A Nonsensical Preview of Cal-Colorado State, With Beaver on the Side

Posted by: Avinash on Saturday, September 27th, 2008

For those looking for stream information, there is none yet. It is not looking good, and you might as well get the All-Access Pass and follow Starkey if you want a 100% chance at following the game. Bar locations are being updated as soon as I can find them (and the map’s open for anyone to edit, so if you have locations go ahead and place your own).

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So much to say about Thursday’s game; for now I’ll just reiterate what Tony mentioned in the aftermath: No one is safe. Didn’t President Bush teach you anything? Mike Riley can own the big bad Red Helmets with two star recruits and a real life football dwarf!

Say all you want about the stupidity of the BCS, but the NFL regular season pales (and I mean absolutely pales now) in comparison to college. We will go over this year after year after year, but you are always guaranteed upsets, where big powers are capable of falling now to even the smallest individual.

First lowly Stanford, now helmetless Jacquizz Rodgers. Is there any greater emobdiment of sport than the feisty little Rodgers? The Beaver O-line played big, and Rodgers played bigger, just refusing to bow to the vaunted USC linemen. He’s like mini-Forsett back there, all heart and grit, proving once again that sports can sometimes come down to a matter of will and desire.

Thursday night was totally worth it. Even if it means the Trojans beat us by 30 in five weeks and probably roll to another Rose Bowl. Vegas is probably setting the odds for that outcome at -400 now.

Cal-CSU preview on the other side.

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I haven’t seen Colorado State much. I caught snippets of the Colorado-CSU game, which involved mucho people running. I will note several things.

Their new quarterback Billy Farris is a gunslinger. Here’s one preview saying this.

The Rams seem to be more comfortable with new quarterback Billy Farris and have the playbook opened up and increase the downfield passing game.

And another.

One thing Jeff Tedford pointed out during Tuesday’s press luncheon is that the Rams like to throw the ball down the field. New coach Steve Fairchild spent the past four years as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, including two years with the Rams, who liked to take shots downfield in the passing game.

Tedford said Colorado St runs a lot of passing plays where the receivers will make double moves or run long routes, plays that could take a little bit longer to develop. That may be a chance for the Bears to get to quarterback Billy Farris.

And another.

A lot has been made of Darian Hagan getting torched for deep balls in last year’s game, in a reserve role in garbage time, and how he is going to be looking for payback. I put very little stock in this. I think Hagan is going to play up to his talent and experience level regardless. Last year, those levels were low, and he got lit up. This year, he is much better, and he will play better, but he still has a ways to go. I think he makes athletic plays on the ball, and I think those plays will be there Saturday because CSU’s QB is going to be under pressure and is going to be throwing deep.

Bend but don’t break defense has been widely panned by Gregory haters everywhere, but this is exactly the game that plays into the hands of this strategy

This probably won’t be a dink and dunk passing game. Many of CSU’s receiver routes take a while to develop, but can be deadly once they’ve had the time. The added time Farris will need in the pocket for his receivers to beat Cal defenders will give Cal an opportunity to get to him. While CSU Head Coach Steve Fairchild has experience with 3-4 defenses from his experience coaching in the AFC East, Farris doesn’t. It will be important for the Cal defense to give Farris different looks and send pressure from different packages and directions.

Remember that many of Cal’s losses the past few seasons have not come from teams throwing 45 yard heaves on us. Except for the Tennessee game. “OMG Montario Hardesty won’t go down MY EYES ARE BLEEDING.”

The BBDB defense can usually be exploited by ball control, power run game, and hitting those quick routes in space in front of their defenders. If Farris starts heave-hoing, we’re probably in good shape. There is not much chance the Rams win a shootout on the road because of how good Cal’s front seven has been this season only rushing three or four. They’ve got to pound the rock and wear down the defense inside.

However, all of this will be moot (for the Rams) if our offense can blaze them. Last season we were less than impressive in Ft. Collins, getting two touchdowns on huge yardage plays and not much else. It was like Cal-Wazzu ’08, except the Rams played for four quarters instead of one.

One thing to note is how weak their passing defense has been. Currently the Rams are 99th in passing defense efficiency and 112th in 3rd down passing defense efficiency. Terrible numbers even against good passing schools like Houston and Colorado, as ragnarok elaborates.

They’re giving up a lot through the air on defense, not so much on the ground.  Not only in terms of yards or touchdowns, but 41 passing 1st downs as opposed to only 19 on the ground.  I’d expect the Rams to try and do what Maryland did, which is to limit the running game at all costs and make Riley connect with some fairly green receivers.  They’ve only picked off 4 passes this year total, and I didn’t see a whole lot of pass defense when they played Colorado, but if they can’t stop us from running the ball, it could get Washington State-ugly.  I’d guess they’ll key on the run until (if) Riley burns them a couple times.

So the issue is whether Cal can run the ball down the middle? Or will they be stifled like they were in College Park? Of course, the remaining defenders probably remember Jahvid Best (I’m the JET MAN!) seemingly putting the game away last season.

[vimeo 1657107]

If Riley and his receivers want to get on the same page, this is the best time to do it. An angry, wobbling ASU team is coming into town next week, and there won’t be any better opportunities. The Bear Will Not Quit points out the battle is internal.

Not that he’s a head case, but he clearly plays better when he’s not thinking, and he’s just playing. When he tries to be too “fine” with his deep throws, the arc and distance are off. When he’s running around under pressure or throwing lasers, he looks great. In other words, he’s the opposite of Longshore. Some of it is timing and comfort with the receivers, but some of it just appears to be him making what I call the “freethrow” passes. The ones where he is not under pressure, where it is a designed pass with no post-snap progression, and where he just has to put the ball in a spot, like a fade in the endzone (which he has yet to throw well once this season). It will be interesting to see if the loss provides the added focus he seems to thrive off of. He plays well when there is pressure and motivation, and this week would seem to provide some.

All very important observations. Although the receivers are half of Riley’s problems, so I don’t think we have a Hamlet situation on our hands.

The only thing that could really throw a wrench into the proceedings is the special teams, which has been at times awful and at best mediocre. Give Colorado State a short field, miss field goals, and don’t recover onside kicks, and they will hang around. And make all of us fairly nauseous. And BWF points out that if there is a strength CSU has (all should now start shuddering):

Cal has struggled in kickoff return coverage all year. It all starts with the Cal’s inability to boot the ball into the opponent’s end zone. Or inside the 10 yard line for that matter.

I briefly touched upon this yesterday in my look at the Rams yesterday, but given that CSU averages nearly 30 yards per return this year, it doesn’t take a Nobel Prize Laureate to predict the Rams offense constantly starting near midfield. A first down or two, and they might already be knocking.

Ultimately there are only three outcomes from tomorrow’s game.


Get it done Bears. Bigger fires loom.

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