Know your foe – California Golden Bears

Devils Digest invited its Sparky's Huddle members to pose questions to CalSportsDigest.com's editor Mario Gomez concerning the Sun Devils' next opponent the California Golden Bears. How is Cal dealing with two crushing losses earlier this month? What are the team's strengths and weaknesses? Gomez answers those questions and many more in this article.

(from Denver Devil) How does the CAL defense view the ASU offense? Are they more concerned about ASU's passing game or running game?

Gomez: It's an offense with some playmakers that has just has lacked execution. The run game is not the threat so much as compared to the receivers. ASU wideouts Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams are solid targets that could give Cal's "suspect" pass defense some problems.

Which players on ASU's offense do they fear the most?

Gomez: The ASU receivers.

(from SoCalDevil666) How good is Cal's pass rush and can it put pressure on the passer? How many sacks can Cal get against ASU's QBs?

Gomez: The Cal defensive line is good. An offensive line cannot just focus on one player as the others could have field days. And Cal will pressure with the outside backer. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu have 9.5 combined sacks. They are among the best pass rushers in the conference.

The Bear defense is capable of getting multiple sacks (averaging over 3 per game) but it really depends how well ASU runs the ball and keeps the defense honest.

(from ASUMajor) Many believed this was the year for Cal to win the Pac-10 championship and get to the Rose Bowl. With that expectation likely unattainable, what are the general feelings amongst the fans/alumni about Tedford and the Cal program? Besides the facility improvements, what other changes need to occur for Cal to take the next step?

Gomez: After the Oregon game, a number of fans were disgruntled not so much with the loss but the sheer magnitude of the outcome. Losing by 39, and dropping 18 spots in the poll was a huge letdown in a season with huge expectations. There are two sides of the Tedford debate. There are those that remember Cal football before Tedford and respect what he has done for the program. And there are those that believe Tedford is an average coach and he will never be able to get Cal football into the upper echelon of college football.

Tedford has taken Cal to its current level with one hand tied behind his back. The facilities the last seven years are arguably the worst in the conference. The administration when he arrived was not pro football per se and the funding the program was not a priority.

With the new facilities to be completed in the next year and improvements to the stadium on the horizon, the time is now for Tedford to get Cal to the Rose Bowl. If he is unable to lead Cal to an outright conference title in the next four years with all the upgrades, Bear fans may have to be content with a coach that will win 7-10 games every year and get to a bowl game but not contend for a national title.

(from Mr. Herbivore) Obviously, the Cal offense has been on fire the last two games. However, the defense has given up at least 400 yards in each of the last four games, including 440 to WSU. What do you think is causing this performance and how much emphasis is being put on it in practices?

Gomez: The defense dominated a below average Maryland team. But there were some signs of trouble against FCS Eastern Washington. Minnesota had some success but the real issues were magnified against Oregon.

The defense has become a "bend don't break" unit. While defensive coordinator Bob Gregory is satisfied with the philosophy as long as the opposing team doesn't score, Tedford wants the unit to "bend" less.

The problem lies in the inexperienced linebackers as they get better so will the defense. The coaches have tinkered with the starting LB lineup the last few games. Furthermore, the heralded defensive backfield has not play up to expectations.

(from ASUMajor) Which of the Arizona prospects on Cal's team have impressed and which ones have underperformed to date?

Gomez: Cameron Jordan has made the biggest impact of the Arizona kids. Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson has looked very good in his limited game play but many expected him to really make push this year with Tracy Slocum no longer on the team. As said, he has impressed but during fall camp, true freshman Dasarte Yarnway was pushing DeBoskie-Johnson for third team reps until going down with an injury.

(from BigE) If a team puts 8 in the box consistently, can Riley put the team on his shoulders and win a game on the road?

Gomez: He has yet to do so, therefore, I would have to say no.

(from HodeASU) With the great season Jahvid Best is having, as well as the ground game in general, is Cal's record even more disappointing or did Cal fans know before the season that only a balanced offense could produce a successful season?

Gomez: Most fans realized for Cal to clearly contend for an outright Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl bid, Kevin Riley and the receiving corps would have to be a consistent threat. That was not the case in late September and early October.

The record is not so much disappointing as the manner it occurred. I believe you would have found a large number of Cal fans that expected the Bears to lose at Oregon and to USC before the season began. However, after how poorly the Ducks started, no one expected a 42-3 massacre. And the 30-3 whipping put on by USC was another huge disappointment.

With that said, a 10-2 season would still be considered a success, if Cal can continue to win convincingly down the stretch.

(from BigE) Tedford did a good job turning Cal around, but it seems he's still riding the USC win from a while ago and hasn't really done much to support all the "guru" talk he gets as head coach. What is the argument for him being an elite coach?

Gomez: I don't believe many consider him an "elite" coach but a very good coach. He has won one shared conference title (2006). But in his defense, since he became head coach in 2002, only two other Pac-10 teams (2002 Washington State, 2007 Arizona State) other than USC have won or shared a conference title. Furthermore, he resurrected a program that was longed considered hopeless.

Now, he has an athletic administration behind him and top-notch facilities in the works. He will be judged as an "elite" coach in the next three-four years with everything coming into place.

His biggest claim to fame has been his quarterbacks. But that "guru" argument is failing quickly as Aaron Rodgers is the only signal caller that had sustained success at Berkeley while Tedford has been the head coach.

(from HodeASU) In your opinion what are the keys in this game for a Cal victory?

Gomez: Protect the football.

Establish the run to alleviate the pressure off Riley.

Build an early lead forcing ASU to be one-dimensional.


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