No Stars, Better Team?

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

calteam

As spring moves along, we get the usual, upbeat note, after a season relegated to the Dark Ages.

Sure enough, senior linebacker Zack Follett said he first noticed an uptick in the team’s mood even before spring ball.

“Right when we hit the weight room,” he said.

But this good vibe seems to transcend what happened last year, time’s healing properties, the low-stress environment of off-season drills, and the natural euphoric cocktail of spring, the great outdoors and the best years of a young man’s life.

“No question,” Tedford said after his pass-throwing drill. “The chemistry of this team is something I’m very happy with. It starts with leadership at the top. The young class is probably the best young class we’ve had here in terms of character and accepting senior leadership.”

Certainly, if there’s anything positive to take from this year, it’s that Cal is starting a new slate. This team will have to shed its explosive offensive moniker to win games this year, and it’ll not be easy to win on a talent-level. But the chemistry is back, so the likelihood of a meltdown is minimal. There will be senior leaders (like Follett and Mack) tacking control in the huddle and in the locker room, so there will be less head shaking after losses.

And this year, there will not be any detracting focus, like, say, a Heisman candidacy.

If you follow Cal football closely it shouldn’t be difficult to crack that code. Suffice to say the school likely won’t be designating a Heisman Trophy candidate this season as it did last fall.

“(Tedford) is not putting up with any BS,” Follett said. “He’s making sure there are no star attitudes.”

Regardless how you feel about DeSean, I found the promotion of his Heisman campaign a complete nuisance from the season’s start. It was an ESPN production, something that took away from the team’s torrid 5-0 start. It made DeSean the focus of Cal’s success in the big Oregon and Tennessee games, ignoring the strong team effort by our defense and the creative playcalling that exuded the strengths of Longshore, Forsett, Hawkins, Jordan and Stevens. That’s not to take anything away from Jackson, who had a good 2007 season. But you can’t help but speculate how much of an effect the exaggerated hype on one player had on a locker room of young adults.

So it’ll be nice to get back to basics this year. No one individual stands above everyone else. Everyone will be on the same page when the season starts. It’s something Cal football so desperately needs. We can’t hope to out-star the rest of the league. We have to out-team everyone else.

Is it good to have stars? How many stars are too much?

(Image from GoldenBearSports.com)

Black Swans of Cal Football

Posted by: Tony on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

(As the offseason moves along–four more months to go, WOOOOO!—I’m going to give smarter Cal fans their chance to voice out your opinions. If you want to become a regular contributor or a guest poster, just check this post out for details on what to do.

Today I’m handing it to Tony, a longtime commenter on this site. Enjoy what he has to say about the Bears.)

blackswan

Offseason Epistemology

By now, we’re all painfully well-versed in the big questions facing the 2008 Golden Bears. Since you know them by heart, I’ll just list a few in shorthand: QB? WR? RB? 3-4? These are the known unknowns and, as obsessive fans, it’s our duty to speculate about them despite the fact that the information available to us sucks. For example, if I hear Brock Mansion lit up our own secondary in a scrimmage am I supposed to get happy, sad, or drunk?

Receiving less attention are the unknown unknowns. I’m currently reading “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; a book that ostensibly has nothing to do with college football. Taleb’s basic thesis is that although unforeseeable events have a disproportionate impact on history, our predictive models tend to ignore the possibility of such events.

In football terms, this means that chances are some unfathomable occurrence will have a bigger impact on 2008 than, say, whether Kevin Riley is under center against MSU, or whether Best is still wearing a red jersey in Fall camp. (For God’s sake Jahvid, TAKE OFF THAT RUDDY GARMENT!). But because we can’t imagine what the Black Swans will be, we act as if they don’t matter and focus on the color of Jahvid’s jersey instead.

To see what I mean, let’s look back at Cal’s last several seasons and reflect on how what really made the difference were unforeseeable and highly improbable events:

2003
lost Boller, Igber and pretty much the entire defense. But what proved consequential was the unforeseen emergence of massive playmakers like Rodgers and McArthur.

2004
Who could imagine that Cal could rise to national prominence based on a loss to U$C, then tank in the Holiday Bowl because the team was disappointed by a BCS snub?

2005
Cal started the season with two strong candidates to replace Rodgers, but then Longshore went down in the first game, and Ayoob proved to be a horrendous match for Tedford’s system. Let me know if you ever imagined that a walk-on QB would end up leading us to wins in the Big Game and the Las Vegas Bowl.

2006
After “atmosphere” obliterated the Bears’ game plan at Tennessee, Longshore emerged as Tedford’s next great mentee. Unfortunately a phantom pass interference call at Arizona kept Cal out of the Rose Bowl once again.No, blown calls aren’t really “unforeseeable” in the Pac-10. But who knows which way they’ll go?

2007
A sprained ankle proved to be the difference between “can beat anyone” to “can’t beat Stanfurd.”

So what will be 2008’s Black Swans? Obviously we can’t know (but feel free to speculate). We just need to keep in mind that there will be Black Swan’s in 2008 – probably both good and bad. Personally, I take some comfort in that. With the mainstream outlook for our Bears worse than it’s been in years, its good to know there are unknown factors out there that will intervene one way or another.

Map of The Play

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Have you ever been thinking, man, I really want a dorky map of The Play, even though I have the video saved on YouTube, can watch it on any classic sports highlights reel, can see reenactments at almost any Golden Bear event? Of course you haven’t. That’s exactly why I decided to make one. You can never have enough of The Play.

Here, you can go in alphabetical order and track down the chronological order of events leading to the ownage of Gary Tyrrell. There is absolutely necessary for indoctrinating your children into the inordinate amount of hate they must direct to all things red. If the image is not working, you can also click here for some useful narration on the side (thanks to Concharto), because after all, The Play is as grand a historical event as you can get.


View A Larger Map
If you see anything that’s missing, you can register on the site (only takes a dozen or so seconds) and contribute to the process. That’s what wiki’s are all about.

3rd Down Offense in the Pac-10

Posted by: Avinash on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
California UCLA Football

Numbers are always fun to look at, and this week I’m going to look at the all-too-crucial third down conversion. While I can’t generate anything as awesome as MGoBlog’s graphs, I can do some basic breakdown of numbers.

The Division I rushing yards per carry ranking is listed in parentheses.

Rushing 3rd and 1-3 3rd and 4-6 3rd and 7-9 3rd and 10+ 3rd down
Arizona 11–21 (8) 1–6 (114) 1–5 (117) 0–8 (46) 13–40 (78)
ASU 25–39 (62) 3–18 (102) 1–15 (114) 1–12 (56) 30–84 (110)
Cal 23–34 (33) 2–4 (1) 1–3 (12) 1–10 (14) 27–51 (6)
Oregon 26–37 (24) 9–19 (4) 4–8 (23) 4–18 (60) 43–82 (8)
OSU 25–40 (32) 1–11 (95) 1–11 (87) 1–15 (98) 28–77 (84)
Stanford 12–27 (116) 3–11 (110) 2–16 (104) 1–15 (109) 18–69 (119)
UCLA 23–36 (14) 4–16 (89) 2–12 (61) 2–23 (79) 31–87 (62)
USC 29–36 (11) 4–10 (57) 3–13 (42) 1–22 (58) 37–81 (30)
UW 25–36 (98) 7–13 (32) 2–9 (20) 1–11 (86) 36–69 (57)
Wazzu 8–15 (88) 3–11 (29) 4–12 (29) 0–8 (13) 15–46 (21)

As you can see, the Golden Bears run it up yard-wise on 3rd down. While on the 3rd and short situations Cal performed modestly (33rd, 6th in the Pac-10), they also ran the ball even stronger in unlikely running situations, primarily because the passing game was supposed to be so feared. This goes to show that even if Cal’s running backs don’t pick up a 1st down on 3rd and long, they picked up a significant chunk of yardage. Tedford appeared to minimize risk on his 3rd down situations, going for the run in the obvious situation and going for the pass in the obvious situation, with contrasting results (as you will soon see). However, in terms of total yardage gained, there’s no doubt Forsett, Montgomery and Best did their job.

Oregon might not have picked up as much yardage per third down attempt, but they made up for it with a plethora of conversions. The Ducks picked up 43 on the season, nearly half in situations that were longer than 3 yards. Obviously this is the strength of Dixon and Stewart at work; for Oregon to be feared as far out as 3rd and 10 to either run or pass made it difficult for a defense to adjust until Dixon’s leg gave out in the desert.

Interestingly, Arizona is awesome on short 3rd down rushing situations. Why is that? Because the Wildcats pass so damned much that it’s almost a surprise when they run, even on 3rd and short. Ditto 3rd and long. It was just everything in the middle that made the Wildcats look pretty inept.

Washington State had a similar situation with Alex Brink–because they were a pass-oriented team, the run options were open on third down, and the offense took advantage of the situation (finishing 21st in yards per carry in the country). Unfortunately, once the running game stalled, they had to go the air, and the results were less than desirable for the Cougars. Ditto Washington, who seemingly went crazy on the ground in situations where a 1st down conversion was not likely. No one feared Jake Locker’s arm last year.

Contrast that to Arizona State, who were so inept in their third down run game it’s almost impossible to comprehend how they won ten games. Apparently if the situation wasn’t short-yardage (1 to 3 yards), Dennis Erickson must have come up with mind-numbing, terrible running calls. Perhaps total yards per carry doesn’t mean as much as it should if ASU can finish 110th in that category and still finish where they finished.

So considering how great Cal was at picking up yards on the ground, you’d expect another ten win season from the Bears, right?

You know where this is going. After the jump, here comes 3rd down passing offense.

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Ask the Readers: Call for Cal Writers

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, April 14th, 2008

I’ve been putting it off long enough, and now with the new site design going in and Cal sports reaching a lull, it’s a good time to look for new writers.

Writing seven times a week seems great, but the rest of my life has suffered because of this site. Eventually I’ll crash and burn, and I don’t really want to leave the Golden Blogs as the only source left for Cal sports. So, long-time readers, I’m looking to involve you guys in the discussion directly. Like Hollywood did in January and February, I need good writers to get this site moving in the right direction.

You can be interested in writing on any of the following things, and it doesn’t have to be just one topic.

Cal football
General college football
Cal basketball
General college basketball
Cal baseball
Cal rugby
The other sports that I’d never pay attention to unless you bribed me.

If you like to write with no analysis and all humor (like TwistNHook), or all analysis and no humor (like Hydrotech) or just write (historical posts, interesting nuances, lively debate), I’m totally up for it. Just contact me either via my form or through Gmail (bearsnecessity2008 at gmail dot com) and let me know what you’re interested in writing about, how often you’re interested in writing, and basic info about your writing experience (this last part isn’t that big a deal). We’ll get the ball rolling as soon as I hear from you guys.

Also, for those with smaller-scale Cal blogs, the opportunity to guest post is wide open (Dank Down, Oski Talk, Bears with Fangs, Blue and Gold Sports, I’m looking at you guys). You can maintain your old blogs and reach a bigger audience this way via guest posts. Again, just contact me or leave a note in the comments.

Remember, at the bare minimum, all you have to do is write. You don’t have to do anything with website maintenance, WordPress upgrades, or site design. Keep Bears Necessity going!

Cal Sports Weekend Links

Posted by: Avinash on Sunday, April 13th, 2008

As much as I’d like to, I can’t report on everything…and for some reason, my auto del.icio.us weekly responder didn’t report the links I compiled last week. So here are spring links on Cal from a week ago.

  1. Mad Dog Blog – Mike Montgomery to Cal Berkeley!
    Mark Madsen has some preliminary thoughts.

  2. Sports – Montgomery chooses Washington State – sacbee.com
    James Montgomery is heading to Pullman.
    to jamesmontgomery washingtonstatecougars californiagoldenbears
  3. The Cal Football Fan Blog » Gameday shirt, open practice and sale
    Gameday T-shirts are now available, and will be available during open practice.
  4. The California Golden Blogs :: The Mad Dog Gets Politically Correct
    Yellow Fever responds to Mark Madsen
  5. Too much Rod Benson: Bus rides, hecklers and accolades – Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports
    How to stay comfortable on an 11 hour bus ride.
  6. JS Online: McCarthy believes in Rodgers
    Clap clap clap clap clap! Looking good for Aaron Rodgers up in Green Bay.

  7. A Stanford Hall of Famer Turns Blue and Gold
    Mike Montgomery skepticism from the master of skepticism.
  8. It looks like a bear market for Cal – Los Angeles Times
    The LA Times has produced a penetrating and powerful piece on Cal football, and by penetrating I mean myopic, and by powerful I mean putrid.
  9. Justin Forsett’s Draft Diary
    You can follow Forsett’s workout to the NFL draft here. He’s working on his degree at the same time too. Awesome.

  10. Northern Star Online: Rant: Favre just painted a green and gold target on Rodgers’ back
    Just so stupid.
    to aaronrodgers brettfavre greenbaypackers

Worst Officiating Calls in College Football, 2007

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, April 11th, 2008

Football_RefereeUnfortunately for us, not all college referees possess the awesomeness of Ron Cherry. Most of the best have graduated to the NFL; the rejects get piled on in the college and high school level. So in the college ranks (as we’ve been reminded recently in the hoops game), we’re prone to a plethora of bad calls affecting the outcome of many a college football game. In the end, just like any sport the calls seem to even out, but there have been several instances of egregious mistakes costing a team big-time.

So are there any mistakes we can find that might have cost California a game or two? Nope–you can actually say the refs favored the Golden Bears in a few of our losses–i.e. the DeSean TD catch at ASU where he was probably out of bounds, or his subsquent fumble in the same game that was ruled down when he wasn’t. In fact, Cal’s only significant hosing on this list did not affect the outcome–the Golden Bears triumphed.

Thus, sadly, we cannot point to officiating having any impact on our season collapse. So much for small favors. Let’s get to it.

Cal at Oregon: Field Goal Is Through the Uprights and No Good!

Cal down 10-3, drives much of the field but cannot punch it in the end zone to tie the game. So Jordan Kay attempts a field goal that soars over the upright….but…

[youtube XvK7lXiWOBg]

Impact: In the end, there was no tangible impact; Cal won by a TD and the final finish was that much more exciting. So this call did not distort the outcome of the game. But this is the easiest call in the book to review. Nope.

USC at ASU: Unsportsmanlike Form Tackle?

Sedrick Ellis gets tagged for, you know, doing his job–finding a QB trying to pass and introducing him face-first to the turf he stands on.

[youtube e4s8Em6g_aA]

Impact: I’m pretty sure the refs could have called unsportsmanlike conduct on every Rudy Carpenter sack and Arizona State would still have lost by double digits. USC flat-out owned them. Impact here is minimal–it’s just to point how out much Pac-10 refs SUCK.

After the jump, calls that will make your eyes bleed.

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Seven Years Ago…the ‘Furd Forfeit

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
calrugby

Seven years ago (well, on April 7th, but information travels slow), the Stanford rugby team decided to renounce all claims to their manhood. They forfeited a game against Cal because, as the Cardinal coach so eloquently put it, “they feared for their safety”. I do not jest. These emails are for real.

The letter also stated:

“Stanford has no fear of losing versus Cal, as they have done so every year but one for the last 20 years. They are, however, very afraid to get injured, and indeed, fear for their safety.

“When a featherweight is to fight a heavyweight,” his e-mail continued, “there is no rivalry, it is a farce, just like if a VW Bug was to race against a Formula 1 car. Stanford playing Cal in rugby has reached this farcical stage,

and Stanford rugby wants to be no part of a farce.”

Absolutely right. This would be the equivalent of Division I-AA schools boycotting their slapfights with Divsion I schools. Well, except that Stanford is in the same division and the same conference as their so-called heavyweight. And that they’re rivals who are supposed to play every year until the End Days. There is a word for this. (Hint: Bond’s babe).

Learn more about ScrumAxe 2001 by clicking here; be sure to pay attention to Steve Whyte’s MP3 ode to the nonrugged ruggers from across the Bay.

(All thanks to the Bear Insider for the heads up)

Oh Yeah, I Won

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, April 7th, 2008

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer you to the Play in CA’s bold declaration. I treaded last place throughout the entire contest, but Kansas and Memphis pulled through for me, saved us from a Hansborough-Love slobberfest, and catapulted my bracket into an impregnable first. Everyone else had UCLA and North Carolina winning, so the lead is mine and will stay mine, regardless of the outcome of the final.

Current results
Bears Necessity-100 (132 possible, only one who can get the final prediction right)
Gossip on Sports-91
The Battle of California-82
The Sports Lounge-80
The Play in California-76
Apples and Moustaches-75

So…this is going to be strange. There’s no way I’m going to be able to generate a week full of posts for this site, for The Play in CA, plus another four posts for four other sites all at once. I’m thinking of doing this in a staggered formation, but I’m not sure how this would work. In the meantime, production here might be a little slower and will probably only get slower as we enter dead season. The idea of guest posters for this site has floated around my mind; I’ll probably set something up for readers to contribute their input.

Anyway I have a bracket for money pool that needs Memphis to win tonight (plus that’d land me another guest spot at the Golden Blogs, which sounds thrilling), so you can tell where my allegiances lie–either I win a load of money and have one more post to write, or lose money and am writing ten more posts at a profit loss. Go Tigers.

EDIT: And now I lost my pool. Blowing a nine point lead with two minutes left in regulation is something special. Even the Kings didn’t pull crap that bad. I despise college basketball, I despise Memphis for not committing a remotely smart foul over the last eight minutes, I despise Derrick Rose for not showing up in overtime, I despise that Roberts dude for not pulling into his free throw motion, I despise Rock Chalk Talk and the entire state of Kansas, I despise myself because I originally had Kansas winning and threw my stock behind the sexy pick with an obvious Achilles’ heel that revealed itself at the most inopportune time.

AND I have seven posts to write about topics I could care less about and no money to compensate me. My loathing knows no bounds.

Turf Wars Part II: Bears Slowfooted on Grass

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, April 7th, 2008

marshawnarizona

Hydrotech pointed out on my first post on turf performance that looking solely at turf versus grass because we have six games at home on turf, and it’s easier to win at home than on the road. Upon further review, I completely agree. I’m guessing a Cal victory achieved at Memorial Stadium is significantly less difficult than winning at Autzen or Pullman. So I decided to appropriately separate the two. Interestingly, the turf-grass performance disparity remains highly significant.

2007 Rush G Yds/Att TD Att/G Yds/G
Turf (Home) 6 5.00 14 39.50 197.7
Turf (Road) 3 5.57 6 30.33 169
Grass (Road) 3 3.46 0 26.33 91
2007 Pass G Comp. % Yd/Att INT TD Efficiency Att/G Yds/G
Turf (Home) 6 58.3 7.1 6 8 125.1 33.2 235.3
Turf (Road) 3 67.0 6.7 1 5 137.5 33.3 222.3
Grass (Road) 3 53.0 6.4 7 5 108.6 39.0 248.3
2006 Rush G Yds/Att TD Att/G Yds/G
Turf (Home) 7 5.13 11 35.7 183.1
Turf (Road) 2 4.37 4 36.5 159.5
Grass (Road) 3 3.74 1 24 89.7
2006 Pass G Comp. % Yd/Att INT TD Efficiency Att/G Yds/G
Turf (Home) 7 63.0 8.7 3 17 160.11 30.1 263.1
Turf (Road) 2 62.9 8.3 3 4 144.6 31 258.5
Grass (Road) 3 46.6 6.0 7 3 93.6 38.7 232.7

You can see a few things: Nate Longshore performs just as well on road turf as he does on home turf–his efficiency rating was actually higher on road turf games (he had very effective performances against Oregon, Washington, and CSU, and strong ones against the Cougars and Beavers last year) than they were on his home turf. He completes a bigger majority of his passes. Most importantly of all, he does not toss picks–Longshore threw 9 TDs and 4 INTs on road turf (about on par with his home stats) as opposed to 8 TDs and 14 INTs on road grass in 2006-07.

The running game is also significantly stronger. The Cal ground game was a well oiled-machine on road turf, with 5.57 yards/attempt, 169 yards/game, 6 TDs in 2007 (as opposed to a meager 3.46 yards/attempt, 91 yards/game and NO TDs on road grass). There was a more linear drop-off from home turf to road turf to road grass in 2006, but the Cal offense became ordinary again on grass while holding their own on the opposing turf (159.5 yards/game and 4 TDs in 2 games on turf; 89.7 yards/game and 1 TD in 3 games on grass).

Defensive stats follow after the jump.

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