Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cal-Oregon: Will the Ducks be Bears Food or will the Bears be Duck Food?

A player that will go unnamed tweeted a picture of the white helmets.
Thursday night notes: Since 1990, Cal is 1-1 in regular season Thursday night games. In 1992, the Bears beat Kansas 27-23. In 2003, the Bears fell to Utah 31-24 in a game that pitted Aaron Rodgers against Alex Smith.

Polar Bear uniform notes: Everyone might be wondering, "why didn't the media guys report on the possibility of white helmets and uniforms this week?"

Guys think the white helmets look good,
girls think everything else looks good.
Well, we tried too.

We asked and asked and asked and just got a bunch of coy smiles. Personally, I'm 99 percent sure their breaking out the Polar Bear uniforms for Thursday's game, but since no one in the program would verify that fact, it didn't make sense to actually report it.

But as you can see in the picture to the right, unless this player went home and painted his helmet white himself, they're wearing white helmets tonight. 

Vegas notes: The Bears are currently 24-point underdogs. If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is.

Its the second biggest point spread that Jeff Tedford has faced in his nine plus seasons at the school. Below are the four biggest spreads in the Tedford era with the outcome of each game noted.

4. USC (-18.5) at Cal (2005): Trojans cover the spread with a 35-10 win.

3. Oregon (-19) at Cal (2010): Bears almost pull off the upset of the No. 1 ranked Ducks, but they fall 15-13. Everyone remembers this game. Not only did Cal cover the spread, but they could have won.... so says everyone except for Chip Kelly.

2. Cal at USC (-21.5) (2008): This game was on national television and Cal's defense came to play. Unfortunately their offense didn't. The Bears did cover the spread though in a 17-3 loss.

1. Cal vs. Kansas State (-28) in Kansas City (2003): In the 2003 opener, the Bears were supposed to get blown out of the water, but they kept it close and more than covered the spread in a 42-28 loss.

One more note, the biggest spread Cal has ever faced under Tedford and still won the game is 13.5 points. The Bears were 13.5 dogs to Michigan State in 2002 and laid the smackdown on the Spartans with a 46-22 win. Cal was also a 13.5 dog to USC in their 34-31 triple OT win of 2003.

Three Quick Keys to Winning

1. Don't shoot yourself with shotgun: Anyone who has watched Cal's offense this season knows that its been a struggle for Dominic Galas to accurately get the ball back to Zach Maynard consistently.

Galas cost the team a touchdown against Fresno State (Isi Sofele's fumble in the end zone happened after he picked up Galas' errant snap). He also cost the team 14 yards against Washington. Fortunately, for Galas, not many fans remember that because two plays later, Maynard hit Keenan Allen for the longest passing touchdown in school history.

Autzen Stadium is a death trap for opposing teams.
Autzen Stadium is a difficult place to play. Its so difficult to play there that Tedford actually admitted that it was difficult to play there and Tedford never admits anything.

Galas needs to be on point against Oregon. Maynard will have enough to worry about Thursday, he doesn't need to be worrying the snap making it to his hands.

2. Limit Oregon's Possessions: This could say "win the time of possession battle," but it doesn't because Oregon doesn't give a flying [d]uck about time of possession. On average, the Ducks only have the ball 23:35 a game, which is not only dead last in the Pac-12, it's dead last (120th) in the country.

This means, you have to limit their possessions.

Of the Ducks 27 touchdown drives this year, only three of them have been over four minutes long.

How do you limit possessions? By being on the field the entire game.

Cal is 23rd nationally in time of possession (32:27). If the Bears can limit Oregon's offense to eight possessions Thursday, that means the MOST points Oregon could score is 56. If you figure the Bear defense can make two or three stops, now Oregon can only score 35 or 42 points. If Oregon scores 35 or 42 points (or less), Cal can win the game.

3. Don't let Darron Thomas beat you: This seems to be a counter intuitive key to winning (i.e. its the opposite of "don't let LaMichael James beat you"), but it's not.

The Bears have a strong run defense and they definitely should key in on James, however they can't do it at the expense of letting Thomas pick them apart. The secondary has struggled this year and Chip Kelly is a smart guy, so he'll probably adjust his game plan accordingly.

As an example of what can happen if you direct all your attention to James, look at the Nevada game. The Wolfpack held the nation's leading rusher to 67 yards. Unfortunately for Nevada, Darron Thomas responded with six touchdown passes and Oregon rolled 69-20.

If Cal doesn't want to get embarrassed on national television, they better be aware of Thomas' talents.

Would it be embarrassing to lose to a team
wearing these jersey's?
The Pick

Can Cal pull off the upset? Of course, I see fat ugly guys dating hot women all the time, so anything's possible.

Oregon's uniforms almost always make my eyes bleed, which is why I really want to pick against them. I've picked Cal to win every game they've played this season, but I'm going to have to pass on this one. I think the Bears keep it close, lets just hope it doesn't come down to a field goal. Oregon 42-31. 

Forgetting about the pick for a second, I think Cal will acquit themselves well in primetime and possibly become a team that casual fans 'want' to watch. 

One more thing: if it rains tonight, Cal hasn't practiced in the rain once this season. The last two days in Berkeley were wet, but the Bears had a sunny Monday morning practice followed by a overcast (but not raining) Tuesday practice. Wet balls will affect everyone from the quarterback to the wide receivers to the holder to the kicker. So keep an eye on the weather.

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(John Breech covers Cal football and basketball for

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