California 101: Home Away From Home

THE COUGS AND BEARS are kindred spirits it would seem. Both teams are trying to claw their way into bowl contention. Getting blown out by struggling UCLA last week was not what the doctor ordered for Jeff Tedford. With road games at Stanford and ASU remaining, the Bears know they likely need to sweep WSU and OSU at home to go bowling.

But "home" is on the other side of the bay while the remodel continues at Memorial Stadium.

Cougars (3-5) vs Golden Bears (4-4)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
AT&T Park (44,750)

TELEVISION:
Root Sports-NW in the state of Washington, Comcast SportsNet California

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Cal by 9.5

LAST MEETING:
Cal won 20-13 in 2010 in -Pullman.

THE SERIES:
Cal leads 42-25-5.

CF.C PREDICTION:
See below

THE BEARS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Zach Maynard, QB: A hot or cold, dual-threat quarterback of the efficient variety who has struggled recently. Threw four picks in the disastrous loss to UCLA and is on a very short leash headed into the WSU game. Brock Mansion would be his likely replacement.
Isi Sofele, RB: The Bears seem to have finally broken their run of NFL ready running backs, but Sofele is a serviceable workhorse but not the gamebreaker the Bears have become accustomed to having. He is capable, however, of stringing together 10-yard runs if a defense doesn't stay focused. He averages 88 rushing yards per game.
Keenan Allen, WR: The All-American combines with Marvin Jones to form one of the most dangerous receiving tandems in the country. Averaging over 123 yards per game, Allen is California's top offensive threat.
Overview
Cal generally runs a pro-style offense. They rely on Allen and Jones to open the defense up as they have very limited options beyond them. Sofele keeps the chains moving and Maynard makes plays with his feet when the plays break down.

Strategy
Cal runs the ball pretty effectively behind Mitchell Schwartz on the left side but the overall running game hasn't been very impressive of late. Contain Allen and Jones with double coverage as none of the other receivers offer as much of a threat. Maintaining a pass rush is essential as Allen is all but unguardable if he has time to work and Maynard can get on a roll if he's given a strong pocket.

THE BEARS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Mychal Kendricks, ILB: The All-Pac outside linebacker was moved inside to take over for the departed Mike Mohamed. He's handled it well and leads the team in tackles.
Sean Cattouse, S: The All-American again leads the team in interceptions but is having to spend more time in run support.

Overview
The Bears run a 3-4 defense that is less than the sum of its talent. Utah is the only Pac-12 team to score less than 30 points against them, although some of that has also been on the offense allowing favorable field position. Still, Cal got absolutely run over last week for 300 yards against the Bruins, with the QB accounting for more than half that total. Oregon also ran wild on them three weeks prior. Stanford and Washington shredded them through the air. But their flaws are difficult to pinpoint. The group isn't small, slow, or inexperienced. They generate strong decent pass rush and at times look solid against the run. The defensive front has turned in some very strong plays, it's just that you don't know what you'll get from one play to the next. Their issues might be from players trying to "help" and getting away from their assignments.

Strategy
Protecting Marshall Lobbestael should be a huge priority. He can be so effective when he has time. But this is exactly where Cal will put its focus. Therefore, the Cougars are likely to use the swing passes, slants and screens that looked so effective against the aggressive Ducks last week.

THE BEARS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Punter Bryan Anger has been a Ray Guy Award finalist three of the past four seasons. Senior kicker Giorgio Tavecchio has been very inconsistent, but is reliable inside of 40 yards.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-Its hard to believe a coach with a 76-46 record at Cal could be on the hot seat, but Bear fans are demanding more for their $2.8 million a year investment than Tedford has been delivering in recent years. With a $321 million stadium remodel nearing completion, the Bears need to have a respectable finish if Tedford wants to be the one who reopens the doors.

-The temporary move to AT&T Park hasn't offered much of a home field advantage for Cal. The Bears have averaged only 37,000 fans and declining at their home games. The loss to UCLA will do little to inspire attendance.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougs 37, Bears 33

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