The Poinsettia Bowl with Utah vs. Cal is coming up on Wednesday December 23rd, so it is time to question the opposing team in a short question and answer session. Today's we are talking with SB Nation's very own California Golden Blogs. Make sure to check out their site when they answer my questions, as well as other bowl info.
1. All of Cal's losses have been blowouts, what seems to go wrong when Cal does lose?
In a word? Everything. The secondary can't cover properly (they run their coverage patterns without looking for the ball, then get torn apart for huge gains), the special teams gaffes on both sides (we fail to return kicks properly, we fail to cover kicks properly), the offensive line doesn't block anyone, the quarterback can't throw a proper out route, the recievers can't gain separation, the linebackers don't know how to rush the passer...add those all together and you have a blowout, four times over (at least four or five of these things have happened in every loss, it's been uncanny).
Remember that Simpsons episode where Smithers loses his house and his mind slowly goes to "hi-diddily-ding-dong-crap", followed by him checking into a mental ward? That's what Cal fans have been like in every one of those losses. Sorrow turns to frustration turns to madness turns to acceptance of madness. We're all a bunch of loons right now about what team will show up on Wednesday. Don't provoke us too much if Mr. Hyde shows up Wednesday--you don't know the insanity you might unleash.
Vereen is a very capable guy, similar to Best in form and size, but his style is a little bit more slippery to grasp. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our running back coach Ron Gould, who's recruited and/or developed four NFL-capable running backs over the past six years, and seems like he might have another star brewing in Shane.
Here's what our best football analyst Hydrotech wrote after Vereen's incredible 42 carry, 193 yard performance in the Big Game upset over the Cardinal:
"Sure he's a bit slower than Best, but what he lacks in pure speed, he makes up for in his uncanny ability to gain a few extra yards when surrounded by four defenders and having no business getting any additional yards. He just has that subtle elusiveness to intricately weave through the defenders and trash to get those yards nobody really thinks he'd get. I suppose this is a bit surprising because Cal really hasn't had a RB like him before. Previous RBs just brutally powered their way through the trash and defenders (Lynch, Arrington, Echemandu). Best sort of puts his head down and runs through them but without tons of power. But Vereen just kind of slips through them - like magic."
If Utah wants to win the game, they need to stop Vereen in his tracks and force Riley to keep on throwing. Teams that have succeeded at that this year have won, teams that haven't have lost. Cal is 7-0 in games they've rushed for a hundred yards or more, 1-4 in which they haven't.
3. By having the former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig now at Cal give them an advantage Cal might not have had?
Beats me. I thought Ludwig being the former OC at Oregon might've helped us out against the Ducks; Nick Aliotti's defense ended up blasting more Bears out of the backfield than Sarah Palin from a Super Cub. It was not pretty. It goes both ways really--Utah's defense knows him as well as Ludwig knows them. We'll see if Ludwig can go 1 for 2 in rematches with old friends and put up a better showing than in Autzen.
The Ludwig experiment has had mixed results--liked him early, soured on him in the middle, and now many of us are kind of on the fence. On the one hand the offense has been far from running smoothly; on the other hand we've already had five offensive coordinators in the the past five years. On the one hand, Oregon and Utah fans were ecstatic to see him go; on the other, he was following two of the brightest offensive minds in Tedford and Meyer. There also could be a talent deficiency plaguing Cal's offense from getting into shape, but the way they've vacillated between 'pretty good' and 'extremely eye-gouging' is disconcerting.
4. What will Cal do on offense to be succesfull in this bowl game?
Block, block, block, block, block. Cal has had 2 really impressive victories against a ranked Arizona team and a ranked Stanford team on the road. In both of those wins, the OL seemed to play much better than in our other games. We had long sustained drives that kept the Cal D rested and off the field. The Cal D is good, but in our 4 blowout losses, the O, led by poor blocking, didn't help the D at all. They went 3 and out often, putting the D right back onto the field. Although they tried their hardest, no D can play that much time and still stay stout.
So, if the Cal OL can block well, opening up passing lanes for Riley and holes for Vereen, then the D will stay rested. If the Cal OL can block well, Cal can march methodically down the field, minimizing Utah's opportunities to score and maximizing their own. However, if the OL plays as it did in those 4 losses, then it well not only minimize Cal scoring, but put an undue amount of pressure on the Cal D.
Of course, the player missing in all 4 of those losses was Offensive Lineman Matt Summers-Gavin. All indications point to him *not* playing against Utah. :(!
5. Utah has a true freshman Jordan Wynn starting at quarterback, what can be expected Cal to do against him?
Watch in frustration as he throws for over 300 yards? Seriously, our pass D is not good. We've allowed large passing days to such illustrious names such as Tuel, Prince, and Sullivan. Try to guess which teams those QBs belong to!
It all starts with QB pressure, of course. Cal plays a 3-4 and Tyson Alualu is our #1 rush threat. However, the other players haven't been helping him as much as Cal would like and he often get doubled. Our LBs have taken a step back after Zack Follett, Worrell WIlliams, and Anthony Felder gone. Mike "The Prophet" Mohamed is still killing it, but they have trouble getting pressure.
Our DBs are in a bad way. Many seem to have regressed from last year. Injuries have hurt our #1 DB SydQuan Thompson. It's not a pretty picture back there.
We've already made some bad QBs look good, I'm sure that Jordan Wynn will look great.