It’s All About Desire

Posted by: Avinash on Saturday, November 8th, 2008

For more reasoned analysis concerning USC, check out The Bear Will Not Quit (who also warns you about that damned Havili wheel play ARRRGH). Information on watching Cal-USC online or at meetups is here.

(This was originally a response to Hydrotech’s post about cautious optimism)

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To be honest, most Cal fans already won this week (we’ll leave it unnamed because I don’t want to get political on you yet). That’s probably what’s causing all this unbridled optimism that we can go into the Coliseum and take down the mighty Trojans. A loss at USC will make people angry and disappointed for a little bit, but it would all disappear if we got right back up and won our last three games. It’s perfectly normal to feel the ups and downs, especially against our feared and hated rival, but we’ll regain our perspective pretty quickly and realize that where we are is still a drastic improvement over where we’ve been.

Bears fans will probably vacillate too often between the extremes, but I think this season we’ve only been thinking of the message board types and blog commenters who expect too much and live and breathe Cal football in their being. On the whole, most reasonable Cal fans have been deeply embedded in the culture of Tedford football for so long that they just desperately want to see us break through. They want the Rose Bowl so badly that they’ll look past the statistics and hope for possibilities of perfection. Which doesn’t seem wrong at all. I’ve seen much worse fan reaction in my lifetime.

Honestly, Cal fans are pretty light compared to other fanbases. USC fans criticize Carroll for not going undefeated every season. Auburn fans have had a sustained run at excellence including a 13-0 season and now they want to fire Tuberville. Tennessee fans came a few errant Ainge throws from winning the SEC title last season, and now Fulmer is gone.

Tedford and Longshore have had it fairly easy compared to the gripings of other college football fans. Most of us just shrug it off and go back to enjoying the rest of our lives. There are a few firebrands, but they’re caught in the moment and usually settle down as time moves along. And look toward next year.

So yeah, it’s easy to be optimistic after the events of the past week. And perhaps we’ll lose and the fans will overreact. But that always happens.

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Hydrotech brings up some sobering stats, but he did miss a few concerning Cal.

  • USC is 1st in the nation at allowing 3.3 yards per play. Cal is 6th in the nation, allowing 4.2 yards per play.
  • USC is 3rd in the nation at allowing 2.47 rushing yards per carry. Cal is 9th in the nation, allowing 2.88 rushing yards per carry.
  • Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82.32 against USC’s defense, 1st in the nation, but right behind is Cal’s defense, which has allowed a passer rating of 92.61, 3rd in the nation.
  • It’s a slight downgrade from previous seasons, but when did 32nd best offense in the country become bad? Oregon State’s only 28th. Arizona’s 42nd and they only lost by 7.
  • Five of USC’s wins have come against the 82nd (Ohio State), 87th (ASU), 97th (Virginia), 115th (Washington), and 119th (Wazzu) ranked offenses in the country. Let’s not get carried away with #1 defense ever; their only true shutdowns were against Oregon, who was starting Masoli for the first time, and Arizona, which kept Tuitama and the Wildcats from moving the ball all game.
  • Obviously the defensive matchups look like a standstill, so it comes down to which offense will break through, make the big plays and the least mistakes. The Trojans have the advantage being at home…but I think their odds of winning are slightly inflated. Perception does not match reality.

    And even then, college football isn’t like the NFL; statistics usually don’t tell the entire story at the end of the day. It’s characterized by massive mood swings, emotional vacillations, of 18-24 year olds having to step up on a weekly basis and provide the same effort they give to the field. On paper USC should beat Cal probably 85 times out of 100. But they don’t play games on paper.

    You also have to factor in how badly Cal’s veterans want this. Longshore, Follett, Mack, Syd’Quan, they haven’t seen Cal beat USC. These are grizzled college veterans who were here in 2006 and 2007 when they played Trojan teams of comparably the same value and just came up short when it mattered. Now they’re given a third chance at redemption, at battling all out for the crown. You don’t usually get three chances at anything in college football. Don’t the odds suggest that we’re due?

    So yeah, it’s easy to be optimistic after the events of the past week. I have a special feeling about tomorrow, just like when we played in Oregon in 2006 and Tennessee in 2007. Anything is possible.

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