We did a question and answer session with the folks over at California Golden Blogs. Here are our questions and their answers.
1. Cal looks a lot right now like Washington did a week ago. They're coming off of an embarrassing road loss and returning home. Is it a bounce-back spot for Cal as well?
Berkelium97: Unless you plan on turning the ball over 6 times like UCLA did against us a few weeks ago, it's hard to have any optimism heading into this game. Cal might win, but I doubt many fans are looking at this as a bounce-back game.
NorcalNick: Some of Cal's ability to bounce back will very much depend on how healthy they get. Cal's defense was decimated by injuries to the front 7 against Utah, and unless that changes there's plenty of reason for Cal fans to stay pessimistic.
And if Cal can't get up for Washington, at home, on national TV, with the season on the line, against a coaching staff who hasn't had the most complimentary things to say about the Bears . . . then this season is well and truly finished.
LEONPOWE: Unfortunately I don't see it happening. If we were losing close games and one or two plays away sure. The Utah game eliminated any optimism I had after tOSU, UCLA and WSU.
2. Given Cal's remaining schedule, the odds of a bowl berth are basically zero for the second time in three years. Is the feeling that Jeff Tedford is on his way out, or will he get another shot?
LEONPOWE: Sadly on his way out. This was the fork in the road year - and it looks like a downward trek right now.
Berkelium97: He's been given multiple chances to turn the team around and this is the most disappointing season yet. Nothing about the past three seasons says Tedford should be given another shot.
NorcalNick: Only athletic director Sandy Barbour truly knows the answer to that question, but the general belief is that dwindling fan enthusiasm and ticket sales (particular sales of the expensive seating program needed to fund Cal sports into the future) will force a change. Simply put, Cal can't afford to not have a successful football program.
A 3 game win streak to end the regular season would almost certainly change that . . . but I don't think the team that got blown out by Utah is going to be sweeping the Oregon schools any time soon.
3. If Tedford is ousted, who would you like (realistically) to see take his place?
LEONPOWE: I'm on the Mark Helfrich bandwagon myself, but I won't be tearing my hair out with any hire until the results of the first season are done. I'd prefer a young guy who'd like to make Cal a ten year stop, but you know what? I'd just like to go to the Rose Bowl with a clean program which graduates kids. Is that too much to ask? Apparently.
NorcalNick: The 'realistically' part of that question is really the sticking point. There's a wide variety of opinions on how attractive Cal is or isn't to prospective candidates, and how much Cal will be willing to invest in terms of salary. Some people think that Cal can and should go after a high-profile guy like John Gruden. I'd looooove to get Charlie Strong from Louisville. But is that realistic? I'm skeptical. But the athletic department didn't invest millions in a new stadium and training center to not win football games, so there's reason to believe that Cal will invest in a new head coach in a way they've never done before. We'll see.
Berkelium97: Someone who can instill some discipline and accountability to the team. A circa-2002 Jeff Tedford would be ideal. We have plenty of talent but we're not doing anything with it.
You guys are familiar with the Seattle sports scene--any word that Pete Carroll is interested in returning to the Pac-12?
Realistically, it's hard to predict whom we will hire. We've made a tremendous financial investment in the long-term success of the program and I assume this will carry over to the budget for the next coach. We need to be able to bring in someone who can win or else we're not going to generate enough revenue to support the non-revenue sports or pay off the Memorial Stadium renovations. Whether we'll bring in a current/former NFL/BCS head coach, a non-AQ coach, or a hotshot assistant is anyone's guess.
4. Cal's offensive line has allowed Zach Maynard to be sacked a staggering 37 times. Though UW hasn't been great at getting pressure on opposing QB's, will they be able to get after Maynard?
LEONPOWE: At this point a gang of unruly cats could get through to Maynard.
NorcalNick: Simply put, yes. Only Washington State failed to get meaningful pressure against Cal. Other than that, Maynard has been under seige every game this year. It would be naive of me to pretend that anything else is going to happen on Friday. The question is if Maynard can play well in spite of that pressure. Believe it or not, he did just that against Ohio State and UCLA despite a ton of sacks and constant hits.
Berkelium97: Yes. Anyone with a pulse can get through this offensive line.
5. Who are some under the radar Cal players that should be watched during Friday's game?
NorcalNick: Brendan Bigelow is so under the radar that even the coaching staff have forgotten about him. He averages more than 10 yards/touch, which is in DeAnthony Thomas range. He gets 2-3 touches a game at best.
LEONPOWE: You probably don't know the name of Avery Sebastian yet, but you will. A huge hitting young safety. Really like this kid a lot.
Berkelium97: Richard Rodgers: a big, physical, and surprisingly nimble tight end in the same mold as Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He is an underutilized weapon on offense, but he is dangerous when the passes go in his direction.
On defense, our sophomore safety Avery Sebastian has made a big impact since making his first start. He's physical, hard-hitting, and all over the field. He's been a pleasant surprise this year.
6. The UW offense has been fairly inept this year. What are the weak spots in Cal's defense that they should be attacking?
NorcalNick: As I alluded to in my answer to question 1, that will depend on who is healthy. Against Utah the Utes were able to find decent success with a power run game because Cal's front 7 was so decimated. If the medical situation doesn't improve, I would expect Washington to do the same.
Berkelium97: Pass it to Seferian-Jenkins all night. We continue to be deathly afraid of covering tight ends. Make him run a deep route off playaction and you've got a solid shot at getting him past the safety (particularly it it's Alex Logan or Michael Lowe). I cannot count how many times tight ends have inexplicably managed to sneak past safeties who pulled in for run support.
LEONPOWE: Do you have a tight end? Throw the ball to him and watch us lose him.
7. What are Cal's offensive and defensive strengths?
NorcalNick: When things are going right on offense Zach Maynard is accurately hitting short passes and the running game finds holes. Cal has some pretty dynamic skill position players, and in the right situation the offense can look surprisingly good because it getst the balls to those guys in a position to make plays.
The defense (when fully healthy) doesn't really have any obvious strengths or obvious weaknesses. They're average against the run and the pass. Steve Williams is a pretty excellent cover corner, but Cal's secondary has some holes that can be exploited. Cal isn't usually gashed against the run, but they certainly aren't stout enough to slow down a strong running attack. When healthy.
LEONPOWE: On offensive we actually have pretty good skill players. Keenan Allen, Brendon Bigelow, CJ Anderson, Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper - when they get the ball with space can be dangerous. Even Maynard is pretty fast
when running in space (and not away from defensive linemen). Lots of playmakers.
On defense, well, we have some good players with talent who have tended to be burned a lot by big plays.
8. Where do you see the rest of Cal's season going? Offseason?
Berkelium97: With Oregon's upcoming visit followed by a trip to Corvallis, this season is going to end on an ugly note. The offseason should be pretty exciting, however, as our AD has a sparkling record of coaching hires during her tenure at Cal. I have tremendous confidence in the search committee.
LEONPOWE: I hope the guys play well and conduct themselves well on the field and off the field, but this season isn't going anywhere. I'll continue to watch. It will be interesting to see how the coaching search is handled and if we can sort of push the reset button on the past 6 years - I think we have the tools and players to be a competitive team in the Pac 12. Maybe not the oline or dline depth that you'd wish for, but we should be at least in the running for a minor bowl next year.
Unlike a lot of places replacing head coaches, I don't think there needs to be a big change in the program, just a slight reseting of where we are.
Gekko had some questions that he sent over to them as well. Here they are, along with CGB's answers.
1. What is the diagnosis of the struggles of the Defense - a unit that I pegged in the pre-season as "elite" in the PAC?
LeonPowe: I think a combination of being very young at safety (we've gotten burned multiple times when safeties Michael Lowe and Alex Logan have bit very hard on pump fakes) and linebacker injuries (almost every linebacker expected to play big minutes this year has missed some time - Forbes, Hurell, Campoerale, Jalen Jefferson, Chris McCain, Mullins, Dan Wilkerson) - and maybe our DL hasn't quite lived up to expectations. I'm sure Kodiak may have more insight.
McCain is good though. He's going to be a star if he can ever stay on the field.
Vincent S: LeonPowe is spot on. In addition, Clancy Pendergast seems to have our DBs playing off the line of scrimmage a lot; contrast that with Stanford's defense for example, which will bump opposing WRs off their routes at the line (see the USC game for a textbook example). Whether this is by design, to cover up a weakness, or something else is up for interpretation, but our defensive backs, especially our safeties, have definitely been getting beaten.
We've also missed the presence of a premier pass rusher, something we haven't really had since the days of Zach Follett. Cecil Whiteside showed promise in this role last year but has possibly been relegated to the doghouse for undisclosed team rule violations. Our DL hasn't been able to apply consistent pressure to opposing QBs; even when we do collapse the pocket, we inevitably seem to lose contain (as well as the first down).
2. How are the young WRs maturing - what is the pecking order that is being established behind Keenan?
LeonPowe: Lots of talent on display from Treggs and Harper. Not so many passes caught yet from Powe - but he should see the field more next year. Treggs is already a huge blocking talent, and while he hasn't had a big game since his first one, he's been able to catch a few big passes and more importantly already blocks like a vet. Harper - while the least heralded of the recruits, has shown big time talent and hands - in the mold of a young Marvin Jones. Both have made their shares of mistakes (fumbles, penalties and route running) but they're going to be very good down the line.
Vincent S: The class has exceeded my expectations. I came into the year thinking we'd have Allen, maybe Harris, and mayyyybe one of the frosh would catch a pass here and there. Well, we have Allen; then we have Harper/Treggs; then we have Powe; finally we have Harris (out due to various health-related issues for the first half of the season). Harper, the lowest rated of the five receivers, has demonstrated the most. He's made some very athletic grabs and moves well with the ball. If he stops fumbling, he's going to be a star. Treggs runs precise routes and blocks very well; he also understands the offense well enough to help direct players to their positions. Both are indispensable at this point, in my opinion.
3. Is there really a sense that Tedford is already done and, if so, what kind of coach do Bear fans want to see come next? An established coach with a track record or a deserving assistant (e.g. Mark Helfrich, Justin Wilcox)
LeonPowe: Some fans gleefully say yes. Others sadly say yes, but almost everyone thinks he's done. I can't speak for Bear fans, and we certainly do not have an editorial point of view here at CGB, but, I'm a big fan of bringing in Mark Helfrich. I think if you ask 5 bears fans you'll get 6 opinions. I think what a generally accepted viewpoint here by a good portion of our fanbase is that we want someone who will consider academics a big part of what we do at Cal - win by playing smart, fast and by selling the school and the Bay Area. Basically Tedford circa 2001.