Cal 101: Golden Opportunities

LAST WEEK served Cal well, they ended a devastating, and surprising, two game losing streak to dispatch UCLA 45-26 last Saturday. The Cougs hope to have made similar strides during their time off as they head to Strawberry Canyon with the aim of catching the Golden Bears hibernating. Sooner or later, WSU ought to catch a team napping. Is Cal a potential candidate?

Cougars (1-5) vs Golden Bears (4-2)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
1:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Memorial Stadium (75,000)

TELEVISION:
None

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

THE LINE:
Cal by 35

LAST MEETING:
Cal won last year 66-3.

THE SERIES:
Cal leads 40-25-5

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 28, Bears 27

THE BEARS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Kevin Riley, QB: One of the few veterans quarterbacks in the conference, Riley has good mobility but loses accuracy under pressure. Fans were calling for his head after the offense generated just 3 points against both Oregon and USC.
Jahvid Best, RB: Arguably the best offensive player in the Pac-10 and some also say the best running back in the country. Fantastic speed and agility makes him a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Backup Shawn Vereen is outstanding too.

Overview
The Pac-10's top scoring offense returned to form against the Bruins after a two week absence. While most people think of Cal's passing attack, the Tedford offense is actually highly run oriented. Cal will feed Best at every opportunity, then burn you with the play action deep ball. They mix in a large variety of formations, motion, and misdirection, but it is mostly window dressing. They will in essence run the same play with lots of different pre-snap looks in order to exploit adjustments in the defense. How to beat Cal? The offense falls apart when Best can't get into space and when Riley can't hit his longer passes.

Strategy
The Tedford offense really isn't as complex as its reputation. Its efforts to be deceptive and confusing almost act as tells at times. Pre-snap motion generally means a running play. Unusual receiver formations generally mean run play or run equivalent short pass plays. Don't let the bells and whistles distract from the base defense. Linebackers need to keep focus on Best and/or Vereen in the backfield. Safeties need to avoid biting on the play action pass and keep the receivers in front of them. Make Cal beat you through the air, and with as many passes as possible. Big plays will happen when going against Cal, but make them earn their points the hard way.

THE BEARS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Syd-Quan Thompson, CB: Cal's top corner is a four year starter, but Thompson is a question mark after suffering a hip injury against UCLA. His absence would create a hole in a previously dependable slot.

Overview
Cal runs a base 3-4 defense. Their defensive players are pretty large, but they play undersized, which is dangerous with a 3 man line. As a result they tend to focus heavily on run stopping. They have been granted that luxury as they have excellent team speed and a very experienced secondary.

Strategy
The Bears focus heavily on the point of attack. Loosen them up by attacking the sidelines. Look to move the pocket early and often. Corners are almost continuously in man coverage. Take the yards they give you and stay in control of the football. Lull them to sleep and use trickeration when they get impatient. The Bears' speed can be used against them, and misdirection can work well against Cal if properly executed.

THE BEARS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kickoffs and placekicking have been an issue for the Bears, they have used both Giorgia Teveccio and Vince D'Amato at different times. Neither has much range.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Cal may be feeling overconfident following the win over UCLA, which was closer than the score indicates. The Bears dialed up a lot of big plays, but the Bruins moved the ball at will against their defense. Washington State's biggest challenge is on the offensive line, where they look certain to get one starter back in Zack Williams, while two others in Steven Ayers and B.J. Guerra remain highly questionable. That means WSU could again be forced to turn to guys who are not ready to hold their own, and Jeff Tuel could again have little time. The Cougs simply must do better up front, however, than they did against ASU and quicker decisions need to be made. Fast developing runs and passes, along with better blocking by the wide receivers, would be a good start.


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