I am a firm believer in the idea that any given day, any team can win, and because of that, there aren’t many games where I go in thinking one team has no chance to win. This is one of those rare times. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I think this game will be, from a final score aspect, a blow-out. I think the Cal Golden Bears have no kind of chance to win the game. But I don’t think this game is going to be so bad that it isn’t worth it to watch.
Cal losing the game is actually a good thing in the grand scheme of things. “Why?” you ask. Because sometimes in sports, when you’re a young team, you have to take your lumps in order to grow. Cal needs growth in order to be able to compete with the best teams in the Pac-12, because quite frankly, the Pac-12 will (within the next decade or so) become the top conference in America. If Cal wants to be part of that, rather than a bottom feeder, they have to learn now.
Oregon is the best team in the nation. And it isn’t even close.
I know that statement will get me put on a spitfire to be roasted, because HOW DARE YOU NOT SAY TEH ESS-EE-SEE HAS THE BEST TEAMS?!?!?!?! But Oregon looks like a team that has no chinks in the armor, and while those teams historically take a tumble at some point, I will wait for Oregon to lose in order to anoint the next “team of destiny.” Until then, Oregon is the team.
The game not only serves as a teaching tool for Cal and a showcase for Oregon, but also works as entertainment for us. Again, you ask, “Why?” Well, because Oregon’s secondary, which is the best secondary Cal will see all season, is going up against the best freshman quarterback (and possibly the most fun quarterback) in the nation. I see Jared Goff throwing two or three interceptions, but also having a night that is actually fairly good all things considered.
Goff, along with Christian Hackenberg and Baker Mayfield, is the future of quarterbacks. And according to some
bias reporters, Goff is the best of the three. I can’t completely argue with that fact. Nevertheless, Goff going up against the best, flashing the kind of potential he has is worth the three hours of minute-long drives where Oregon just saunters into the end zone without much fight.
That said, if Cal were to win,
Avery Sebastian would have to play and he would have to have the ability of a Charles Woodson a few certain things would have to go right.
The first would be that the defense, which is actually more-or-less back to normal, would need to play lights out. They would need to put enough pressure on Marcus Mariota, something he rarely deals with, to cause him to make tons of mistakes. Mistakes, which Oregon are not prone to making, are key to Oregon losing a game this season. I mean, Marcus Mariota is a Heisman Award contender, and while it’s unlikely he’ll win, it’s also unlikely he won’t be a finalist.
The second would be that the secondary would have to make sure that they didn’t get dominated. They’d have to be a malleable group that was able to absorb the yards that the Oregon wide receivers would undoubtably get, without giving up the big play that Cal is so prone to giving up this season. The secondary would have to ensure that Oregon would not get into the red zone, where Oregon scores 84% of the time.
The third would have to cut Oregon’s per game rushing total by half. Currently, they rush for about 355 yards per game and a little over five rushing scores per game. Cutting that to 175 and change and maybe three touchdowns would still mean a lot of points for Oregon, but at least (considering Cal’s offensive output) it’d still be manageable. They key would be to slow them down long enough to give Cal a shot to keep themselves in the game, not to stop them all together (which is impossible).
The final thing they’d have to do is winning the turnover battle. I reference this every week, and I’ll probably reference this once again going down the line, but I believe that winning the turnover battle is imperative to a victory. You need to create as many opportunities and as many chances for your team to score in order to win. Law of averages. You get more chances, you’re likely to capitalize more often; meanwhile, you’re taking points away from the other team.
However, even if Cal is able to make a few of these things happen, the idea that they could make all four things, plus play top-notch offense with a freshman quarterback against one of the best defenses in the nation, with a tandem of running backs who are prone to injury. In summation, Cal would have to pitch the equivalent of a perfect game in football to have a shot.
This game is going to be horrible in the scoring sense, but it is going to help this team going forward. Think of it as the beginning of Cal’s journey back to Pac-12 relevance. Journeys often begin in these dark places, places that are so far from where you want to be that you almost want to quit. That’s where Cal will be tomorrow. Don’t be surprised if you have the side-effects of a bad drinking night (migraine, the taste of bad vodka and hot dogs on your breath, and a funky feeling in your belly) without taking one drink.
But, being at the bottom of the mountain means going up is the only way to go. And things, I think, will get better a lot quicker than most people think. This team has the talent buried underneath all the bad plays and injuries that make me believe this process won’t be that long, not like the one you’ll likely see go down in Austin or down in South Central (apparently) going forward. You need to go through hell to get to heaven. Tomorrow will probably feel like hell.