A Nod To the Future: Pac-10 Football in 2009
Fall 2009 is a long way away for a Cal football fan, but it’s really hard for Golden Bears not to be anticipating the possibilities of next season. The Bears have made plenty of runs after the Rose Bowl fiasco of 2004, but there were always good reasons as to why Cal never were able to make the leap to the Rose Bowl.
- In 2005, we lost many of our offensive playmakers and our starting quarterback; USC kept both.
- In 2006, youth and a QB/RB ill-suited fora spread scheme eventually did in the Cal offense late in the season; a deeper and more experienced USC team had just enough to seal us off.
- In 2007, the lack of depth defensively eventually allowed teams to keep the ball away from the potent Cal offense.
- In 2008 the Bears retained none of their starters at the skill positions and struggled to move the ball without #4 breaking to daylight.
However, in 2009, the cards might finally be falling in our favor. A look around the Pac-10 amplifies those hopes.
Oh god. It doesn’t get more barren than this, does it?
Pros: Uh. Their home games are easier this year. So they have that going for them. Wulff’s recruits might finally start seeing PT at key positions, so the Cougs shouldn’t be as thin at every position as they were this season.
Cons: They go to Memorial next year. That takes care of this one.
Conclusion: If that game is even close next season, something has gone horribly wrong. Best not to think about it.
You can only go up from bottom right?
Pros: Jake Locker is back. That’s enough for two-three wins right there, as long as he stays healthy. And this was a young team, which explained many of the tough losses all season; you’d expect with a year under their belt the new coaching regime would get these players back into working order after the mess of the Willingham era.
Cons: This team won zero games last year. Bagel. Empty. Nada. Nothing There is a lot to work on, and there are no quick fixes.
This year LSU, USC, Cal and Oregon all come to town, plus a trip to South Bend. Their schedule is even more brutal than last season. To expect the Huskies to rise up and win more than five games is a little unrealistic.
Conclusion: They’re a little bit more of an uncertain commodity than Wazzu because their coaching staff should be way better, but I still have no clue. Nevertheless, the Bears still have yet to face Locker, and he is not to be underestimated (as BYU can attest).
Mike Stoops is barely safe once again. Took all his effort and a senior quarterback and Texas Tech’s old offensive coordnator, but they finall put a winning season under their belt. Good for them. Let’s hope they revert to sucking.
Pros: This is a young team with a lot of returning starters. Antolin and Grigsby will both be back, as will their tight end Rob Gronkowski. More importantly, their defense (lose five starters) and O-line (lose two) will return mainly intact with plenty of seniors manning each group.
Cons: Willie Tuitama is gone. So is Mike Thomas, and thus half of their offensive production. Considering Tuitama has been the de facto starter for nearly three and a half years, it’s hard not to see Arizona taking a step back in this game with one of the freshmen quarterbacks taking the reins. Their offense is entirely dependent on a good QB game, so we’ll have to see how well they adapt to their surroundings.
Conclusion: They will be much like Cal next year, albeit weaker at the skill positions. However, they do come to Memorial, so the Bears should have the advantage in this one.
Danny Sullivan or the Elway kid? Rudy Carpenter is now gone (up to you to wonder if that’s a good or bad thing), and the jury’s out on whether Dennis Erickson is washed up–my guess is he’s over the hill, but I’ve been wrong about these things before. We’ll know when they go to Georgia what type of team they are.
Pros: Carpenter’s gone, which can be good if you really hate Rudy Carpenter. It’s Arizona quarterback battle II this offseason, as Danny Sullivan fights for the right to start his senior season, although he might take a backseat to the frosh as well. Also only three seniors on the defense leave, so this squad will escape 2008 relatively intact (which can be a good or bad thing).
Cons: That offensive line was terrible last year, was worse this year, and doesn’t show any signs of changing this year considering only two of those players graduate. This team is going to have all sorts of trouble adjusting to Cal’s 3-4 front.
Conclusion: Dangerous game in the desert (all of them are), but it should be Cal’s easiest in the last four trips to Arizona.
Pros: Gerhart is back, and he was tough to take down all year, so it’s going to be tough playing him straight up. Also the O-line is in place, so you have to expect Harbaugh to power run up the gaps for most of the season.
Cons: The ‘Furd loses eight starters and five more backups on defense. Let me repeat, they lose THIRTEEN of their primary and secondary defenders. Jahvid Best could very well march for 250 on them in the Big Game.
They lose Pritchard, who at least showed signs of competency. We have no clue what Alex Loukas or Andrew Luck or even Josh Nunes will do or whether a clearcut #1 will emerge.
Conclusion: We’re going to have to see what Jim Harbaugh’s recruits can do as most of Walt Harris’s recruits move on. If they excel, the Big Game will be tough, but if they are merely adequate we’re keeping the Axe.
I would like to say this team is an easy out, but it all depends on Kevin Craft. Will he really develop into the QB that Neuheisel thinks he’s capable of becoming? The other options aren’t pretty.
Pros: UCLA loses only two offensive starters–their center Micah Reed and tailback Kahlil Bell. For all the misery they went through last season, the Bruins should be much improved going into 2009 with plenty of experience under the belts of the youngins. Their defense loses more, but they should be solid, depending on who they hire to replace DeWayne Walker.
Cons: Uh…quarterback play (am I sensing a trend here?). Craft murdered them in several of their losses. If he can just tone down the interceptions they could be a dark horse pick to challenge for the Pac-10 crown (their home schedule is favorable with Cal and Oregon coming to town).
Conclusions: If we have good quarterback play, we will end our miserable road record in Los Angeles. If we have bad quarterback play, we probably don’t.
What is it with the Ducks? Almost every season they find a way to mirror our exact struggles the season before. The Ducks went 10-2 but were denied a BCS berth and sunk in the Holiday Bowl in 2005 the season after Cal got jobbed and did the same. Oregon collapsed in 2006 after our matchup, we collapsed in 2007 after our matchup. Now in 2009, they face the same issues Cal did in 2008 by losing a ton of senior talent. And I mean a ton.
The good: Oregon’s got three exciting quarterbacks competing for the starting position. Although Masoli played very well in 2008 and starred in the Holiday Bowl, you can expect him to compete again with Justin Roper and the sophomore Darron Thomas. Why can’t we have a positive QB controversy like that?
Also, that monster LaGarrette Blount is taking over for Jeremiah Johnson, so the spread attack should be just as potent as it always is. Also returning are the cornerbacks Thurmond and Byrd, and Byrd seems to be coming on for the Ducks.
The bad: Oregon’s two centers are graduating, including Max Unger (heralded to be just as good as Alex Mack). Three guards and the starting tackles are also gone. Terrence Scott and Jaison Williams are on his way out with Jeremiah Johnson. They also lose six defensive starters (including Chung and Boyd), but I never know if that’s a bad thing for a team like the Ducks that never seems to get it together on that side of the ball.
Conclusion: If this game were at home Cal would probably win handily, but since this is an Autzen it’ll be our second or third toughest game on the schedule, depending on how you view the next two opponents. The Ducks are never an easy out though, and their O-lines never seem to drop off, so we’ll have to see how their team adjusts to their new trenchmen.
I hate playing these guys, and I’m sure Tedford does too. The Bears have losing records against two Pac-10 teams since he arrived, and against Oregon State he’s a grand 2-5. They’re a well-coached team that keeps on spitting out upset after upset. And their defensive coordinator doesn’t get hired anywhere for no apparent reason. Drives me nuts. It’s looking like we’ll have to deal with him again this season.
Pros: Moevao and the Rodgers brothers return, and you’d figure that offensive talent will be enough to solidfy them. Darrell Catchings should slide in to replace Morales. McCants is a solid backup in case Rodgers gets hurt.
Cons: Their offensive line loses four of their main men including two starters. I would say losing three of their defensive linemen or their entire starting secondary are huge losses, but the Beavers lost their entire front seven last season and came within one win of the Rose Bowl. I don’t know. I’m terrified of this game. Couldn’t they have scheduled it for June?
Conclusion: The Beavers are coming to Memorial, and even though we’ve lost the last two, we were at our weakest and they were at our strongest in both of those matchups. You’d think we could have this one, but they could clamp down on Best and force Riley to win this one. Who knows whether he’ll be able to do it or not.
The kings, and rightfully so. Everytime you count them out they come marching right back and start scorching Earth. While Pete Carroll’s teams are not as invincible as they once were in the Leinart-Bush-White era, their potency cannot be questioned, and you’d be a damned fool to underestimate them. They are the champs of the Pac until someone dethrones them…and doesn’t subsequently fall apart.
Pros: If the Trojans are going to repeat as Pac-10 champions, they will have to do so behind an experienced offense led by senior Mark Sanchez. Other than the loss of Patrick Turner, the transfer of Hazelton, and the graduation their guard Ross Byers, the entire offense returns. C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight will have another chance to try and distinguish their play from one another or face another platoon type system. Damian Williams is starting to develop into a star, and Ronald Johnson is a decent second option. Anthony McCoy will be featured prominently.
Cons: For the first time in a long time,there are a lot. Other than Everson Griffen and Averell Spicer, the Trojans lose everyone on their front seven. Clay Matthews, Kyle Moore, Fili Moala, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiva, Maualuga, all gone. Kevin Ellison and Cary Harris are also on the way out, and Taylor Mays might be joining them. That is nearly 85 percent of their starting corps. Although the Trojans will have the talent they usually have that can fill in, this is going to be a significantly weaker team than the one that just gangbusted Penn State.
Not to mention the coaching. This post will probably be updated when the sitution is figured out, but right now USC is without offensive and defensive coordinators (given that Petie runs the defense, but still). The Trojan identity for next season remains very much cloudy, and we won’t know for certain where they’re going until summertime.
Conclusion: The October matchup in Memorial is already looking like the biggest of many battles for the Pac-10 crown. USC’s offense will be facing a tough Cal defense that held them to 17 in LA, and they will be just as experienced this time around. So for the fourth straight year it’ll come down to the question of whether Cal’s offense can break through against USC’s defense. Will the Bears’s O have enough experience and savvy to finally notch the win against the Men of Troy?
What are your thoughts on next season and our matchups with our Pac-10 conference foes?
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