“T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. California

The loss to Hawai’i was tough to take.

Nine months of buildup. Nine months of renewed hope. Nine months of expectations.

The Kool-Aid flowed freely in Boulder this past summer, with the parched Buff Nation drinking it up by the gallon.

Unfortunately, the fast train to the top of the Pac-12 South took a little detour in Honolulu.

And we’re back to square one.

Are these the Buffs that all the prognosticators pegged for no better than 5th in the Big 12 South? The Buffs which Sports Illustrated pegged as a 2-11 team (with one of those wins, by the way, supposed to come against Hawai’i)?

The bad news is that Colorado has to play Cal this next weekend, not the Bears’ 1-12 neighbor down the road, San Jose State (which UCLA will use this weekend to heal its wounds).

The good news – the Buffs do get to play.

So let’s take a look at this weekend’s matchup:

T – Talent

Cal lost its starting quarterback, Kevin Riley, and its top running back, Shane Vereen, to the NFL. The battle for the starting quarterback position was a major issue in Berkeley heading into the fall camp, with senior Brock Mansion (who started four games last season after Riley was injured) the early favorite. Instead, however, the starting role fell to Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo. What Maynard gives 10th-year head coach Jeff Tedford, who is calling the plays this season, is something he has rarely had to work with … a quarterback who is quick on his feet.

The running ability of Hawai’i quarterback Bryant Moniz caught the Colorado defense off-guard, as Moniz ran for more yards in the first half of the opener than he had in all of 2011. The Buffs won’t have surprise an as excuse this Saturday. Against Fresno State, a 36-17 Cal victory, Maynard had 53 yards rushing on only five carries. When he wasn’t keeping the ball, he was throwing to two of Cal’s returning stars, wideouts Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. The pair had 96 catches between them in 2010, and started off the 2011 season in fine fashion. Both had 100-yard games against the Bulldogs, with Jones collecting five passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while Allen caught eight Maynard offerings for 112 yards.

So, the quarterback can run and throw, and he has two quality receivers to throw to. Is there anything for Buff fans to hang their collective hats – and hopes – upon?

Well, the running game is not all that great – at least not yet.

When  junior Shane Vereen opted for the NFL last spring, there was a void left in the Cal backfield. Junior Isi Sofele is being asked to fill Vereen’s cleats. Coming into 2011, Sofele had only 81 carries for 420 yards and one touchdown in his career. Against Fresno State, Sofele got off to a good start, with 17 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Sofele runs behind a good, but not great, offensive line, a line which has three starters returning.

The quiet secret about the Cal, with all of the stories written about offensive genius Jeff Tedford and his line of quality quarterbacks, is that the Bears have an excellent defense. Of course, Cal held the Buffs to seven points in the 2010 rout, but the Cal defense was effective all season. Cal, despite a 5-7 record, was tops in the Pac-10 in passing defense and total defense, (ranked in the top 25 in both categories nationally), while the Bears also ranked in the top 40 in rushing defense and scoring defense (compare Colorado, which also had a 5-7 record last season, but was ranked 110th in pass defense, 83rd in total defense, and 91st in scoring defense).

The leader of the defense is linebackers Mychael Kendricks and D.J. Holt, both singled out by Colorado head coach Jon Embree in his weekly Pac-12 tele-conference. In the secondary, safety Steve Cattouse made a number of pre-season All-American lists. Last week, the unit held Fresno State to 210 total yards, and only two-of-14 on third down conversions (CU was two-of-12 against Hawai’i).

So, Cal has a running quarterback, quality wideouts, and a tough defense.

At least the game is at home this year …

I – Intangibles

At his weekly press conference, Jon Embree wasn’t buying into the revenge as a motivator for Cal’s visit to Boulder:

“I don’t buy into the revenge factor as much because it is a different team, a different staff, they have a different team. It is a big game because it is our home opener. It is a big game because it is the next game. That is what I am talking to this team about. And next week you will hear me say the same thing. We have to learn to focus and play the game at hand and the task at hand. We have to learn to be more about us, than the opponent. That we have to play at a certain level or standard and whatever happens, happens. Part of our issue is we get caught up a bit on who it is, where it is, all that, instead of just playing and playing at a certain level and letting whatever happens, happens.”

The schools have traded coaches this past off-season, with passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau and secondary coach Ashley Ambrose moving from Boulder to Berkeley, while the Buffs picked up offensive line coach Steve Marshall, who served in that capacity at Cal the past two seassons.

Any advantages to having inside knowledge about personnel?

Not really, said Ambrose. “All of these kids I know on a personal level, and an athletic level as well,” Ambrose told InsideBayArea.com. “I know what they do. They’re going to have to have what they want to do, scheme-wise, which is obviously very different from when I was there.”

P – Preparation / Schedule

On a number of occasions this fall, Colorado will be playing a team coming off of a bye week, but that will not be the case this weekend.

Colorado had the long flight home from Hawai’i on Sunday, but has Friday at home to rest and practice. Cal played at home last weekend, but will be using Friday as a travel day.

The Bears do have one scheduling advantage over the Buffs, however. While Colorado next weekend must face off against in-state rival Colorado State, Cal has the Division 1-A equivalent to a bye week … the Bears are returning home to play Presbyterian.

Yup. Presbyterian.

You know, the Presbyterian Blue Hose, of Clinton, South Carolina.

Last week, the Blue Hose lost a heart-breaker at home to Wofford in the 2011 season opener. Terrier quarterback Mitch Allen hit Jeff Ashley for a 26-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining to give Wofford a 35-28 victory after the Blue Hose had roared back from a 28-7 deficit. Presbyterian hopes to shake off the disappointment of that loss this weekend, taking on North Greenville in Clinton before crossing the continent to play Cal in San Francisco on September 17th.

Here’s guessing the Cal coaches did not do a great deal of game planning for Presbyterian this week: Advantage; Cal.

Still, there is one scheduling note which does favor the Buffs.

While Colorado’s road woes are well-documented, the truth is that Cal has some road trip concerns of its own.

Last season, Cal was 1-4 on the road, with the only victory coming over 2-10 Washington State (and by a 20-13 score). Three of the four road losses last season were blowouts: Nevada, 52-31; USC, 48-14; and Oregon State, 35-7. Overall, since 2005, Cal has posted a winning record on the road only once, in 2009 (4-2).

Okay, not much to go on, but it does bear keeping in mind that Cal was 5-7 last year, losing four of its last five games …

S – Statistics

After only one game, the 2011 statistics are certainly skewed. But there are some interesting numbers to keep in mind …

– Cal leads the all-time series with Colorado, 3-2. In each game, the team which scored first not only won, but never again trailed in the game. So – if the Buffs score first on Saturday, Buff fans can kick back and relax …

– The last time the two teams met in Boulder, it was the first home game for the Buffs’ new head coach, Bill McCartney. Cal, which also had a new head coach that day, Joe Kapp (of Minnesota Viking fame, if you are old enough), won the game, 31-17.

– Cal head coach Jeff Tedford is in his tenth season at Berkeley, compiling a 73-42 record. With his next victory, Tedford will tie Andy Smith for the most victories of any Cal head coach (Bill McCartney holds the record at Colorado, with 99).

– With just 157 yards of total offense (rushing and passing)  against Cal, Tyler Hansen will move into the top ten in school history in that category. Hansen is currently 13th (with 3,373 yards), but looks to pass David Williams (3,408), Steve Vogel (3,501), and Craig Ochs (3,530) this weekend – hopefully by halftime.

– Cal is 41-6 when winning the turnover battle under Tedford; 9-22 when the opponent generates more turnovers.

– The last time Colorado played a conference opponent in a non-conference game was in 1923 (v. Northern Colorado). With a nine-game league schedule, both Colorado and Cal will play ten of 11 possible league opponents, with the Buffs missing only Oregon State, and Cal only missing Arizona.

– The last time Jon Embree coached in Folsom Field was in 2003, as a coach for UCLA. The last time Embree coached in Folsom Field as a member of the CU coaching staff was in 2002, a 41-27 Colorado win over Iowa State.

4 Replies to “Preview – California”

  1. Was also at that Cal game with Joe Kapp. At least the rain mostly stopped in the second half, allowing Randy Essington a chance. But it wasn’t enough.

    Looking forward to some large improvement on “O” this week.

    What’s the skinny on Cal’s dis-satisfaction with Marshall?

  2. If I were Cal I would not overlook Presbyterian, Wofford damn near beat South Carolina last year. It is true that South Carolina was not a stellar team last year with five loses including a blowout to Auburn and Florida State in the bowl game but they did win the SEC weak division.

  3. I was at that game and I do remember us getting beat by Joe Kapp. What I remember the most about that game was that it started raining on Friday, rained all night and rained all during the game. It was a cold rain and it was miserable sitting there watching the Bears beat up on the Buffs. That is all I remember, so I hope to hell that through rain, sleet, snow or sunshine that the Buffs play hard and give it their all and come out on top.

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