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Cal in bye week favorable in rankings

Posted by Eric | October 31, 2006 at 10:28 am | In Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

The bye week was kind to Cal as the Bears moved up in the polls.

With Virginia Tech’s upset of Clemson and greater confidence in Cal due to USC’s loss, the team has moved up to #10 from #12 in the AP poll (leapfrogging overrated Notre Dame in the process) and moving up one slot to #11 from #12 in the Coaches Poll.

In the BCS standings, Cal remains at #10. However, the computer rankings now place the Bears at #3 (1/3 of the calculation) with the strength of schedule of the Bears.

The Daily Cal has a short article with both sides of the argument whether the USC loss was good for Cal. Take a look.

Cal moves into top slot of Pac-10 standings

Posted by Eric | October 28, 2006 at 9:32 pm | In Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

With USC falling to Oregon State 33-31 today, Cal has emerged as the leader in the Pac-10 conference standings.

Conference Overall Streak
California 5-0 7-1 W7
USC 4-1 6-1 L1
Washington State 4-2 6-3 W2
Oregon 3-2 6-2 W1
Oregon State 3-2 5-3 W3
Arizona State 2-3 5-3 W2
UCLA 2-3 4-4 L3
Washington 2-4 4-5 L4
Arizona 1-4 3-5 L1
Stanford 0-5 0-8 L8

USC on our mind

Posted by Eric | October 27, 2006 at 11:01 pm | In Games, Ranks/Predictions | 1 Comment

Despite Cal’s road game at USC weeks away, people are talking more than ever about the showdown on November 18 in the Coliseum.

ESPN’s Bruce Feldman: “Most intriguing games remaining”

3. Cal at USC Nov. 18: Jeff Tedford is the only coach in the Pac-10 who has been able to beat Pete Carroll in the last three seasons and this is looking like his best Bear team yet. Meanwhile, this is Carroll’s shakiest Trojan squad in that time. Skepticism about this Trojan team grows each week. Just today, ASU QB Rudy Carpenter called the Trojans the third-best team in the Pac-10, behind Cal and Oregon.

USC’s long home-winning streak has been threatened a lot of late, but the challenge will be whether the Trojans’ suspect secondary can handle all of the Bears’ skill talent? Keep an eye on Cal’s electrifying WR-PR DeSean Jackson. An L.A. native, he was one of the first recruits to snub the Trojans amid USC’s great run.

Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham via the SJ Mercury’s Jon Wilner:

“In a game of that nature, I think it’s going to come down to the play of the quarterbacks,” Willingham said, refering to Cal sophomore Nate Longshore and USC junior John David Booty.

“USC has a pretty good duo at running back, and Cal, I think their combo is pretty good and might even be a hair stronger with Marshawn (Lynch). I think the receiving corps from both groups are good and talented, and by that time, USC is probably thinking and wishing (Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith) will be healthy and rolling again.

“If all that comes to pass, it will be an exciting game, and I think it will come down on the quarterbacks.”

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit:

Q: What do you think Cal’s chances are of beating USC?

A: Currently, the way the two teams are playing, I think Cal has a very good chance of competing with and beating USC. I think for the first 6 or 7 games of the season, despite Cal losing in embarrassing fashion at Tennessee, they’re the better team at this point. And they’ve got not only playmakers on offense, but a defense that is capable of being dominating as well. But fortunately for USC, this game against Cal will not be played for another four games, so they still have time to improve and reach their potential. I keep saying that Cal is better than USC RIGHT NOW, because by the time Nov. 18 rolls around and USC’s youth has a chance to continue to gain experience, they might be a completely different looking team by that point in the season. But if they keep playing the way they have the last four weeks, Cal definitely can beat them.

Tucson Citizen (AZ): “Four huge games coming up this month”

Nov. 18, Cal at USC - The nightcap of a great day of college football, with this one likely deciding the Pac-10 title.

Daily Herald (WA): “Pac-10 bowl scenarios abound”

The Pac-10 championship - and a spot in the Rose Bowl - will come down to the Nov. 18 game between the Trojans and the Golden Bears. Cal is everyone’s favorite, but I’m not convinced. It’s a very good team, but I still give the edge to USC, which I think goes undefeated through the regular season. The young Trojans will continue to get better every week and will be Rose Bowl-bound.

USA Today: “Five games may set stage for college football’s national title”

California at Southern California on Nov. 18, a day featuring two games that could decide the national title matchup. After stumbling badly vs. Tennessee, the No. 11 Golden Bears have looked like the best team in the Pacific-10. A win against the No. 2 Trojans will prove that.

ESPN’s Ivan Maisel (see his bowl predictions with Cal and Michigan in the Rose):

Q: I assume you believe Cal will beat USC … Cal struggled against both Washington schools and its ok (sic), but an unbeaten USC team gets no respect from you. I remember another team that one the NC a few years ago that won alot (sic) of close games, OSU. Is it because USC isn’t blowing people out every week that apparently they aren’t good enough anymore for you?

A: The USC I saw against Arizona State is not a championship team. That’s three straight games that were a struggle. Maybe the bye week will get Jarrett and Smith healthy enough to allow the offense to stretch the field again. But based on what I’ve seen — as of now — I think Cal is better.

ESPN’s Jim Donnan:

Q: Coach do you think Cal is a better team than USC right now? And who has the better receivers this year?

A: Well, I’ve been impressed with the way Cal’s played, after the way they got ambushed by Tennessee. They look like a total football team right now. They’re playing like a better football team right now, but I still think USC will have the edge at home.

ABC picks up Cal at Arizona game

Posted by Eric | October 27, 2006 at 10:26 pm | In Games | No Comments

In good news for Cal fans, ABC Regional has picked up the away Arizona game on November 11. Kickoff is slated for 12:30pm. This is welcome news for those of us who want more than Joe Starkey’s voice or the jumbotron at Memorial Stadium.

AP feature: Lynch taking vocal lead

Posted by Eric | October 27, 2006 at 10:21 pm | In Marshawn | No Comments

The Associated Press has a great feature article about Marshawn Lynch becoming a vocal leader in addition to a leader on the field for Cal football.

That’s because Lynch normally dislikes attention even more than sprained ankles, opposing linebackers and formal dress codes.

His reserve has made it difficult for Cal to promote him as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and even many of his teammates say they didn’t know much about him beyond his bare-bones biography: An Oakland native who survived childhood in his hard-scrabble part of town to become the biggest star yet in the Bears’ five-season resurgence under coach Jeff Tedford.

But in what might be Lynch’s last few weeks in college before jumping to the NFL, his teammates are seeing dimensions to his character that only his closest friends knew.

“He’s more vocal, more outgoing now,” Tedford said. “He still doesn’t like to be front-and-center, though.”

Take a look here.

SI: Lynch is #1 RB in the nation

Posted by Eric | October 26, 2006 at 3:49 pm | In Awards, Marshawn | No Comments

Sports Illustrated, after naming Nate Longshore the #7 QB in the nation last week, has similarly honored Marshawn Lynch with the #1 spot for running backs. They write:

Lynch — who has rushed for 907 yards and eight touchdowns and averaged nearly seven yards per carry — packs excellent, all-around talent into his 5-foot-11, 223-pound frame. The junior uses his 4.4 speed to easily get around the edge, but he’s no stranger to mixing it up between the tackles, regularly delivering crushing blows to brave defenders. With three receiving TDs, he’s a dangerous target out of the backfield, too.

Lynch has taken the top spot over Heisman candidates and well-respected backs like Steve Slaton (WVA), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Mike Hart (Michigan) and more. However, Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) and Michael Bush (Louisville) are ineligible in this ranking due to their season-ending injures.

AOL: Jackson #1, Lynch #3 playmakers in college football

Posted by Eric | October 24, 2006 at 3:17 pm | In Awards | No Comments

AOL Sports has a special feature naming the 13 best playmakers in all of college football. WR/PR DeSean Jackson takes the #1 spot, while RB Marshawn Lynch is in the #3 spot. It is very impressive that Cal has taken not only the top spot but two of the top three spots in this breakdown.

3. Marshawn Lynch, Cal — How dangerous is Marshawn Lynch? He can churn out 150 yards including the game-winning touchdown on two sprained ankles. Speedy, elusive and powerful, Lynch is the best running back in the country. His 6.87 yards per carry is second best among BCS conference runners. And, after he takes you down for a 30-yard touchdown run, he’ll do a couple donuts around the spot he burned you.

1. DeSean Jackson, Cal — In the offensive talent buffet that is Cal football, DeSean Jackson is the one player that keeps you coming back for more. He’s not the statistical monster that Marshawn Lynch is nor the team lynchpin like Nate Longshore, but he is the West Coast brand for excitement and the best playmaker in America. Trying to tackle Jackson is like trying to bring down a cheetah while wearing stilletos… on ice.

The rest of the list: 13 Marcus Thigpen (Indiana), 12 Lamar Woodley (Michigan), 11 Jason Hill (Wazzu), 10 Ray Rice (Rutgers), 9 Aaron Ross (Texas), 8 Calvin Johnson (GA Tech), 7 Brian Cushing (USC), 6 Troy Smith (OSU), 5 Mario Manningham (Michigan), 4 C.J. Spiller (Clemson), 3 Marshawn Lynch, 2 Steve Slaton (WVA), 1 DeSean Jackson.

Lynch named Pac-10 offensive POTW

Posted by Eric | October 23, 2006 at 12:17 pm | In Awards, Marshawn | 1 Comment

Marshawn Lynch has been honored as the Pac-10 player of the week on offense. Cal is really racking up the honors in this category.

Lynch, a junior from Oakland, Calif., was a pivotal performer in California’s 31-24 overtime win against Washington. Lynch rushed 21 times for 150 yards (7.1-yard average) and two touchdowns, including a 22-yard touchdown run in overtime to give Cal the win. He added four receptions for 53 yards to give him 203 all-purpose yards. The California offense put up 486 yards in total offense (195 rushing, 291 passing) and had no turnovers. It marks the fourth time in eight weeks that a California player has garnered Pac-10 offensive player of the week honors.

Teammates Desmond Bishop and Tom Schneider were also nominated for defense and special teams play, respectively.

Bye week checklist

Posted by Eric | October 22, 2006 at 10:43 pm | In Uncategorized | 1 Comment

With this well-deserved midseason bye week, the Bears have a chance to rest, adjust, and improve. Coach Jeff Tedford said:

The bye week definitely is coming at the right time… We need to refresh, recharge our batteries.

While Cal is off to an excellent start this season, there is room for improvement at this point. Here is a bye-week checklist:

  • Recuperate: 8 games in 8 weeks since September 2 has left the Bears banged up. Marshawn Lynch needs to let his two bum ankles heal to be 100% for UCLA and USC, as Justin Forsett does a good job in Lynch’s place but does not have his game-breaking power. Nu’u Tafisi (knee) and both sides of the line could use some rest as well. QB Nate Longshore was sick last week and at times seemed to still be affected during the Washington game.
  • Work at quarterback: Longshore has played well overall this season, but has struggled in the last two games against WSU and Washington. While Longshore was clutch in the fourth quarter against the Huskies, many of his passes were out of reach earlier in the game. If he returns to form and establishes a confident rhythm with the receivers, the Bears should be able to dominate the future competition.
  • Receiver hands: The number of dropped balls in Saturday’s game was alarming. In order to keep drives alive, the receivers need to hang on to the ball.
  • Team focus: The Bears, especially on offense, seemed somewhat lifeless in the first half of Saturday’s game. The team needs to focus on playing all four quarters, regardless of the opponent.
  • Build fan enthusiasm: Memorial Stadium looked and sounded equally lifeless until the game was on the line. Fans should return to Oregon-game form to help fire up the Bears and make a difference in the game.

These are only a few issues among many positives for Cal football. A 7-1, 5-0 in conference start is definitely up to expectations.

Cal still #10 in BCS

Posted by Steve | October 22, 2006 at 5:08 pm | In Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

The new BCS rankings have been released, and Cal is again ranked #10, still slightly ahead of Tennessee and closer than last week to #9 Notre Dame. Despite a drop in Cal’s averages in both the Harris and Coaches polls, in which they are now ranked 11 and 12 respectively, Cal improved in the computer rankings, moving past Auburn into 5th. In the AP Poll, which is no longer used to calculate the BCS rankings, Cal has also dropped back to #12, leapfrogged by Clemson with their blowout win over Georgia Tech.

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