No excuses, Buffs, get it done.
It's the Pac-12 Toilet Bowl, live from Boulder, CO! (See, I knew we'd make a bowl game one of these days.) Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 3:30pm Saturday. Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
CU and Cal didn't play last fall, meaning we have to go all the way back to September 10th, 2011 for the last time these two teams met. Records were shattered that day, as the electric Paul Richardson got loose in the California defensive backfield for 284 yards and two scores on 11 catches, breaking the school's single-game record. It wasn't enough, however, as Cal pushed the game to overtime, and earned a 36-33 win.
The day started out slow for both the teams and Richardson as the two sides combined for only three points in the first quarter. Offensive fireworks finally started popping off in the second after Cal found the endzone via a Nico Dumont touchdown reception that capped a 10-play, 81-yard drive. From then on, the game proceeded like a under-card heavyweight bout, with haymakers thrown with reckless abandon. The two quarterbacks, Cal's Zach Maynard and CU's Tyler Hansen, combined for 717 passing yards and seven scores, highlighted by Hansen's 28-49-474-3 passing day. Defense need not apply.
|P-Rich had a game for the ages two years ago.|
In the lone overtime period, the Buffs tried to ride Rodney Stewart into the endzone, but the drive stalled at the five yard line, leaving the defense with work to do. A pair of penalties pushed Cal back to first-and-30 from the 35-yard line, but the porous CU 'D' couldn't hold. Sensing a weakness on the edge, the Golden Bears were able to place their own star receiver, Keenan Allen, on a mismatch with Colorado safety Parker Orms. The pitch and catch from Maynard to Allen was perfunctory, and CU lost a game they should've won.
The Golden Bears in 2013 -
As ugly as Colorado football has been this season, the Cal Bears have been, in many ways, worse. Their lone win on the year came in week two against FCS side Portland State. Beyond that, they've spent the season getting pummeled by all comers.
There are some caveats. They have played a pretty difficult schedule, facing off against Big 10 powers Northwestern and Ohio State in non-conference action (no shame in two losses there) before hitting the conference slate. Even against the Pac-12, they've been slightly more competitive than CU has (average margin of conference defeat - CU 34.5, Cal 26.1), including a close loss a few weeks back against Arizona. Still it's hard to look at 1-9 (0-7) as anything but disastrous.
|Cal's win over Portland State marks their lone ray of winning sunshine this season. From: SFGate.com|
If it weren't for the defensive issues, the Bears might have had a nice season. Comparatively, their offense is world-class. While they only get 119 yards per game on the ground (108th nationally), they've killed through the air, notching nearly 350 yards per game as one of the top-10 passing attacks in all of college football. True, they've had to throw the ball down big throughout the season, but they've moved the ball well. The success ends there, however. They're last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, and 114th nationally in red zone success (70%). Much like CU, they struggle converting promising drives into points.
Star Players -
The story of the Cal offense, from fall camp to today, has been the quarterback controversy between freshmen Jered Goff (true) and Zach Kline (redshirt). Goff won the battle in camp, and enters Saturday's game with a workman-like 17:9 TD-to-INT ratio. With those numbers, he has has only been able to maintain a tenuous grasp on the job. Kline has relieved him at multiple points, and the two-headed QB monster known as 'Kloff' has been a continuing topic of discussion.
|The freshman Goff still runs the offense in Berkeley.|
The Bears pair a freshman QB with a very young receiving corps. Leading wideouts Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper are only sophomores, but have combined for 1,523 yards and six scores with three games still to play. In addition, freshman Kenny Lawler has come on to reel in five touchdown catches in limited action, including this insane one from earlier this month. Combined, the youthful passing combinations suggest a bright future through the air in Berkeley, which is good, since not a single running back has over 400 yards this season.
|The young Bear wideouts, like Treggs, have a bright future ahead of them.|
New to the Cal sideline is Sonny Dykes. The first-year coach, formerly of Louisiana Tech, made a name for himself as an up-and-coming offensive guru. To be sure, Cal has moved the ball this season, but they aren't getting into the endzone enough, and the defense is atrocious. They deserve to be 1-9.
|A rough first year for Dykes.|
(My record on the season: 9-0. Against the spread: 4-4. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU +5.75 pts/gm)
Lines as of Thursday @ 5pm - CU -3, M/L -135, O/U 67
Wonders never cease. Here the Buffs sit at 0-6 in Pac-12 play, a week after suffering through a humiliating defeat at Washington, yet Vegas installs them as a three-point favorite over Cal. In my eyes, CU shouldn't be favored over any Pac-12 team, for any reason. They are simply not capable of competing in the conference right now.
That said, the Golden Bears are nearly as woeful as the Buffs are, and the game is being played at Folsom, giving me plenty of reason to think CU has a chance to pull one out. Why not, nothing this team does will surprise me anymore, so I'll say they find a way to get it done in a high scoring affair.
CU 41 - Cal 37
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE BEARS!