Doldrums and Possibilities: Cal-Wazzu Soliloquy

Posted by: Avinash on Saturday, September 6th, 2008

(Programming note: The liveblog will be up a half hour before gametime; it’ll kick off right around 6:25 EST/3:25 PST with Bears With Fangs cohosting. I’ll be going back and forth between here and CGB discussing the rest of the games tomorrow. I have no news on online streams, but there is an updated bar list for Bears fans throughout the country. If there is an online feed tomorrow, I will post it somewhere where you can see it.)

In some ways, this can be the worst week of the college football season. In other ways, this has the potential to be one of the best.

Week two is when the majority of the top 25 football factories all congregate to face the so-called cupcakes on their schedule. It’s how you get premier noon matchups like Michigan-Miami of Ohio and Ohio State-Ohio. And of all of Cal’s games this season, they’re provided with one of their least attractive ones (albiet in conference). The premier game of the day has one team favored to beat the other by three touchdowns. Looking up and down the schedule, you can’t really say with definity that any of these games will be close.

Partly due to the hangover of opening the football season, partly due to the NFL debuting the same week and college football not wanting their premier matchups scheduled at the same time, Week 2 has never really generated much buzz amongst even the most diehard of college football fans. It’s a transition game between buzz and rivalries, expecations and matchups. After this week, most teams head into their meaty OOC matchups; you can just stare at Week 3’s schedule to let your mouth drool uncontrollably.

Welcome to Pullman. Thank you and please drive through.

Cal’s trip to Pullman will probably generate the least amount of buzz outside of the Ram rematch. Of all the settings in the Pac-10, the Paloouse is the least impressive and least glamorous. Of all the teams. The ‘Furd has madman Harbaugh and the Huskies have the white Dennis Dixon; if I went up to an average Cal fan and asked him to name one Cougar, he’d probably start off with Star Jones or Demi Moore. Most people are assuming victory, perhaps even blowout victory.

However, this week always exudes upset potential.  We’ve already seen South Carolina play its way out of the top 25 against an unheralded Vanderbilt team. The Gamecocks have shown potential every season and have never lived up to it. This time it was special teams and a crappy offense that mortally wounded their BCS hopes, with #2 Georgia looming next week. You can never really tell.

That’s what Cal is going to have to guard against. There is too much possibility for letdown, as Cal slugged their way to an unimpressive win in Fort Collins last season after the emotional high of Tennessee. College teams struggle, especially on the road. The Cougars have been mediocre at best the past three seasons but in the eight times they’ve been underdogs at home, they’ve covered the spread seven times and won outright twice. In the past three seasons they’ve taken ranked teams like UCLA and Oregon in 2005, USC in 2006, and Arizona State in 2007 to the wire.

Cal is not on that same level quite yet, but you’d expect similar problems in Kevin Riley’s first road start, wouldn’t you?

Big teams cannot really win a Week 2 game. They obliterate, they were expected to obliterate; they win close, they underachieved; they lose, they might as well start admiring high school recruiting lists. They must endure it, weather it, mop up, move on. We can only hope the Bears are capable of doing what big teams can do: Endure.

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