Colorado v. California: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s first game against the Bears since 2014

 

Passion in a fan base is good.

Passion shows that fans care.

The days after the 28-0 loss to Washington State, however, have been ugly (at least, if you visit CU fan sites). Frustration has turned to bitterness.

The Chuck Fairbanks “baby blue” years in the early 1980’s … those days were tough.

The 2006 season, with Dan Hawkins taking a team which had won four division titles in five years, and promptly driving it off a cliff … those days were tough.

The 2012 season, with Jon Embree guiding what was almost certainly the worst Colorado team in school history … those days were tough.

The 2017 season has been tough … because it has been so frustrating.

There does appear to be talent remaining from the 2016 team. The offense should be performing better. The offensive and defensive lines have been manhandled. The schemes are bad; the execution, worse.

The goodwill from the magical 2016 season has all but evaporated. Fans are calling for heads to roll.

It’s put up or shut up time for the Buffs against the Cal Bears this weekend.

Welcome to Homecoming, 2017 …

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Cal … Saturday, 12:00 noon MT, Pac-12 Networks

 

T – Talent 

If Steven Montez takes the field as the starter for Colorado Saturday, the CU homecoming game will be a battle of sophomore quarterbacks.

Ross Bowers (No. 3) is the Cal signal caller, and has completed 174-of-309 passes for 1,997 yards, with 12 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Eight of the ten interceptions, though, came in the first four games, with only two coming in the last four games (both against Arizona last weekend).

The leading rusher is Patrick Laird (No. 28), who has 530 yards and six rushing touchdowns this fall. In last weekend’s 45-44 double overtime loss to Arizona, Laird had a career-high 28 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns. A former walk-on who earned his scholarship in August, Laird is an avid reader. Why relevant? When Laird scores a touchdown, his touchdown celebration is to pretend to read a book.

Cal’s best receiver is Vic Wharton (No. 17). The junior wideout has 39 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Last Saturday, Wharton had a career-high eight receptions for a game-high 96 yards. Wharton’s running mate is Kanawai Noa (No. 9), who has 36 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bears will be without their best defensive player. Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week Devante Downs, the team’s leading tackler, will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a lower body injury against Washington State. Downs’ replacement, Jordan Kunaszyk, was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week for his 11-tackle, 2.5-sack effort against the Cougars (so, yes, Cal has had a player named the Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week three times this season).

The Bears also have several standouts on special teams.

Ashtyn Davis (No. 27) is second in the nation and first in the Pac-12 in kick returns (629), and has two returns of over 40 yards this season … including a 44-yarder against Arizona last weekend.

Matt Anderson is Cal’s active leader in scoring, with 280 points. In the next game or two, Anderson will surpass Doug Brien (288 points) as Cal’s all-time leading scorer. Anderson has made 81% of his career field goal attempts, and posted a 52-yarder against Arizona.

So … a number of Bears had good games against Arizona, when Cal posted a season-high 44 points and 473 yards of total offense.

 

I – Intangibles

The Buffs are saying all the right things:

– Quarterback Steven Montez: “This team is full of fighters. I think there’s fighters all over the place. We just get back into the film room, get back on the practice field, have another week at it, and we’ll get ready for Cal”;

– Safety Evan Worthington: “It’s frustrating, but we’re just going to keep moving on every week and just take every game by game”;

– Linebacker Rick Gamboa: “Leaders and captains, we have to push people a little more and be more accountable as leaders. No, I don’t think there’s bigger issues off the field. Everyone is buying in, everyone wants to win, everyone is giving it their all. It’s just little things here and there. Maybe a little more attention to detail at practice or in meetings.”

– Wide receiver Bryce Bobo: “We’re not very consistent and we’re not doing what we thought we would be doing this season. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and make something happen. We know what our record is. In our mind, we’re going to win the next four games.”

Fine.

Except that this is Game Nine.

When are the Buffs going to stop talking about being ready, being prepared, being excited … and, you know, actually do it?

We’re not there for the practices. We’re not in the meeting rooms. We’re not in the locker room just before kickoff and at halftime.

But we have seen lackluster play on the field. We have seen missed assignments. We have seen poor execution.

The Buffs supposedly spent nine months this past off-season targeting the Washington game (thus explaining the lackluster play in the non-conference games). Splat.

The Buffs were then hyped to take down UCLA and Arizona, teams they handled in 2016. Thud.

The play has been uninspired. We can blame the coaches. We can blame the players.

But if the Buffs don’t have it figured out by noon on Saturday, the Buffs will be home for the holidays.

If the team is not motivated to play this weekend, the season is over.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

The team is 4-4 overall.

The Pac-12 record? 1-4.

And yet, there is confidence and optimism.

We are talking, of course, about the Cal Bears.

Colorado and Cal both have wins over Big Sky Conference teams, blowout losses to Washington, and could have been/should have been close losses to Arizona.

The clearest distinction between the two teams is that Cal blew out Washington State … a week before the Cougars blew out the Buffs.

Cal, behind new head coach Justin Wilcox, is coming off of a 5-7 campaign in 2016, and was supposed to take a step back this fall. Instead, the Bears are in the hunt for a bowl bid, with the sentiment that better days are ahead.

Colorado, meanwhile, has the same record as Cal, and arguably an even better chance at a bowl bid … but far less optimism. If the fan sites are the measuring stick, every player other than Phillip Lindsay is subject to derision, and every coach other than Darrin Chiaverini should be replaced.

Is there still hope for the 2017 campaign?

Well, it comes down to Saturday … for both the Buffs and the Bears.

Both teams need two more wins to get to the magic number of six. After this weekend, the Buffs have two road games – Arizona State and Utah – with a home finale against USC sandwiched in between.

Cal, meanwhile, gets its easiest game – Oregon State – at home next weekend, before finishing the season with two road games, taking on Stanford and UCLA.

Normally, you would say that the team with two home games remaining would have a better shot at getting to six wins and bowl eligibility than a team with one home game and three road games. The way the Buffs are playing, though, the momentum seems to be on the side of the Bears.

If Cal can beat the Buffs, they will be only an easy win over Oregon State away from six wins. Conversely, if the Bears lose to the Buffs, they will have to win at Palo Alto or Pasadena to secure a chance at post-season play.

Colorado, meanwhile, either has to figure out how to beat USC (for the first time ever) or beat a resurgent Arizona State team on the road (for the first time ever), and/or defeat Utah on the road. Even with a win over Cal, there will still be doubt about the Buffs getting to six wins.

The winner of Saturday’s game has a leg up on a bowl bid.

Desperation time for both teams … which team can pull it together and post win No. 5?

 

S – Statistics

If you have been keeping up with the fan sites since the Buffs played Washington State Saturday night, you could well assume that the Cal Bears are world-beaters, while the Buffs can fight their way out of a paper bag. The stats for the season, though, are not so damning:

— Cal leads the nation in turnovers gained, with 21 (the Buffs have generated 13), and is second in the nation in interceptions, with 13. If you want a stat to track this Saturday … Cal is 4-0 when winning the turnover battle; 0-3 when losing it (0-1 when the margin is even);

— Cal is allowing 28.4 points per game (CU is giving up 24.6). The good news for Bears fans? Last season, the Cal defense was shredded for 42.6 points per game. The bad news for Bears fans? Cal is still 100th in total defense this season, giving up 433.4 yards per game, and is 100th in pass defense (258.0 yards per game);

— The Bears are not that much better on offense. California is 95th in total offense, posting 363.6 yards per game, and is 122nd in rushing offense, at 107.4 yards per game;

— Phillip Lindsay remains in the top ten nationally in rushing (7th; 136.6 ypg.) and all-purpose yards (9th; 155.38 ypg).

 

Bottom Line … Cal is not a great team.

The Bears do not have the talent of either Washington school. They do not have the same talent as UCLA, Arizona …

… or Colorado.

The Buffs have many players back who were starters for a 10-4 team last fall.

The Bears have many players back who were starters for a 5-7 team last fall.

First year Cal head Justin Wilcox, though, has his team believing.

Mike MacIntyre has his team talking about getting it right … next week.

There are 23 seniors on the 2017 CU roster; 19 of them fifth-year seniors. These players have two home games left in their careers. They have four games to win two in order to become the first Buff players to go to back-to-back bowl games since 2004-05.

They lived through the losing seasons. They were there for a Pac-12 South division title.

“We still have a lot left to accomplish,” senior running back Phillip Lindsay said at Tuesday’s weekly CU press conference. “For a lot of us, it is the last four or five games left in our college careers, so the sense of urgency is we’ll never play another down in black and gold after these five games. We want to go out with a bang. We want to leave everything out there.”

In order to earn a fifth game after the regular season finale in Salt Lake City, the Buffs have to get to at least six wins.

We’ll worry about six wins after CU gets to five.

It’s going to happen Saturday.

It has to happen Saturday.

Or … it could be years before the program is relevant in the Pac-12 again.

Colorado 31, Cal 24

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14 Replies to “CU v. Cal – A Preview”

  1. Well, got to see Beavers ‘almost’ take down the Tree. A CRAZY PAC 12 YEAR !
    In that the entire South Division seems to be headed that direction; I decided to look @ the remaining schedules for each team and see what it would take for the entire Division to finish with a 5-4 Conference record. (It’s what you do when the season has long since headed south)

    I chose 5-4 because that is the best the Buff’s can hope for this year, when they win out.

    AZ L,W,L,W,L; AZs L,L,L,W,W; CU W,W,W,W; UcLA L,L,W,W,W; usc W,L,L,L; UT W,W,W,L,L So, there it is every one @ 5-4 and good luck with the tie-breakers Larry Scott.

    It has to start today, Buff’s !!!! CU 31 – Cal 27

  2. So would Leavitt take a million five for the chance to be a head coach again? I think we could afford to pay macs contract plus a million five for three years…..

  3. Even though Mickey cannot see the mediocrity of Lindy (or refuses to admit it like he refuses to admit any mistake) I believe the Buffs will win, in spite of this five year trend of mediocre offense from Lindy and Mac.

    Clearly Chev has been neutered. It reflects in the WR play. (You have to know the WR’s know what is going on.)

    Clearly lindy is running the show. You can tell by the play design and play calling. It is in the typical Lindy vacuum unaffected by the real events taking place on the field. It is his plan and he will stick to it to the end….(INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH RODE THE 600) and then like his boss reference the players errors and incompetence…… blah blah blah ol codger/dodger.

    Clearly Mac is nervous. Nervous about what? Guess!! His actions on the field, toward the players and in the interviews indicate it.

    Regardless, I believe, I really do, the players can overcome this “millstone of duality” which was counter-balanced by the DC last year, and win this game.

    This one and one more. Not sure about the “one more” but feel good about this one ok?

    Uh Oh Buffalo

    Note: At least we won’t be up until the wee wee hours….Unless you resemble the Ol Coger and when it calls you get up to wee wee.

  4. Not sure how to feel about this one. Seems like on paper the BUFFS should win no problem. But that is not how this season is going. This is a very crucial game for Colorado. I don’t care how poorly people think ASU,USC & UTAH are playing. CU will have a difficult time finding 2 wins if they drop this game to CAL. If the Buffs win the turnover battle i think they come away with a win.

    COLORADO 29 CALIFORNIA 26

    GO BUFFS !!!!!

  5. Here is the perfect Stuart summary: First year Cal head Justin Wilcox, though, has his team believing … Mike MacIntyre has his team talking about getting it right … next week.

    Cal’s back went for 130 last week and now faces the Buffs who let Wazzu rush for 3x their season average. Scary. Can we coach up the D-line with 30 extra pounds for every guy except Javy?

    Feed Phil. Gotta be dogs.

  6. Javier Edwards being back makes me more hopeful for this game. The 3-4 scheme they’re bafflingly decided to stick to doesn’t work without someone being a giant immovable rock in the center, and the fall-off when Edwards was injured was pretty obvious.

    My hope is that Montez is the only one that plays, but since it seems clear that Mac has never really trusted Montez, I suspect we’ll see Noyer out there too, leading an offense that can’t get into any rhythm.

    On a related note, I don’t buy into Cal’s offense, and their apparent-beatdown of Wazzu was a bit of a “score doesn’t match what I saw” game: Wazzu continually shot themselves in the foot with a baffling array of fluke turnovers and misreads. I didn’t finish watching that game thinking to myself “Cal is legit!” I finished watching it thinking “every bounce went to Cal and WSU just self-destructed”.

    *IF* CU wins, they have an at least even-money shot to get to a bowl. USC looks worse with every passing week and so does Utah. Arizona State just doesn’t have the depth to keep this kind of performance up (the commentators noting how they basically substituted no one on defense on Washington raised my eyebrows).

    *IF* CU loses, they have almost zero shot to win another game, because I think we all get the sense that the program is one bad game against another bad team from going into a complete tailspin.

    CU 24, Cal 17. Montez gets 80% of the snaps with Noyer looking unimpressive and we can happily forget about manufactured QB controversies for the rest of the year.

  7. Nice “T.I.P.S” as usual. I liked the color commentary of “thud” and “splat”. Now all we need on Saturday, like a Marvel comic book, is some “Pow!” and “Boom!” from the Buffs! My head says that Cal has the momentum and the belief that they can win and the Buffs do not have either and that, logically, will be the difference in the end score. However, as with most things in life, emotion can easily overpower logic. The key, IMO, is if the senior leaders are truly leaders with passion and if Chev can bring some fire to the locker room and to the sideline. So, another bet from the heart:

    CU 31 Cal 28

    Go Buffs!!!

  8. Personally I think our bowl aspirations were over after the Arizona debacle. But as a fickle fan I am going to say the Buffs find some fight and pull out a heart stopper against the Bears 17 – 16. Giving us a ray of hope.

    GO BUFFS!

  9. “It’s going to happen Saturday.

    It has to happen Saturday.

    Or … it could be years before the program is relevant in the Pac-12 again.”

    Truer words…

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