Considering Cal

I really don't know what to say about the California Bears. This isn't really any particular grudge match with the Oregon Ducks. The 12:30 p.m. contest this Saturday isn't even on television. The teams have played each other 64 times dating back to 1899. Cal leads the series, 35-27-2. However, in recent times Oregon hasn't lost to Cal since 1993. In fact, the best that Cal has been able to manage over the last seven years is a 6-6 season dating back to 1996.

Interestingly, it was Cal's 6-5 team that was chosen over Oregon's 6-5 team to attend the 1996 Aloha Bowl despite the fact that Oregon was able to beat Cal 40-23 during the regular season. During Mike Bellotti's tenure as the Oregon head football coach, 1996 still stands as the only year that the Ducks have failed to garner post season play.

Cal head coach Tom Holmoe hasn't been so fortunate. Since he took over the reins from Steve Mariucci in 1997, Holmoe has gone 3-8, 5-6, 4-7 and 4-7. For Holmoe it would appear his failure hasn't been for a lack of defense. Defensively, his past squads have consistently ranked near the top of the Pac-10 conference and have been fun to watch. I've got to admit I've enjoyed watching Cal great Deltha O'Neal leading the NFL in interceptions thus far this season. Guys such as defensive end Andre Carter and linebacker Sekou Sanyika have had a way of creating indelible memories.

Holmoe has attempted to shore up his offense. Several years ago he was able to recruit arguably the best prep quarterback in California, Kyle Boller. He also hired Al Borges as offensive coordinator this year late of UCLA and Oregon, albeit only one year at Oregon hardly enough time to know whether it's Patterson that is the one-way street going South or Hillyard. Nevertheless, despite having a talented third-year quarterback and some decent running backs in Joe Igber and Saleem Muhammad, Cal's offense hasn't been able to score half as many points as its opponents with the lone exception of putting a 28-31 scare into Washington two weeks ago.

Bellotti has remarked that "Cal is the best 0-4 team I've seen." Well, I guess he gets paid to see things we don't. But, other than the game against Washington, you have to admit that Cal has lost handily in every one of its contests this year: 17-44 against Illinois, 16-44 against BYU, and 20-51 against Washington State. However, what's really surprising is how poorly they've played on defense. The Cal pass efficiency defense ranks 112th in Division 1 college football. Total defense is 109th. Scoring defense is 112th. Pass defense is 115th. Their best defensive mark is 34th for rushing defense. Cal's best offensive statistic is 33rd in the nation for punting, averaging 42.2 yards per game. Throw is Cal's turnover margin ranking of 113th or minus 3.25 per game and you have to admit you've got a team on the rocks.

Yeah, yeah, I know it was a close game last year against the Ducks. And, the game two years ago in Berkley was a thriller won by Oregon on a defensive goal line stand. And, they did give Washington a close game two weeks ago. And, this is the Pac-10 conference where parity reigns supreme and any given team can beat another team on any given day. And, their backs are against the wall. And… And… And…

But the fact is Oregon is just too much for Cal. Now that we've had the chance to see every Pac-10 team play this year, I'd give Oregon the greater likelihood to beat Cal over any other team home or away. And, if Oregon has any idea of building on what it accomplished against Arizona last week, Cal will have lost the game by the third quarter, maybe sooner.

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