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Week 7 Mailbag: Cal Takes Over the Post Office

Apparently Cal fans are Dawgpound fans. Or not. Enjoy today's little slice of Dawg life.

Welcome to the Week 7 Cal / UWDP Mailbag!
Welcome to the Week 7 Cal / UWDP Mailbag!
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Cal fans are not happy.  Not happy at all.

Their disposition towards UW Football, which had sunnied a bit since the moving on of one Tosh Lupoi from the Husky coaching staff, has once again turned sour.  You can thank yours truly for that.

As you might imagine, our mailbag filled up with a lot of angry Bears fans this week.  Not one to back away from accountability, I take on those Bears fans in today's column.  Fair warning, though ... we all know what happens to angry bears around here.

Hulk Smash!

hulk smash

Week 7 Mailbag

DrOski comments: "The Huskies have a top five P12 D (even with true frosh in the secondary), strong special teams and upperclassmen (albeit underperforming) on the offensive line. They simply are a better measuring stick for you." Did I wake up in a world where UW is really good? Cal fans don't think we are a 10 win team. WE think YOU SUCK. Nothing in the results to date suggest that UW is as good as cal. Nothing.

UWDP: By "WE", do you mean just you, you and your family, you and the Cal Football team, you and Cal Nation or "Western Europe"? That part wasn't exactly clear to me.

DawgSh&t says: Instead of the title "Week 7 Mailbag" how about "Weak 7 Douche Bag" Arf. Arf.

UWDP: I may be totally off base here, but I'm guessing that DawgSh&t is really a Cal fan. It was clever if him to disguise his name like that.

BuggaBear asks: LOL... I called out your butthurt and you deleted my post then issued a warning? So it's ok for you to write an inflammatory editorial piece but it's not ok when someone calls you out on, you know, practicing actual journalism?

UWDP: Hold on a second right there, mister. Are you suggesting that we are supposed to be practicing actual journalism? ..... It all makes sense now.

By the way - really strong showing by Cal fans so far.  The caustic wit and ingenious barbs are truly breathtaking.

NWBear91 says: You're still applying pre-season thinking. You will find out this weekend when wsu beats furd (that's right) and cal beats UW that old school football requires the personnel to impose its will against the high scoring teams. With the losses if ASJ, sanky, and Price, UW doesn't have that personnel this year. Neither does furd. Conversely, Wsu and Cal offensive personnel has come of age. I'm thinking you will wonder about this after Friday night's game, and then you will realize it's true (you'll feel it in your stomach, and it won't be good) three possessions into Saturday's game.

UWDP: While NWBear's impressive analysis stands justly on its own, I feel a need to comment on his argument about "old school football".

He is probably referencing my piece from earlier in the week on how defenses may be closing the gap on all of the variations of spread offenses around college football. While Cal fan is rightly excited that their "Bear Raid" is finally taking off, I'm hardly suggesting that the Bear Bryant mold of "three yards and a cloud of dust" is back.

Instead, I argue that the new "new", while rooted in old-school premises of emphasizing athletic superiority on Defense and winning the battles of Special Teams, is actually innovation in its own right. I think the gap is closing as a result of some head coaches adopting philosophies that maximize player versatility on Defense, that puts pressure on the offensive player with the ball to make poor decisions by playing a more disciplined style of assignment based D, that implements new decision-making based on advanced metrics and probabilities, and that maximizes Special Teams impact through things like the recruiting of specialists and the implementation of options in punt and PAT formations. This isn't to say that spread offenses aren't still effective or going away. Just that more and more teams are figuring out how to even out the competitive balance on both sides of the ball.

EdDog contemplates: Love your coverage and thoughts on games etc. Fully agree that the WSU/Cal game was actually an absurd game. If this is the future of college football count me out. So guys, is it? Do I need to find another pastime for the fall?

UWDP: Ed, I don't think that you are likely to ever see another game like that Cal/WSU game. While many Cal fans believe that I called out their team as a JV club, the real truth is that I called out that game as a JV style game. And, it was every bit the abomination that I called it at the time.

However, I don't think that one game defines either team, just as the EWU game doesn't define UW. You can easily find examples on the schedules of both Cal and WSU where they played tougher, better P12 football. Cal's game at Northwestern and WSU's versus Oregon are good examples.

That said, Air Raid style teams are going to be prone to streakiness based on their pass-oriented nature. I know that Cal would argue that they strive for "balance". That's nice, but the numbers don't really support that position so far. Pass-heavy teams will have explosive nights like we saw last week, but they'll also be prone to days where the completions don't go for enough yardage, where factors like weather or injury affects efficiency and where turnovers change momentum. That plus the fact that I cannot recall a single Air Raid style team that actually played effective D leads me to believe that there is not a long line of coaches itching to adopt this specific philosophy. I wouldn't worry about it becoming the future of college football.

DrOski states: I'd consider giving up 52 points to an FCS team more of an embarrassment then the WSU game. But what do I know?

UWDP: Thanks Dr Oski. Nice to see you again. To your question, I don't really know what you know, but the 27 questions and comments you left for me in today's mailbag do paint a bit of a picture. My suggestions to you would be to cut Red Bull from your diet, move out of your grandmother's house, start a subscription to Lumosity and consider dating.

As to your FCS comment, I agree that UW was embarrassed by that defensive performance. However, even the average fan recognizes some key qualifiers about that game. First, it was just the second game for a secondary that was starting three true freshman. Second, most fans recognize EWU as a team that would compete strongly with many teams in the PAC every week. They beat Oregon State a year ago (the same OSU that crushed Cal) and feature a dozen or more FCS transfers. Third, the fact that EWU produced that kind of passing output despite a devastating pass rush is a strong indication of how "lights out" their QB was.  Many people don't realize this, but Vernon Adams rates as a top tier QB prospect in this year's NFL draft - ahead of several other well known names including Kevin Hogan and Everett Golson.

It was embarrassing and Husky fans felt the way that we would expect Cal fans to feel about the WSU game after scraping out a lucky win in such an ugly affair. However, it was a real turning point for that D and, since then, UW has faced two more pass-first teams and demonstrated pretty stout pass D in those matchups.

OzDawg asks: I have noticed around the league (and generally around the Power 5) that all coaches seem to have trouble the first year, but start to show in year 2 and by year 3 the answer is in on them. Given the amount of top flight talent leaving this year (Shaq, Shelton, Peters, Kikaha, most of OL), Will there be enough talent left for the team next year to compete or must we expect next year may be even more unsettled?

UWDP: This is a great question. I know that the loss of four first round talents on D, the four-year starting MLB and four-fifths of the most experienced offensive line in the PAC are a source of consternation for UW fans who thought that this "was the year". On one hand, I think those fears are well-founded. Shaq Thompson and Danny Shelton are truly unique talents that can't be replaced one for one. And, while the young talent at LB and S looks very good, the pass rushing DE and BUCK depth is a question.

On the flip side, I think you are right to observe that the more time kids spend in a new system, the more efficient that they get. It is very reasonable to expect to see major steps forward at QB, TE, WR, and OL next season based on both returning talent and experience in the Chris Petersen program. The ability of the offense to take that next step and to compensate for all that is lost on D will be a major story line in 2015.

MPOski asks: Speaking of embarrassments this ranking serves as the best example. While I am not attesting that Cal is the class of the conference but what wins does UW have that ranks them 5 points higher?

UWDP: There are a lot of relatives of Oski in our mailbag today.

As to my Power Rankings this week, most know by now that I actually rank Cal as #9 in the Week 7 Power Poll and that the #11 designation was an attempt to draw attention to my editorial theme of the week. 9 feels pretty reasonable given the fact that Cal needed double OT and good fortune to beat Colorado, needed a missed chip shot FG to beat WSU and has an offense whose explosiveness is balanced by the defense's ineptitude. Even one of your own agrees with that logic.  (What?  Did Nam Le actually have Cal ranked 11 last week?  What a dooosh he must be.)


What is more interesting is Cal fan showing Cal as the #2 team (UW #10) in your own rankings. Would that be more or less "embarrassing" than mine?

ElvisLovesUW comments: UW can win with any of our QB's. If Williams has ball security; if Lindquist has accuracy; if Miles has mental toughness; and, if UW shows an aggressive running game along with unpredictable play calling, we will do just fine. I am glad to hear that the QB competition is still open and may the one who wants it the most make our Huskies proud.

UWDPElvis is referring to Chris Petersen's press conference from earlier in the week. CP said then that the competition "is always on" but hinted that starter Cyler Miles has a pretty substantial lead in the overall competition. This may frustrate a number of fans, but it really shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. CP isn't going to allow the program to be affected by a divisive QB controversy until it is clear that the QB he has picked is holding back an otherwise well-functioning offense. His perspective on this was pretty clear as he noted the old adage of how the QB gets too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when they are not.

I know that many in this forum would like to see change at QB and have been emboldened by the support for this move by some highly respected voices on this blog. However you feel about Cyler, you should adjust your expectations to reflect the assumption that this staff will not entertain such a notion unless there is an injury or unless it is clear that the QB is the difference between winning and losing football. Until then, it seems clear that they like Cyler's decision making and that they value the potential he has to do damage as a runner. This fits their mold of emphasizing run-first and maximizing points per possession as a success metric.

MIDog asks: I brought up the lack of effort as a topic a few weeks ago after the Georgia State game. I booed them. I was called out for it by the moderators, though I never spoke poorly about anyone. I thanked the people who thought I was wrong (to a degree). Is it wrong to "boo" a lack of effort when it is clear that you are not "booing" the individuals?

UWDP: I think that reasonable people can have a reasonable debate about what is and isn't appropriate expressionism at a sporting event featuring amateur athletes. We've had this debate in our forum a few times. For me, it always comes back to the question of when does it become "ok" behavior by spectators to vociferously criticize young athletes competing in a sport? I think we can all agree that booing the swarm of 7 year-old girls chasing a soccer ball is highly inappropriate. I'd venture a guess that most of you wouldn't feel comfortable "booing" at a high school football or basketball game. For college athletes, does the fact that they earn a scholarship as compensation open them up to this practice? Perhaps.

I don't think it really hurts the kid that much when a team hears a groan from the crowd following some bad plays. In a way, it opens up the opportunity for the coach to deliver some positive reinforcement that might have a little extra meaning. It could hurt recruiting in the case that a sensitive kid on a visit observes it in person.  But, even then, I doubt it matters much.  Empty seats are probably a bigger issue.

All that said, criticism that crosses the line in a manner similar to some of the ...uhhh ... commentary thrown my way by Cal fans this week would be, to me, pretty far over the line. Personal insults and careless articulation of the relative worth (or lack thereof) of individual participants really have no place in college sports, no matter how big the sports have become. This would include several of the comments that we've observed about Cyler Miles in this very forum.

DrOski asks: Does it bother you that you rank 70th in total defense despite playing 40 percent of your games against the worst offensive teams in college football?

UWDP: Hey, don't I know you?