett. But Lynch and Forsett had a more clear role as #1 RB. When Lynch was here, he got the bulk of the carries with Forsett spelling him. Then, Forsett got the bulk of the carries with Best spelling him.
Now, Best is the main man, right? But look at the rushing stats on the season. Best has 108 carries. Shane Vereen the ostensible #2 has 101. They even have the exact same amount of receptions (21). Now, to be fair, Best missed a game (ASU). Nonetheless, Vereen is right there shouldering the offensive load. So, while Best might have better skills than Forsett or Marshawn (well, certainly not Marshawn!), Best won't have the better career, because we have a lot of depth at RB now. There is Tracy Slocum waiting in the wings, too. And that doesn't count our superstud redshirt RB Covaughn Deboskie.
This is either going to be a MASSIVE USC blowout (which would suck) or a tight Cal victory (which would rock). Both teams seem to have better Ds than Os. Both teams have concerns at QB. Both teams have loads of RB talent. Either bad Longshore and Road Cal D show up and we lose like 33-14. Or good Longshore and Home Cal D show up and we win like 4-0 on two 4th quarter safeties.
Given that it is on the road, that could bode poorly. We shall see, shall we not?
On offense, it is tough to say, because it has sort of gone worse than expected. Probably Shane Vereen. He was expected to be the backup to Best. But in some ways, he has surpassed Best. When Best missed a game, there was minimal drop off. He doesn't have the speed of Best, but he is still a speedster. He is very agile and nearly leads the in receptions. I wish I could say it is a WR or QB, but unfortunately nobody there has really surprised us with positive play. So, Vereen it is!
As for the D, probably Darian Hagan. People knew corner SydQuan Thompson
would be great. We knew that the LBs would be great. We knew that would put a LOT of pressure on the new corner Hagan, opposite Thompson. In the first game (against MSU), MSU threw against Hagan repeatedly. They racked up some big gains against him, but Hagan had some great plays. He nearly picked off 5 different passes. Back then, it was "nearly" picking off passes. Now, he has developed incredibly well and puts opposing QBs in a major quandary. You can't throw aganst Syd'Quan. You can't throw low middle, because of all our swarming LBs.
But now you can't throw against Hagan, either! So, probably his play would be the biggest surprise. He has put the final nail in our pass defense shield. A pass defense that gave up 44 yards against Oregon's major QB Masoli just last week. Of course, the Oregon passing game isn't exactly the same as the USC passing game. So, this will be a strong test for Hagan. We shall see, shall we not?
groups (or players) will need to step up to get the W?
Honestly, it's hard to say which position group(s) Cal has an advantage over SC in. I think any reasonable observer would trade the Riley/Longshore combo platter for Mark Sanchez or even Mitch Mustain, Cal's wide receivers are inexperienced and inconsistent, the offensive line is epically injured, and USC sports one of the best defenses in the nation across the board.
I suppose an argument could be made for running back, where Cal's gotten great production out of both Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, as well as an awesome YouTube clip of Best puking up some CytoMax. (A great way to start your Saturday morning!) But USC's running back corps is insanely deep. I would call this a push, but we feel good about our backfield.
In addition we like our secondary quite a bit as well, between Syd'Quan "Syd'God" Thompson (or Syd'Boner, because that's what he gives many of our fans), Darian "D-Hag" Hagan, Sean "Whorehouse" Cattouse, and Marcus "Duck Killer" Ezeff. They're the biggest reason that our Bears are tied with North Carolina for the most interceptions in the country with 17.
As for which position group has to step up, doesn't it always come down to the guys in the trenches? I'm confident that the secondary can hold up in obvious passing situations. If our defensive line is able to get pressure on Sanchez and force him into the kind of day he had against Arizona, I like our chances.
Of course, we also need to make sure the team doesn't allow any more Pete Alamar specials, which is what we call epic failures on special teams in LA road games. See: Reggie Bush 2004, Maurice Jones-Drew 2005.