The Last Lecture: California

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, August 29th, 2008

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Okay, this was supposed to be posted on EDSBS, but Orson Swindle was too busy being mesmerized by a poster of Rick Neuheisel that declared his monopoly on the college blogosphere over. Keep in mind this was written about three weeks ago before the quarterback situation had been resolved, although I think it still carries some weight. For all readers desiring a more literary, anecdotal description of Cal football, you will find it here.

One: what color is your season? In other words, please explain the metaphborical state of your program through the metaphor of color:
Gray, many shades of gray. There is so much haziness this offseason about what to expect and what not to expect. We still don’t have a clue who our starting quarterback is–general fans want Kevin Riley while being ever warier of the injury-prone, supposedly non-clutch Nate Longshore. We really are unsure which Longshore we will get this year or whether Riley has the hops to succeed through an entire season. The uncertainty is a little unusual in the Tedford era, but it’s more refreshing than failing to live up to expectations.

Our offense is young and brimming with potential, but we have no idea whether it will come together this season or if this is just a transition year. Our defense crumbled at the end of last season due to injury, yet this could be the strongest Cal D in terms of talent and experience. Everything could come together, but it could also change as rapidly as Pete Carroll’s Facebook status.

And let’s not forget that wispy gray smoke that should ensue when the trees start burning. Or the gray fumes residing from the bongs of the hippies as they’re deported to Beijing.

Two: What historical nation and period do you resemble most right now?
The twilight of the Roman Republic, with Augustus Tedford in command. Cal fans are the now ineffectual Roman Senate, with the quarterback question being brought up day after day after day in the forum. The questions rotate but are always of the same stock: Which quarterback understands the nebulous concept of “the moment“? Is Kevin Riley really the modern day Football Mars, the God of War? Is Nate Longshore’s wife Cleopatra, sent by the pagan gods (in this case, Mormons with King James Bibles) to sabotage the mission of Cal football?

And now we’re reaching an important Senate vote, except it lasts three months and it’s not really important to anyone outside the forum, because Emperor Tedford still calls the shots. Thank God…err Hail Caesar!

Three: You have important players. Discuss a few of them hastily.
Alex Mack. Number one, he’s bigger than you. Number two, in a year he’s going to make more money than you. Number three, good chances are that he’s smarter than you. Mack is the cornerstone of an offensive line that allowed 11 sacks last year, and there shouldn’t be much dropoff coming into next season. Longshore might not move fast as Cal fans would like, but he’s not going to eat much turf thanks to the leadership of Mack on that front line.

Our linebacking corps will be the key to our defense, especially with the switch to the 3-4. You’ll be hearing a lot from Zack Follett, Worrell Williams, Mike Mohamed and Anthony Felder. This year everyone looks healthy and with the home schedule in our favor, we’ll do our best to strike fear into Pac-10 offenses like we did in 2004-06.

Video links (should find embed code there):

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And I guess we’re Cal, so we need an offensive weapon to showcase don’t we? Well, you’re from the SEC, you’ll enjoy the pure speed of Jahvid Best even more than DeSean:

Video link (should find embed code there):

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(Hattip for all videos to danzig at California Golden Blogs)

Four: Name two games we might actually want to watch featuring your team.
Once most of you in the heartland realize that Alabama and Clemson will be a horrifying 10-6 trench war, find ESPN2 and watch the heathen blue state Spartans and Bears collide. We promise to be exciting and spontaneous, since both teams are brimming with potential and non-expectations. No one expects much of us–isn’t this a typical Tedford situation where he thrives?

And I’d put the Cal-Oregon one up there, simply because (a) Bellotti and his old pupil always have fun and exciting duels, and (b) the result will be a measuring stick toward what our season will be like. If we win, then the Cal-USC game probably becomes the de facto Pac-10 title game; if we lose, we look for airline tickets to Phoenix or San Diego and start thinking about the future with Riley, Best, and the new offensive class.

Four-A: Save us all some time and mention the game we’re better off NOT watching.
Colorado State, aka the cupcake game. We’re much better than last year and they’re much worse. We respect all our opponents, even when we’re beating them by 40 at halftime, so there will be no blood spilled. Maybe a lot of tokes passed around in the Student Section though.

Five: Every hero forgets something in their toolbelt. What does your team lack?
A nice and cozy athletic center for our athletes that STILL hasn’t been built (although you finally have the answer to the question: “Which Division I athletic program provides access to urinals in the women’s bathroom?”), we are twenty months since the first delay/lawsuit and although the end is in sight, we might have to wait until 2010 to finally break ground on it. Because most of the “citizens” of Berkeley hate the institution of Cal and wish ill on any attempt for its students and to evolve its ideas beyond the 1960s ethos of “student activism”. If they had their wishes they’d tear Cal down and build a vegan-friendly factory staffed by feminists and peace and conflict studies majors, decrying the evil of the male phallus while downing ganja-brownies as Surrealistic Pillow bellowing over the loudspeakers.

Plus they love soccer more. They wonder why offensive linemen don’t flop more to draw flags.

Six: Describe your team with a Jimmy Buffett song. No, we’re serious–do it.

Good Guys Win. We’ve had our ups and downs with Tedford, but he created his program the right way, recruiting hard-working, high-character guys that will rarely embarrass our team off the field. You’ll never see Cal penetrate the Fulmer Cup standings during his reign. And eventually, you have the figure this will pay off with the highest rewards. Just have to grit through the tough times and realize how fortunate we are to have him.

Seven: We’re master wagerers. Give us a bet to place for up to ten dollars about your team.

I don’t believe in locks because everytime I’ve bet on a lock I’ve had to find a box in People’s Park to sleep in. Here are a load of prop bets though, take your pick of what you think will be a lock.

The line for number of games started this year
Longshore -2.5 vs Riley

Number of times “The Huge Mistake” is mentioned when Riley takes the field.

Over 80 +103
Under 80 -10

Will the treesitters STILL be there by the time the season ends?

Yes +400
No -500

Which program will Jeff Tedford be most highly rumored to desert Cal for this offseason before he dispels said rumors for the umpteenth year?
49ers -110
Raiders +150
East Coast college no one cares about +30000

Any additional answers or amplifications? Leave your responses in the comments.

Topics: Berkeley, Cal Football, Coaches, Gambling, Players, Predictions, Previews | Comments Off on The Last Lecture: California

Games Games Games (Opening Night Liveblog) 8.28.08

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, August 28th, 2008

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No more BS. No more previews. No more talk and philosophical meanderings and quarterback debates and high school recruiting and practice and depth charts and everything that we can only ponder and snark at.

Get ready; it’s gametime son. Sack up.

I’ll start up the liveblog around 8:05 EST/5:05 PST for the NC State-South Carolina game, switch the focus around 9:07 to Oregon State-Stanford, then flip back and forth in between commercials (will take about a 30 minute break for Obama). Hopefully I’ll be joined by the good folks around the Bear blogosphere. Everyone’s invited!

If you have trouble viewing the game below click here.

Statistically Speaking: Michigan State-Cal Preview

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

dantoniospartan
As we gear up for the season opener, it’s time to scope out the Spartans. This is mostly Michigan State; the evaluation on how Cal can handle them will come soon enough. This is also longer than some passages of the Bible, so pop a can of beer or grill some sausages before you settle down to read this baby.

Introduction: In his first year at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio helped bring the Spartans back to Big 10 prominence after suffering a near decade-long malaise hanging near the bottom of the conference. Only once had the team finished with at least eight wins since 2000, with a mere two bowl appearances. Dantonio brought the Spartans back, rallying them to a deceiving 7-6 season in more ways than one (more on that later). While not exactly a dramatic turnaround for the program like Tedford’s hiring was for Cal in 2002, the Spartans seem confident that they are on the rise in the fleeting Big Ten.

What made the difference? The offense was far more explosive. The Spartans averaged 33.1 points and 198 rushing yards per game last season, up from 25.2 points and 129 yards from the season before. Every other stat declined across the board, but only marginally. This was the drastic improvement that Michigan State fans can point to; a solid power run game with Javon Ringer and underrated Jehuu Caulcrick backed up by an experienced offensive line.

Quarterback: On paper Brian Hoyer had a solid if not spectacular season. Other than a nightmarish Bowl game with a somewhat decimated team, he only threw seven interceptions, keeping the Spartans in almost every game. Despite the feeble pass protection he received all of last season, he did quite well for himself.

However, just by looking at the passer ratings, you can see Hoyer was not as consistent as his stats, going from great games to mediocre games right back to great. Against the two best passing defenses last season in Michigan and Ohio State, he finished below average, yet he excelled against only slightly weaker passing Ds in Purdue and Penn State.

Some interesting situational stats also appear based on down and distance though. Focusing again on conversion rate, we see several things. Hoyer is generally above average in every category save the crucial 3rd down 4-6 category (which was interestingly Longshore’s ’06 weakness). His passer ratings don’t quite match up, but Hoyer doesn’t throw quite as many touchdowns outside of 3rd and short situations.

Probably the most important thing to note about Hoyer is that he doesn’t fade late. In the second half last year he threw 12 TDs and 2 INTs with a 138.49 passer rating; in the 4th quarter his numbers were a scorching 7 TDs and 1 INT with a 141.73 passer rating. His weakest quarter was surprisingly early (the second). However, Hoyer doesn’t appear to have a rocket arm; 14 of his 20 touchdown passes came in the red zone. It’d be interesting if the Bears try to force Hoyer downfield and challenge him to beat them deep, just like opponents of Cal did last season with Longshore.

Running backs: This is a little disturbing, but guess who Javon Ringer reminds me of? Before you click over to read the rest, here’s a hint: We love him very very much.

Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Redemption: Cal’s 2008 Motto

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, August 25th, 2008


Finding a theme for this upcoming season
has been elusive. There are too many departed stars and unfamiliar characters to construct a proper narrative. These new California Golden Bears remain quite a mystery to us. Our experience with them has been too ephemeral to provide any meaningful terms beyond potential and hope; we know the future is bright, but what does the present bring?

But I think I found the essence of what I was looking for watching the Redeem Team last night. These star basketball players came together unified by the need for atonement. After their past failure largely plagued by questions of leadership and chemistry, this new US team was a nation-state of stars that emphasized team over self, victory through strength of arms, strength of team. And they achieved the ultimate goal while being the crowd-pleaser of the Games.

Sounds plenty familiar doesn’t it? Cal 2008’s all about redemption.

It makes sense in context. What were we saying after 2007? The Tedford magic was gone. He’s not about to turn the Modesto hopscotch champion into Cal’s next 1,500 yard rusher. Give him superior talent to what USC has and he shrinks away from the opportunity we get. Blindly trusts his players instead of utilizing his own instincts.

Now that this is all in the past, here’s a little secret: Our coach is not perfect. Last season should have illustrated that perfectly, but it seems some fans thought his flaws were fatal defects, as if they couldn’t have comprehended that Tedford was capable of error. Unlike most leaders though, he seems to show a willingness to adapt and evolve past his mistakes. This whole 2008 offseason has been an illustration of that.

As Cal fans hope Tedford has grown from his failures, hopefully Cal fans have grown themselves. Our program cannot expect every season to go perfectly, that we can always go 10-2 and compete for a Rose Bowl; there will be times when we underachieve and not meet the failings. His evolution as a coach demands the highs and the lows, just as our fan experience demands we glimpse the possibilities before actually tasting them.

2008 is a chance for the California Golden Bears to redeem the past, one game at a time. We can only hope the outcome is just as joyous as it was for Kobe, LeBron and company.

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Present is Past is Future

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Regardless of all the games on the field, I sense that the big battle this year is about something more than just mere games. The battle most of our fans will have is internal, one about grappling identities between what they think is possible and what they believe is possible.

Fans that haven’t tasted ultimate victory for decades (or ever) are like desperate housewives–they can’t quite come to grips with what they have now and always look toward the promises on the horizon. What gives promise to what is new is what comes next. Always looking to the future we are, ready to reward the impatient and the reckless.


After the sobering experience of last season, Kevin Riley provides fans with the sunny optimism they so necessitate from their football world at its very end. In a university known for its rebellious nature, Riley seems to embody Blue and Gold through and through. Even that play had tinges of “screw it, if I get this done I’m going down in Cal history”. It’s something that endears people to his ability to quarterback because he didn’t shrink from the moment, something that Longshore has been accused of doing.

We were able to forgive him for that play, because not many of us watching thought we’d have been in that position ten minutes ago. It was a rookie mistake, a player lost in the moment, Charlie Brown trying to steal home. And although we called him a blockhead at the time, it was hard not to feel sorry for him. But Charlie Brown had lost 930 ball games before that. For Riley, this was numero uno.

Watching Nate Longshore, on the other hand, provided fans with a sense of impending fatalism. Fans know his numbers, they’ve had two years of him, we already expect things to happen with him and to him. While we’d like to stand by him, we find ourselves anxious by the possibilities he offers and the questions he leaves unanswered. Is he capable of more than what he’s showing? Where’s the consistency?

The sad thing is that Longshore is often only as good as his teammates. When everyone is harmonizing, when everyone is working toward victory, then Nate looks like one of the top six quarterbacks. But like a computer, a college football team requires every part to function, and a system quarterback is bound to the constructs. If something isn’t programmed properly, things begin to malfunction, and the solutions take forever to debug. Whether it be an injured ankle or missed assignments or turnovers.

We’ve only seen Riley in flashes, but you get the sense that he elevates his teammates with his plays. What Longshore does is plug into the system like the most efficient component you; Riley transcends the system with his ability to spread his confidence to the teammates around him. Both are efficient parts to the Cal quarterbacking situation, with one’s smarts and the other’s guts. Each will be playing a role, which could turn the controversy into pleasantry by the time this season is done.

Uncertainty looms over everything. But it isn’t tenuous or burdening, it’s legitimately exciting. One can only contemplate the possibilities.

EDIT: I actually wrote about this before Tedford named his starting QB. The words still ring truer than ever as we enter the last weekend of the college football offseason. This is one weekend buzzing with opportunities.

Preseason Blogpoll

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Enough of my moaning. The teams still need to be ranked.

At a total loss Tuesday afternoon as to how to rank the top 25 preseason teams, I thought of the criteria with which I generally judge teams.

(1) Game performance. For example, last year I’d have knocked LSU down to #3 or #4 in the polls, based on the fact that they were trailing in five of their last six conference regular season games (Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas) and went 3-2. Could’ve swung either way, but that was not a dominating team by any measure. They certainly lacked the panache of a Duck Hunt at the Big House or a Trojan obliteration in the desert. Not that these teams were particularly convincing either, but no team was more disappointing over the last month than the Tigers.

For the preseason, obviously (1) goes out the window. Leading us to…

(2) Strength of victory. For example, if Hawaii spots ‘last place in the Pac-10’ Washington a 21-0 lead in a must-win home game, then has to spend the rest of the game catching up to gain that BCS spot, this strength of victory ranks significantly lower than Oregon outlasting first place USC at Autzen in what seemed (at the time) like a changing of the guard. Context and quality matter.

Unfortunately, the only victories that have been determined are for freshmen looking for playing time. So there that criteria goes.

This leaves us with our final and least desirable measure of a team.

(3) Talent. Ew.

You just hate ranking teams based on talent because it’s such a nebulous term. How do you tell one unit is more talented than the other? Are there dance-offs? Plus how do we factor in the strength of a coach? Why don’t we rank the 30 best secondary coaches in the country and correlate that in? No such subjective measurement exists yet.

For now though, it’s close enough to the effective truth for me. So I went over Phil Steele’s magazine (if you haven’t bought it, order it. NOW) because he knows more about college football than anyone (I mean, he says it at least 4720 times in his magazine!) and came up with an arbitrary compilation of the most talented teams. It’s a convoluted way of finding the best preseason team, but for these parameters it fits our purposes.

I weighted each unit differently from what I considered most to least important in football: In this case, OL ranked first, followed by LB & DL, then QB, RB, Secondary, WR, Special Teams. Then I compiled them by their top rankings at each position (i.e. if it was a list of the top 32, I assigned 32 points to the #1 ranked unit in that category, 31 to the #2 unit, etc. down to 1 for the #32 unit). Multiplying them by the weight at each position, I summed everything up for final positioning.

I balked when I saw the first poll because there were several teams that just didn’t appear to belong, ESPECIALLY at the places I put them at. However, after several modifications, I really didn’t get much anywhere, and ended up with this ballot (#3 on Mr. Bold; hooray!):

Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State
2 Oklahoma
3 Florida
4 Southern Cal
5 Georgia
6 LSU
7 Texas
8 Florida State
9 Penn State
10 Clemson
11 West Virginia
12 Tennessee
13 Oregon
14 Texas Tech
15 Brigham Young
16 Auburn
17 Wisconsin
18 Missouri
19 Miami (Florida)
20 South Florida
21 South Carolina
22 California
23 Boston College
24 Kansas
25 Mississippi
Dropped Out:

Click here to view the spreadsheet compilation of Phil Steele’s rankings.

Breakdown by conference: 7 SEC, 5 Big 12, 4 ACC, 3 Big Ten, 3 Pac-10, 2 Big East, 1 MWC.

More about discrepancies and Cal’s position after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Abolish College Football Preseason Rankings

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Brian Cook (possibly pictured above) is a fine writer and by all accounts, a maniacal human being. Runs it steady over at MgoBlog, my source for almost everything Big Ten (on the days I, you know, care about the Big Ten). He does many awesome things, his latest being inviting me to Blogpoll along with the rest of the crazy blog madfolk (Excuse Me For My Voice and California Golden Blogs being the other two Cal Blogpollers). It’s certainly a pleasure and I thank him for setting this all up again.

But as a part of the process, I’d like to call for the end of the preseason poll. As I tabulated up my blogpoll, I realized I didn’t have a damned clue who the top 25 teams might be (I hadn’t seen a minute of game, how am I supposed to know who’s on top?). For someone who desires an idealistic representation of what the top 25 should look like, Brian should know this poll means absolutely jack. It’s an archaic measure of nothingness.

However, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, these stupid rankings do actually mean something. Ask Auburn fans. They remember how much they matter.

We are giving the benefit of the doubt to teams that we haven’t watched one minute on the playing field. This leaves our subjective criteria to supposed talent and recruiting levels. How else did LSU get back to the top of the polls last year after playing tardball for two months? Being #2 to begin with certainly didn’t hurt them any and they got the benefit of the doubt over other two-loss teams playing more solid ball over the last two months of the season (Georgia and USC come to mind, and we didn’t even get that matchup).

We can talk about other teams not delivering, but LSU fell into that spot because they were the highest ranked two loss team at the beginning of the season. Their tiebreaker were the high expectations media types set on them in mid-August. Congrats, your 2007-08 national champions. Let’s all get drunk.

This would be like scoring the women’s gymnastics events by the way the announcers talk about htem before the performances (although you could argue that this might lead to fairer results–Americans get all the gold!). Why have these? Just to feel happy about how right you are if these stats hold true. Even Brian prefaces his preseason poll with the following:

“Don’t be gentle. This is probably stupid.”

Truer words my friend, truer words.

What are your thoughts on preseason rankings? Should these things even exist?

Blogpoll ballot and rationale coming tomorrow.

Sustained Groundedness: Tribute to Natalie Coughlin

Posted by: Avinash on Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

I don’t get a chance to dap many fellow hapas (and even more exclusively, fellow half-Filipinos), so it’s tight to see Cal’s own Natalie Coughlin casually add another six medals to her mantle. While the cyborg called Michael Phelps reduces his competition to flailing penguins, Coughlin flew right under our noses to eleven medals. She’s well on-pace to becoming the most decorated swimmer in Olympic history if she decides to return in 2012.

Michael’s greatness makes it so difficult to discuss him without purely fawning him. It’s what happens whenever we watch someone like Tiger or Jordan or Federer come along and dominate their competitors; we find it impossible to discuss them rationally. We end up either beaming about how great they were, or whining about how other swimmers deserved their chance in the spotlight, or commenting on how much of a douche he might be in real life (who knows, who cares).

Natalie’s greatness is of a different sort. It’s one that we can relate to and identify with without feeling too woozy in the head. She doesn’t always win, doesn’t engender the polarizing feelings Phelps generates, but still finds ways to be successful. She desires a different type of greatness that doesn’t require the spotlight or the fame, but allows her to carve out her niche.

Her own style of swim appears distinctly Cal. Her kicks and wriggling under the water seems beyond unnatural, challenging her buoyancy beyond its natural bounds. When she hugs the line and still finishes ahead of the majority of the field, it’s as if she’s saying, “I don’t let simple things like friction keep me from kicking my way past the rest of you.” She seemingly revolts against the norms, being subtly cocky with her technique while being collected outside of the arena showing off her mad cooking skills.

You do have to wonder how much success Coughlin would’ve had if Phelps hadn’t intersected her at the same time. Coughlin’s success has mostly escaped the sports media glare, but it would have been fixated on her if she had been America’s best hope for swimming gold. Would she have been willing to be the Golden Girl that America would be looking to, and would she have risen to claim that spotlight? Or would her neurotic nature prevented her from reaching such lofty aspirations?

One can only wonder. With Phelps likely to return in 2012, that answer will remain out of our reach. For now we can only salute Coughlin for what she’s done. It’s difficult to maintain style and fluidity in a game where speed is the essential ingredient, yet Coughlin pulls it off while still racking up the medals. And in a sport driven by ego and the desire to outrace one another, Natalie seems perfectly willing to accept what she’s gotten. She’s a true California Golden Bear to be sure.

Worthless Cal Predictions

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, August 18th, 2008

Lots of varying predictions about what Cal’s season is going to look like only confirms one thing: Someone on this list is going to look damned stupid.

Phil Steele already set the bar by ranking Cal #2 in the conference, certainly above most normal expectations. However he also had Cal #5 last season, which was as close as any mainstream pundit got to the final outcome. So as they say about fortune and boldness…

Meanwhile, everyone else’s predictions. SI’s great powers of prediction allowed them to do the smartest possible thing: They simply put a list of the 119 Division 1 teams and ranked them 1 to 119 for 2008. No objective criteria, no reasoning, just numbers and teams placed next to them. Cal is ranked right behind Michigan State and even further behind Maryland (MARYLAND?), which makes me wonder if they’re just recapping 2007 performances or really looking at 2008.

Wish I had the time to just compile a list of best college football journalists and do the same thing. I’m sure Stu Mandel’s place on the list will inspire about as much feigned interest as this one.

Of all the projections about Cal’s season from mainstream outlets, the Los Angeles Times comes the closest to nailing the reasons we will succeed this year:

Full disclosure: Cal was not in the top 25 mix until former two-sport Bears star Tony Gonzalez saved a man’s life at a Huntington Beach restaurant last month.

Sometimes it takes heroics to move a school up in the ratings.

Or, sometimes it just takes the setup line Gonzalez provided for a school that otherwise was going to check in at No. 30-something…

“Where was Gonzalez last year when Cal football needed the Heimlich maneuver?”

No doubt that Tony Gonzalez will be flown straight to every Golden Bears game to resuscitate a game that’s slipping away from us. Only his graceful chest pumps kept his team from falling into obscurity, and they’ll be needed again, only this time he’ll be free to smash helmets open and be proclaimed The One.

The New York Times is at its usual self when describing a college football team–exhaustingly thorough. This is good enough to be the 2008 California Golden Bears wiki page:

So how good can Cal be? Not the best in the Pac-10, at least in my eyes, but certainly good enough to win nine or ten games. The good news, at least with the schedule, is that the Bears get Oregon and Arizona State at home; however, the bad news is that the Bears need to go to U.S.C. and Oregon State. While I like Cal, and expect a marked improvement over 2007, I think they are a notch below Arizona State and a full step below U.S.C.

When in doubt, go with the consensus. Nothing remotely controversial or interesting about this one. BOOOO.

Ted Miller opts the safe way too, although he does mention that Jake Locker is the West Coast’s version of Tim Tebow. Yeugh, I hope not. That says more about the West Coast than it does about Jake Locker.

From Betfirms.com:

#5) California Golden Bears
Some people have this team a little higher than what we have them, but we just aren’t sure that a team returning 13 starters can make that big a difference on a team that finished tied for 7th last year at 3-6.

The returning starters bit seems insightful…until you realize that only ONE team is returning 15 or more starters in the Pac-10 (The Farm). This same site ranks them ninth in the Pac-10. So experience doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as you’d probably think.

Then again, this is a gambling site, so it’s probably in their best interest to be wrong.

Finally, from CBS’s Sportsline Editor, who writes perhaps the most asinine article on the topic:

7. California: The Bears need to recover from the epic 1-6 meltdown to close ’07. Try to remember Cal was once the No. 2 team in the country. Then Kevin “Throw The Damn Ball” Riley lost the Oregon State game. Riley is in a battle for the starting job with veteran Nate Longshore. Coach Jeff Tedford gave up play-calling duties, handing them over to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. Which way you going, Bears?

Wow, what penetrating analysis of the state of our football team. Since we were once the #2 team in the country, the veterans will manifest their nostalgia into inner self-loathing. Also some a freshman who made an isolated mistake and atoned for it in the bowl game is actually contending for the quarterback position, so clearly we are in no man’s land. Now some mysterious offensive coordinator will definitely end up sinking this team because really, when you don’t know what to expect, rank them as low as possible.

As usual, the Pac-10 bloggers seem to have their heads on their shoulders the best. Addicted to Quack has an interesting outsider’s opinion that comes closer to my own than anyone else:

3b. California. They have a stellar O-line, which will carry them for much of the season. But they lost huge players at the skill positions. While Cal fans are really excited about Jahvid Best, and the guy is highlight reel waiting to happen, will he be able to carry the load for a whole season? I’m doubtful. Also, all of their running backs weigh less than 200 pounds. Make of that what you will. For the rest of the offense I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in Longshore or Riley. They have a great linebacking corp, though the rest of the defense is above mediocre. They also have an easy schedule. Overall, they have their issues, as does ASU. I feel they will end up in about the same place, with their weaknesses becoming very clear in a couple key games during the season.

This guy seems a little closer to the truth about Cal than anyone else, although he probably underrates the quarterback position (then again, he’s got Nate Costa and Justin Roper, and I’d be pretty jumpy if I had either of those two on my team). And he works for no mainstream outlet at all. Perhaps this says something about the future of mainstream media analysis. Perhaps…

We’ll have plenty more of these worthless predictions as the season goes on. ESPN will probably get an entire column. And my blogpoll numbers are coming soon.

Pathos of Nate Longshore

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, August 14th, 2008

It seems football, more than any other sport, provides us with an interminable offseason of endless chatter that rinses and repeats the same old storylines. By the time we get to opening day we’re so exhausted of the cycle we’re just happy for the release of the kickoff.

“He played admirably through three and a half quarters most of the time…it was just one thing here or there. During inopportune times, we’d turn the football over. Some of it was [his] responsibility and some of it wasn’t, but he’s the one who shouldered the blame for the whole deal.”

In my first year of covering Cal football fullscale, one question has loomed over everything else, practically sapping all the fun out of covering the team so everyone can play their own version of ESPN talking head. People have obsessed over the topic on message boards and communities alike, exhausting the subject by retreading the same points ad verbatim.

It’s a poisonous thing, a quarterback controversy is, and it can cripple a fanbase like divided leadership can cripple an army. It takes all the entertainment out of football and places the followers of the team in a foul mood. Questions about booing our team members arise for not displaying Pareto efficiency. Ask 49ers fans how they’re feeling this year.

In this day and age, we desire certainty in our decisions and our choices, but when we search for the optimal, we are often not satisfied with the options we’re presented. More importantly, in this empowered age, everyone wants to be right almost as much as they want their teams to succeed. And even if Longshore does have a solid season, you have a feeling he’ll never be fully accepted by a fanbase that favors one quarterback over the other by almost a two-to-one margin.

“He didn’t play perfect. It wasn’t carelessness. It was out of eagerness to be successful and trying to do his part. But there are a lot of reasons for interceptions. Sometimes they definitely fall on the quarterback, but it’s a team sport. It could be a wrong route, a tipped ball or a broken protection. We learned last year that everybody is accountable for our lack of success.”

In the NFL, Donovan McNabb is the posterchild of such frustrations from a divided fanbase. When the spotlight gets bigger, he doesn’t seem to rise along with it, and the murmurs grow to turn loose Kevin Kolb to see if he can get them the extra step. You’d expect more levity in college, but the attitude seems to lean toward instant gratification. Fans should get what they want, right?

Even when kickoff begins, we will not hear the last of Longshore’s detractors. Every day he’ll be questioned, good game or bad game. They will be crowing when he throws a pick, or puts too much air on the ball, or if he tries to float one into double coverage. Again, what has Longshore done for us lately?

Yet you can’t help but feel sorry for Nate in what appears to be a no-win situation; even if he is successful people will gripe that Cal won in spite of him rather than because of him. And in between the mistakes, there will be other throws where you remember what a great talent he is, how sparkling the offense can look under his command.

His vulnerability this season delves beyond the mechanical and physical realm, even beyond his statistics. With Nate no longer the certain incumbent, how will he respond to the pressure of the populace and the determined competitor fighting for the role he was appointed to hold two years back? It’ll be exciting to see the answer as the opening weeks unfold, to see whether imperfect veteran or raw youth prevail.

“Right now is the best time of my career,” Longshore said. “I’m so excited. I think we’re going to surprise some people. There’s focus and an intensity when you’re out there that is unparalleled since I’ve been here.”

(Quotes from Ted Miller’s and Jonathan Okanes’s articles)