Who’s the best conference?
This seems to be part of a minimal but growing debate–and by debate I mean chest-thumping–about the Pac-10 (usually USC fans angry at how indifferent southern college football fans are to recent Trojan dominance) and the SEC (indifferent to West Coast bluster, every year). The heat has been rising summer after summer, culminating in Tennessee romping Cal last September and asserting Southern football was the cradle of pigskin civilization. Then Cal beat Tennessee and everyone talked about hippies in the trees.
This past fall, the loudest reaction in the Deep South was not Jacob Hester blowing into the end zone against Florida, or Kentucky stuffing LSU in three OTs, or Matt Caddell twisting in the end zone to beat Arkansas. Nope, it was Stanford 24, USC 23.
Usually a Left Coast fan alleges that the Pac-10 plays a tougher all-around schedule, has a true conference round robin (each team plays all nine other teams–SEC teams are only obliged to face eight of twelve). The SEC fan argues that playing eight of their brethren is far more deluxe, like switching from business class on United to Business Class on Singapore Airlines.
Yes, this is a plane.
So while I can’t really measure who the best conference is statistically, there is a good way to measure who proved themselves the most this past offseason–out-of-conference performance. Every conference has their slate of quality opponents, complemented with its weak-willed group of beaten drums. Who really proved themselves on the field with big wins OOC and showed they deserved the merit of greatest conference in the land?
This is not a post meant to define who the best is, just who showed the most in their contests against the other conferences of the land.
Most impressive win: LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7. A dominating performance from start to finish. If there were any doubts about the wide gap between the SEC and the ACC, they were all cleared up that Saturday in Death Valley. This would be the last impressive performance LSU would muster until the title game.
Most embarrassing defeat: Louisiana-Monroe 21, Alabama 14. Teams should get their bowl privileges revoked for performances like these. Losing to a 6-6 Sun Belt team at home right before the Iron Bowl is completely unacceptable and is punishable by Nick Saban baring undergarments.
Toughest schedule: Hard to say. At a pinch, I’ll say Florida, because they at least played four quality opponents. Four quality opponents that got blasted apart in the Swamp, but it wasn’t as if there were many good candidates. You could make a case for Georgia, but Georgia Tech was a dead man walking team by the end of the season.
Weakest schedule: Arkansas. Three games against the power of the Sun….Belt. Two of their opponents, North Texas and FIU, finished a combined 3-19. Just for fun, let’s add in a game against a 2-9 Division I-AA team. Talk about proving less than nothing.
Noteworthy performances: Does beating Troy of the South (not to be confused with Troy of the West) count as a signature moment? After LSU beating Virginia Tech, no other team defeated a Division I opponent with more than eight wins. Again, the SEC’s accomplishments were internal (beating up on each other) rather than external (11-1 against the Sun Belt! POWER LEVEL RISING!)
At-a-glance Grade: B
Pac-10 and the rest after the jump.
As March Madness rages, in between commercial breaks and CBS lunges, I thought you might be interested in some other Cal material.
Remember when I created those primitive Pac-10 recruiting maps (here they are again)? Well, someone much better than me created something far more visually pleasing. Below are the 2008 HS and JUCO and upcoming 2009 recruiting battle.
Rod Benson shares his hilarious thoughts on Ben Braun. National championship!
Grey Bear reports that there should be a decision within ninety days by Judge Miller. Methinks this should be good news, but at the moment all I want is for this to end.
Nyan Boateng gets a nice feature from ESPN because he has a lot to prove. He definitely looks like he has the size and the strength to fill in as a big receiver for Cal, but will it actually happen?
Aaron Rodgers interviewed by Dan Patrick. Wait for the end and a none-too-subtle jab at UCLA.
Aaron Rodgers racing sleddogs. Looks like we have a real winter man for Green Bay.
WeareSC.com reports that Josh Nunes, an ESPN-150 top recruit for 2009, has been granted an offer from Cal. Considering Nunes also wants to pursue an engineering career, I have to say the Golden Bears stand a pretty good chance of getting him. This would be great for the QB competition in the next few years, with Riley, Nunes and Mansion having to challenge one another for the starting spot.
And for those who want a little Cal football history, check out this fine feature from the 70s about Joe Roth by Keith Jackson. I don’t know anything about Roth, but from all accounts he was one of the greatest players Cal ever had, and could have gone on to a successful NFL career. Very nice tribute from a retro Keith.
Coming to Cal in the first place wasn’t a slam dunk for Montgomery. He’s said it before and he told me again on the phone that his choice to attend Cal was more of a family decision. Even when he was being recruited, Montgomery wasn’t sure Cal was the right fit for him. But his family really wanted him to stay close to home, and as Montgomery put it, “they basically told me to go work hard and try to make it work.” He said he did that but “didn’t feel happy in Berkeley. I never felt it at Berkeley. It never really did it for me.”
Montgomery also said he never made the comments that were reported by RealDawg.com that questioned Cal’s tradition or its ability to sell out games even when the team was highly ranked.
“There’s a lot being twisted,” Montgomery said. “I would never talk bad about Cal. Everybody knows I’m a team guy.”
Knowing this, I’m behind the kid all the way. If you follow your parents’s wishes rather than your own when you’re of the age to make your own decisions, then you’re probably going to be pretty miserable in the long run. Kudos to James to realizing this in time, and I hope he figures out where he’ll be the happiest in the spring season.
(I just wish I had figured that out, but that’s a story you don’t need to know about)
Sidenote: I’ll be off Thursday-Sunday unless something urgent happens because no one’s going to be reading anything about college football the next four days; I might liveblog the tournament, but probably not. Back to a full schedule next Monday, and hopefully a new web design. In case there are any troubles with the transition, you might want to subscribe to the feed to look at the older posts.
(It wasn’t planned for me to diagram gamefilm about Montgomery the day after he decided to transfer. So consider this summary an unintentional coincidence.)
Now, some of you might think that I was too complimentary toward Tedford in this week’s earlier gamefilm summary. Well, for every good call, there is a bad call, and there was a pretty bad call later in that USC game.
Later in the game, 3rd and goal, game tied at 7, crucial down for the Bears to maintain the advantage. Montgomery is in the backfield rather than Forsett. And they’re lined up in the SAME formation as they were on the Forsett TD run (Take a look at it yourselves: Two wide receivers set up top, one on bottom, tight end to the left).
Now, USC has made adjustments–instead of the standard 5-2 intent on pressuring the QB or stuffing the run at the point of attack, they’re in more of a conventional 4-3, designed against the pass to keep Cal from entering the end zone and forcing a dump pass over the middle. A run up the middle is not going to work unless the Trojans decide to blitz immediately–and considering that Montgomery is in the ballgame, a run for nine yards is dubious at best. It’s common sense that this should be a straight-forward passing down.
What the…why are the Bears rushing up front and giving the ends the slip, especially with the linebackers staying in position?
Let me just point out that there are NINE Trojans on the screen, seven in near vicinity of Montgomery and two more coming in from up top (no way Jordan and Jackson can block them off in time). Like Forsett, Montgomery doesn’t have the power to run up the middle into traffic. Unless all the blocks go right, this will be only a marginal gain. In this case, you’ll see Mike Tepper (focused on by the yellow arrow) leave Mike Cushing and give him the inside angle to Monty.
Ruh-roh. Say goodnight.
Also you can see if Montgomery had managed to avoid Cushing, C.J. Gable (blurry figure) was coming in pretty quick without guard and got the final hit on the play. Short of goalline, field goal time, and the momentum pretty much shifted from there.
As you can see, Coach decided to be a little bit too clever, believing he could catch the defense off-guard by running the same play twice in the same formation. But Pete Carroll, “The Man Who Never Sleeps”, doesn’t miss defensive lapses that often, and the USC defense was ready this time to meet the press. There were plenty of instances I saw of repetitive formations during the year for Cal, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. We’ll get to some of them through the offseason.
Thoughts on this gamefilm analysis? What other playcalls have you noticed that seemed a little forced from Cal this past season?
James Montgomery is transferring, reports Okanes.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford confirmed this morning that running back James Montgomery is leaving Cal.
“James Montgomery asked for his release and I granted it. He felt like there would be a better situation for him somewhere else. Fortunately for us, running back is a position with a lot of depth. We feel great about our talent at that position with Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen, Tracey Slocum and Covaughn DeBoskie.”
It should go without saying that I wish Montgomery well. I can’t really assess his value to whatever program he chooses, because we only caught glimpses of Montgomery . This is also probably the reason why Montgomery chose to go–he will be facing a real battle to hold on to that top spot in the lineup.
Also, the fact that Montgomery managed so few touches this year seems to indicate Tedford and the offensive staff were less than impressed by his on and off-field performance. His statistics on the field were alright: 36 carries, 171 yards, 2 TDs, 1 fumble lost, 4 catches for 48 yards and a TD. He never managed more than fifty yards in a game, but given the number of carries he was provided, he made do with what he had.
Probably James sensed that he’d have to dogfight for his spot, and he knew there was a good chance he’d lose out. Hence onto other schools that need running backs, like Washington (who nearly took him from the start) or Oregon (Jonathan Stewart moving on).
This pretty much leaves Best as the de facto #1 starter if he can recover from that hip injury. Could we be seeing a repeat of USC 2007, where the offense didn’t kick it into high gear until November because of platoonback troubles?
Outside of Longshore, this offense will be reeally green next year. Michigan State is looking tougher and tougher.
Thanks to the Golden Blogs for the tip.
EDIT: Some comments from Montgomery to the editor of a Husky website:
Montgomery told RealDawg.com that “it never felt right, really” at Cal. Those who know Montgomery’s history are aware that he initially made an oral commitment to Washington but later changed his mind and came to Cal. But he was quoted publicly near the end of his redshirt freshman year that he was happy at Cal and was happy with his decision to come to Berkeley.
“Cal was never my first choice,” Montgomery told RealDawg. “I didn’t feel (Cal) was a (football) school that had a lot of tradition. They were ranked sixth in the country and yet couldn’t sell out that week’s game.”
Her latest one to me this evening said it was her understanding that Montgomery was planning on contacting Washington, Oregon and Florida today. She also said that Montgomery told the RealDawg reporter that “Today I feel like there is a big weight off my shoulders.”
Interesting. Do the hints in these comments point toward possible locker room friction? Or is it just avoiding the burden of a running back starting battle? Because Washington and Florida are notably stacked. I’m guessing Montgomery will sit out his year and hope that things thin out in these other schools.
This could mean that Tedford is higher on DeBoskie (who I think was supposed to start last year, according to Hydrotech) and Vereen then expected. Very interesting. But of course, speculation breeds fantasy, so I’ll get off it for now.
The new site header should be updated this week. Hold your breath until then.
Note: Please skip over this if you can’t handle self-indulgence.
I’m in these NCAA Brackets like each and every one of you (about ten this year–I think there’s an inverse relationship between the number of friends you have and the number of brackets you sign up for). I’ll get to why you need to know this in a second.
My methodology of madness has become simpler over the years. I randomly filling in slots and hoping they come down right. If I get them wrong and end up losing, I just shrug it off because I don’t put a lot of time and effort into figuring them out, and if I get them right and end up laughing, I’m sure this elucidates some particular economic principle.
In any case, my pals at The Play in CA put the gauntlet down for some contest where the winner has to post on all the other blogs for at least a day–worst prize ever–about anything they want. Sounds grrreat. I already have a series of Admiral Ackbar and Swedish Chef posts lined up.
The big honcho prize is, if I win, I get to post for an entire week at The Play in CA. Okay, THAT’S the worst prize ever. I have to churn out seven more posts in addition to this? I should just pick Oral Roberts to win.
So now I have to trash-talk in detail with six blogs nobody reads. Alexa don’t lie.
Bears Necessity: 327,426
Battle of California: 1,165,096
Gossip on Sports: 1,183,806.
The Sports Lounge: 1,734,514
The Play in CA: 1,871,088
Apples and Moustaches: 7,541,307
God I’m so awesome. I can use a six digit rank that doesn’t involve money to justify my existence. Bob Costas must think I’m less of a loser than you.
Of course, I’m a nice guy; these kids will all get linked onto the blogroll. A blogroll that no one clicks on (thank you for the info Google Analytics). Onto the contestants.
Apples and Moustaches: I was confused when I clicked on this link, because the page seemed to be bereft of images of apples with funny moustaches. I think this site could be a thousand times better if you combined a Granny Seed with these dudes’ follical figures. But that’s just my suggestion.
(I went three pages back, and still couldn’t find one apple, one moustache, or one apple with a moustache. Highly disturbing.)
The Play in CA: Eschews original analysis and interesting commentary for poetry, amateur photoshop techniques, and posts that make no sense whatsoever. I’m not sure if this is a sports blog or a Tom Stoppard play.
The Sports Lounge: Too…much…baseball…
Gossip on Sports: First of all, pink and purple? Is this a WNBA blog? Secondly, she’s a Boston fan, and Lord knows that we need yet another New Englander voicing opinions. No mas, no mas. Finally…oh, wait, she’s kinda cute. Okay, that’s two for three.
Battle of California: The blog I expect to win, because it seems these guys haven’t ever watched college basketball, ever. And I always prescribe to the theory of “knowing less means you know more”. It’s going to be hilarious seeing these guys take over my blog for a day and talk about…the Sharks? Maybe I can give them the dossier of Cal’s ice hockey team.
And now that I’ve lost the battle of trashtalking, it’s time to set my sights even higher on the platforms of failure. I might liveblog the tourney and mourn every loss and celebrate every win.
Note: I’m also in the Golden Blogs NCAA Bracket Group. That you should still be able to join.
Tedford didn’t have too many great moments of playcalling this year (that crazy sheet he held during every game looked like it held the nuclear missile codes)–he had to do to much. But one thing that didn’t really lose substantiality was the art of misdirection (Apologies for the quality of these images, these are from YouTube)
Here you have a 3rd and long situation near the goalline, a situation that almost demands Cal passes the ball–Hawkins and Jackson lined to the left, Jordan down to the right, Stevens at tight end and Forsett in the backfield. You have the most talented wide receiver corps in the country and a quarterback with a chip on his shoulder. You MUST PASS THIS BALL. Right?
Now, I’ve watched plenty of the Bears to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of Cal’s players is. Forsett’s weakness–running into a crowd. Forsett’s strength–running into open field. Give him open field and you’re asking for trouble. And you can already see USC is way out of alignment.
Eight men at the line of scrimmage, two safeties standing in the end zone, a lone linebacker occupying a space the size of the Vatican. Well, you can probably see the issue developing in front of your eyes. USC is going to try to rush five (probably the linebacker too), force an errant throw to the corners or a short dinker not at the first down line. Thankfully, on this play, Tedford has other ideas about where he wants the ball to go.
The linebacker bites, and you can see the hole developing in the middle. Whoops. If you’re a Cal fan, you can see what’s coming.
All the winners of the CFBAs should have been announced today and I’d just like to say I hate you all for not finding a single award to put me in (I’d take Worst Blogger Ever, just give me attention). Ha, I’m just kidding! Congrats guys. If I ever met you in real life, I’m sure I’d stand there comatose and pretend to not acknowledge your existence.
Congrats to Addicted to Quack, who won the Best Pac-10 Blog, and Building the Dam, who finishes a depressing second again. I would like to say I voted, but I have the haunting feeling that my ballot might never have been submitted. I now know a vengeful TwistNHook will appear in the mist like the Phantasm and send me to my fate.
“Your time has come.”
Blog brothers and sisters…
The Play in CA provides the funeral hymn to Ben Braun after Cal’s elimination from the Pac-10 tournament and NCAA consideration. All of this lamenting will be fruitless when Braun returns and foists another miserable year of bad point guard play and big man mishandling.
Ragnarok has also provided some great candidates for who our next head coach should be, and added in some guidelines for success. Such a well thought-out post that is oodles better than my Orgeron plea last fall almost ensures that if Braun is not fired, Sandy Barbour hands us Steve Lavin. Now THAT would be utter despair.
Also, the Golden Blogs seem to believe UCLA did not bullshit their way to victory (the rules appear to confirm it). If anyone wants a preview of my bracket, I will place two dozen scenarios where UCLA does not end up in the Final Four just out of spite. Hate the Love, right, you cordial Ducks?
Bear Bytes records Ryan Anderson’s coded anger at “not getting enough touches” during the UCLA elimination game, hinting at his disgust at having Randle and Knz”isuck”ivic attempt to pass him the ball or try and nail a 20 foot fall away in traffic. Sounds like one Golden Bear will be happy to get going, although his draft stock will certainly plummet because of Cal’s bumbling finish.
Spring football news after the jump
Tex was a great player, a great kid, a stout Christian who did things right and played right. Every game you could expect 100% from Justin, healthy or not healthy. His effort was unparalleled, and he provided the clinching TDs in 4 of Cal’s 6 victories (Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon, Wazzu). While his size could be a drawback on his draft stock, his heart will probably be the determining factor in how far he goes in the NFL. And I like putting my stock in Forsett’s heart.
Advantages: In the open field, Forsett is at his best. He has great speed in the flat, can cutback at just the right moment, and when he gets to the edge, he’s almost certain to pick up ten-plus. That number will drop at the NFL, but his abilities off-tackle are really a sight to behold.
It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a big-time performer–he was Cal’s offense for most of the USC game, and dominated Tennessee’s front seven for the entire contest. He also had sterling performances against Wazzu, Air Force, Oregon both years and Texas A&M last year (officially taking the reins from Marshawn).
Disadvantages: Not a great power runner, as evidenced by Oregon State and UCLA (and a half-dozen other Pac-10 defenses) stuffing him up the middle. And he does fumble the ball a bit. Not a strong goalline runner because of the size factor, but is great at around 5-7 yards and 1st down offense.
NFL Future: Not likely to be a top running back, but could be the quintessential second back in the ever popular NFL platoon-back system. Hopefully NFL coordinators will use him correctly with screen dumps and outside running. He can run through the middle too, just not for the entirety of the game.
What are your thoughts on Forsett’s future? Where will he end up in the NFL?
This treesitting farce and the comical way the UCPD has decided to combat this particular incidents (allowing hippies to intrude onto campus ground again and bang up their bongos to disturb the classrooms) makes me requestion our tactics in the war on terror. You know, waterboarding people with frayed ponytails and tye-dye shirts. I’m thinking the cutoff age for the program should be around 75.
In any case, we’ve gone long past the point of the University not embarrassing itself with this tree nonsense. The wasteful erection of fences and the staging of security personnel has been more than enough. Now we have bongos drumming and screaming activists yelling throughout. Pathetic.
It makes strategic sense to remove them immediately. Hippies are the laziest people on Earth–Lindsey Bluthe has nothing on them. Remove them by force and they’ll be too petrified to return. Leave them up there and they feel validated in their struggle. They’re passive-aggressive; knock them out and they’ll disappear. Additionally you can take the focus off the circus and place it solely on the infrastructure argument. Re-frame the situation by eliminating the sideshow and you’ll make it easier to win.
And finally, I’ll channel my inner Obama–do we want the Berkeley of the past, or the Berkeley of the future? A Cal that promotes or allows loser activism to promulgate on its campus, or a Cal that promotes a tradition of winning and scholarship that shows the brightest to succeed on it? We can make the change to the future, and we need to do it today. YES WE CAN!
Please suggest how you’d deal with the treesitters. Hoses? Horse tranquilizers? Tear gas?