California (2-1, 0-1 in Pac-12) vs. Colorado (2-2, 0-1)
Last Time Out: at Colorado 41, Cal 24 (Nov. 16, 2013)
Last Time in Berkeley: In a non-conference game after Colorado joined the conference (but scheduled as a home-and-home before they did), the Bears defeated Coloardo 52-7 on Sept. 11, 2010.
The Line: Cal -14, 66.5 O/U
When: Sept. 27, 1 PM Pacific
Where: KABAM Field at California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Watch: Pac-12 Networks – Kevin Calabro (Play by Play), Yogi Roth (Analyst), Lewis Johnson (Sideline Reporter)
Listen: KGO 810 AM – Joe Starkey (Play by Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (Sideline)
Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM
California Injury Report: Darius White (shoulder) probable; Jeffrey Coprich (foot) out; Joel Willis (shin) probable, but limited; Stefan McClure (calf) questionable
Cal Game Notes
Colorado Game Notes
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IN THE STANDS
Along with basketball official visitor Brandon Sampson, the Bears will also be hosting a huge list of unofficial football visitors, including six commits and an official visitor of their own.
Isaiah Floyd (15 carries for 105 yards, 1 rushing TD, 2 rec for 62 yards and a TD, plus the game-icing pick last night against San Ramon Valley)
FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. Ray Hudson will get at least 2 catches.
2. Three different Cal players will catch touchdowns.
3. The Bears will score at least 45 points.
4. Cal will have two interceptions, and this week’s beneficiary of the Gorcey Bump is going to be Darius Allensworth (I’ve correctly pegged both Jalen Jefferson and Avery Sebastian in two of the previous three games as players who would come down with a pick, so I might as well keep the vibes rolling).
5. Chris Harper will have at least five catches.
FUN FACT: The Buffaloes are 120th in FBS in first downs allowed by penalty, with 3.33 per game.
What to Watch for on Offense:
The Great Manipulator. Against Arizona, quarterback Jared Goff was able to toy with the secondary with his eyes and shoulders, looking off safeties and pump-faking to shake his receivers open. Colorado may know what’s coming, as far as Goff’s passing prowess, but knowing about it and doing something about it are going to be two very different things.
“Jared, to me, is more accurate this year than he was last year,” says Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre. “He’s keeping his feet underneath him and making some really excellent throws. The other thing is, it looks like his arm strength has even gotten a little bit better, because he’s able to make those wide-field, deep comeback throws, or deep comeback out throws. I’ve been very impressed with that. I think the other thing is the timing of the offense, is better than it was last year. He’s throwing the ball – especially down the middle – to a spot, before the receiver’s even looking, and the receiver’s getting there and catching it. It’s pretty impressive, what he’s doing. Their offense is hitting on a lot of different cylinders, for sure.”
Goff currently has the No. 7 passer rating in the nation, at 185.8 – better than Oregon Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota.
Asked to grade his performance after last week’s game, Goff said, simply, “not good enough to win.” Asked the same question about his season so far on Tuesday, Goff said: “We’ve won two games, and probably should have won a third. I think I’ve been playing decent, obviously not well enough to win the last one, but well enough to win the first two.”
Goff’s yards per attempt is No. 8 in the nation, at 10.3. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns – tied for 13th in the nation. Very quietly, Goff is becoming perhaps one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
“It’s starting to slow down a lot, I think,” Goff said of the speed of the game. “The last three games, it’s been starting to slow down for me, and for most of the offense, as well. Everyone’s starting to be more comfortable, and I’m more comfortable in the pocket. Everything’s starting to feel right for me and the rest of the offense is all starting to click.”
Colorado has the No. 7 passing defense in the Pac-12, but does have some playmakers, including senior cornerback Greg Henderson.
“They play a lot of different stuff,” Goff said. “They played a lot of man against Arizona State, but we’re not sure what they’re going to do against us.”
Head coach Sonny Dykes cited Henderson specifically as a corner who will press and challenge the Bears’ stable of receivers.
“He presses a lot. He’s good with his hands, very aggressive. He’s a good corner,” Dykes said. “I think both the corners are good players, but he plays really aggressive, and I think he’s probably one of the better corners in the league.”
Here are a few numbers to keep in mind: Cal is the No. 24 most explosive team in the nation, measured in passes of over 20 yards and rushes of over 12 yards. Colorado is 116th in the nation in percent of opponent plays going for first downs or touchdowns (37.24%). The Buffaloes are also 109th in opponent touchdown-to-interception ratio, 101st in passing touchdowns allowed and 103rd in red zone defense.
Can the running game continue to make progress? In sharp contrast to last year, the Bears are No. 26 in the nation in rushing attempts, meaning the offense is moving closer and closer to becoming something close to balanced, particularly last week at Arizona.
“It was better,” said Dykes. “We made some big plays. You want to have that consistency.”
Cal is sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (187.3 ypg), and last week, the Bears came within two Khalfani Muhammad rushing yards of having two 100-yard backs in the same game for the first time since Oct. 17. 2009, and that was against the then-third-best rushing defense in the league.
“We’re trying to score as fast as we can, and the running backs did a great job. Third play of the game, [Daniel] Lasco took it all the way,” said Goff.
Against Northwestern in the season opener, Cal averaged 2.53 yards per carry, jumping to 5.31 against FCS Sacramento State and then dropping back a notch to 4.59 against Arizona. Last season, the Bears averaged 3.5 yards per carry for the year, and peaked at 5.79 yards per carry against Colorado. In only one other game did Cal average more than 4.5 yards per carry.
Chris Harper. Last week, Bryce Treggs finally broke through with five catches for 119 yards, but so far, Harper has been rather quiet. Harper has not caught more than five balls in a game this year, has just one touchdown and has peaked at 71 receiving yards (also last week against the Wildcats). Last year, Harper averaged 5.83 catches per game and averaged 71 yards per contest. It’s time for the preseason Biletnikoff Award Watch List member to break out.
Beyond that, it will be interesting to see just how the absence of Darius Powe affects the offense. The big red zone target has caught nine balls for 188 yards this season, but he’s questionable for Saturday with a shoulder injury. Who steps up in his place? Stephen Anderson could, for one. Anderson caught two balls last week for 43 yards, including his first career touchdown in his first game of the season.
“I was kind of beat up during camp, and it allowed DP to come in and take the role for me,” Anderson said. “He came in and was doing a good job, and we rotate a lot with our receivers, so one week, it could be me, one week it could be him. I got my opportunity to play in this game, and I came open, did my job and got the ball.”
Another possibility for a breakout receiver is Ray Hudson. Fueled by his alma mater’s big win over Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley last night – Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill’s first win over the Wolves since 2008 – Hudson will be looking to do some damage on Saturday with fellow Falcon Isaiah Floyd in attendance.
Hudson has four catches for 87 yards thus far this season, and I expect him to chip in for at least two more, since he’s going to provide some big matchup issues over the middle. He’s already created a lot of mismatches on the inside, and he’s also proven to be quite a good blocker when kept attached to the line.
What to Watch For on Defense
Griffin more than just a mythical creature. Griffin Piatt leads the Pac-12 in interceptions, having picked off one pass in each of the Bears’ first three games. Will he get a fourth? With Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau having thrown five already this season, he’s got a pretty good shot.
In pregame warmups for Arizona, the staff came to Piatt and told him that he’d be getting his first collegiate start at safety, since veteran Stefan McClure went down with a calf injury, and he responded quite well, making five tackles and breaking up two passes to go along with his interception. He was in position to get a bat-down or a pick on the Hail Mary play, but got jostled and couldn’t get enough of a launch to get at the ball.
“The interception, the slot receiver ran a wheel route where he went into the flats, and then turned it up, so I followed him there and I had pretty good position on him, and I looked back into the backfield and saw the quarterback throwing it his way and just stepped in front of it,” Piatt said. “The Hail Mary, I didn’t have great balance when I went up for the ball. I was kind of inching back a little bit. I don’t know if that was because of all the people around me or what the deal was, but just didn’t get a great jump on the ball and was probably a little late to jump in.”
Will the Spruce break loose? There’s not much that can be said about Nelson Spruce that hasn’t already been said -- three 100-yard games out of four he’s played this year, 13 catches for 172 yards last week against Hawaii, competitive, strong, good hands – but it all bears repeating. Cal has had trouble with Buffaloes receivers the past two times the teams have met – namely Paul Richardson -- but Spruce has bedeviled the Bears, too, hauling in eight balls for 140 yards last year in Boulder.
“We’ll do some things, obviously, to get some help on him, just because he’s good enough where you have to do some things,” said Dykes. “There’ll be times in a game where the corner’s just got to make plays. Our guys are going to have to do that.”
For more detail on just how Cal will defend Spruce and Treggs’s cousin Shay Fields, take a gander at our in-depth secondary preview.
Ooooooooh What a Rush: The pass rush was fairly lacking late in last week’s game against Arizona, but the defensive line has its sights set on fixing that, this week.
“We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback,” said Bears defensive line coach Fred Tate. “We can’t let him sit there and hold it. He’s a pocket guy. He can run it, and he will run it, but that’s not his first choice. He’s going to go through his progression and he’s going to sit there and do something. That said, we have to get to the quarterback. We have to develop a pass rush or a pass push to keep him uncomfortable and make him throw the football.
“You look at that [Arizona] game and them throwing the ball on the perimeter and down the field, the ball was coming out quick, so we didn’t really do anything different [from the first half to the second]. We stayed with our run principle. We’ve just got to get more pressure on the quarterback, period, with a four-man rush. We shouldn’t have to blitz to get pressure. We’ve got to get pressure with the defensive line.”
Read more about the defensive line’s attack HERE.