Pre-Camp Expectations Roundtable

TwistNHook:  Hydro thought it might be prudent to take a look at pre-camp expectations.  But he's too shy to start the conversation and I'm a loud mouthed ogre!  A lot can change over the course of the camp (like injuries and the ilk).  But what are our expectations for the 2008 football season as of late July?  Are we thinking Rose Bowl Bound Bears?  Are we hoping to make a bowl at all?

Ragnarok: Well, I think, at a minimum, we expect another winning season.  Yes, there are questions about the receivers, and we've yet to see whether Jahvid Best is the every-down back we all hope he is, but there's a lot of talent waiting in the wings, and with a rather favorable schedule, I think even 7-5 would be a disappointment.

Also, we expect to get the Axe back.  There aren't a lot of things that could make me turn against Tedford, but losing to the 'Furd for the second straight year would be one of them.

Yellow Fever:  I'm expecting at least 8-4 and a Sun Bowl berth.  That's third in the Pac-10, right?  I don't know if there are any legitimate reasons for high expectations, but I just get the feeling that the team is definitely better than how it played at the end of last year.  Even with all of the receivers gone and the quarterback controversy over the team, each game seems eminently winnable, even USC.  That one might be a bit of a stretch, but there's always some question anytime there's a new quarterback coming in.  So I can see our Bears winning every game.  But that might be because I've got rose colored glasses at all times.

Rose_colored_glasses_medium

via www.nowandfutures.com

The California Golden Blogs Official Rose Colored Glasses From 2007.

TwistNHook:  I like your rose colo(u)red glasses.  But I have to wonder what Hydro has to say about this.

HydroTech:  Hydro is busy right now.  He'll respond later tonight.

TwistNHook:  Damn.  Talking about oneself in the 3rd person.  Selfishly refusing to take part in the team effort.  Sounds like we got a big of a diva on our hands here, don't we?

CBKWit:  One might say he's "Longshoring" this roundtable with his selfish, me first attitude.  We should rename him MeDroTech.  (NAILED IT!)

As the second, third, or fourth most qualified person to discuss football (Twist, you're the most qualified to discuss...well, I'm sure there's something), I'm very excited for our pass defense.  Judging by the number of balls our DBs intercepted (much less batted down or otherwise defensed) this spring, new secondary coach Al Simmons is as good as advertised.  Coupled with Syd's evolution into a possible all-league corner, I think our pass defense will surprise most Cal fans.  And after watching the DLine provide substantial, consistent pressure throughout the spring (I know how strange that sounds, you'll just have to trust me), I'm optimistic that our defense will be formidable against the pass.  I think it will be one of the strengths of the team.

Unfortunately, I think our run defense could be suspect because of the nose tackle position.  Derrick Hill is a talent, but he hasn't played much yet, and Mika Kane has been unspectacular.  If either of these guys step up (and if we avoid injuries to our top players), our defense could be really good.

HydroTech:  Oh no you didn't.  You did not just call me a "diva."  (Z snap).

TwistNHook:  Well, I just checked the transcript of this Roundtable and I am pretty sure he did call you a diva.

Diva_medium

via www.vintage-diva.com

Artist's rendering of HydroTech. 

HydroTech:  I thought it'd be a good idea to sort of get a discussion going on what we expect of our team next year since fall camp is rolling around soon.  So our good friend Ken Crawford predicts 9 wins, YellowFever says at least 8 wins (fyi for the readers, we're talking regular season and not counting the bowl game), and Rags thinks 7 wins would be a bit of a disappointment.  Twist doesn't think since he has a rock for a brain, and CBKWit is dead to me. 

Well, as I've stated earlier, I'm expecting somewhere between 10-6 wins.  I like giving a range of predicted wins instead of a number because inevitably a team will win one they probably weren't supposed to and lose a few they weren't supposed to lose.  I think if the dice rolls our way we could be a 10 win darkhorse BCS bowl candidate (if we don't win the Pac-10 outright), or another Armed Forces Bowl team if the dice rolls the other way. 

If I had to put my money down on our win total, I'd say 8 wins is probably par but a very very safe par.  I think our team is also very capable of winning 9 games.  Frankly, I'm torn between deciding whether we'll take 9 Ws or 8 Ws next year.  Maybe I should say 8.5.  Anyways, if Lady Luck doesn't put on a strap-on and mount us for a game or two, if we avoid major injuries, if our new shiny 3-4 defense works better than last year's defense, and if our offense does it's usual thing of putting around 30-40 points a game (which is what I think we should come to expect from a Tedford offense) then I think we should expect to win all but 2-3 games on our schedule.  Our course, things don't always go our way that's why I'm saying 8 wins. 

Anyways, are all of our expectations reasonable?

Ah, and there's that key word.  "Reasonable" expectations.  What are reasonable expectations? 

TwistNHook:  Nate Longshore wins the Heisman?

HydroTech:  Do we have a mute button here?  Either way, I've heard some Cal fans say we should make the Rose Bowl this year and if we don't that perhaps Tedford isn't the one.  But is calling the Rose Bowl par for the season really reasonable?  I think some people forget that there is a difference between goals and expectations.  Every year, our goal for the team should be National Championship, Rose Bowl, or another BCS bowl (in that order).  But our expectations have to be tempered to the realities of the team's situation.  As Rags and Yellow point out, we have fresh WRs and a bit of a QB controversy.  We're not sure if Best will be healthy or that every down back we need (although Tedford claims Best is an every down back).  On defense we're not sure if we have that dominant NT (for that matter a dominant DL) to keep the OL off our LBs.  We're not sure who will be starting opposite of Syd.  It looks to be Conte who played pretty well for a freshman but still had his moments of getting beat.

We certainly have some ?s regarding next season which I think make a 8-9 win season a pretty reasonable expectation, with small chances at a 10 win season.  Of course, there is always the possibility we get hit with injuries or a critical call doesn't go our way and we stumble to a 6-7 win season.  Anyways, I've talked long enough.  What say you, fellow CGB writers?  Are our expectations reasonable given the circumstances of our team?

CBKWit:  "Reasonable."  I like that, Hydro.  I like you.  I really do! 

When you write things like "But is calling the Rose Bowl par for the season really reasonable?  I think some people forget that there is a difference between goals and expectations.  Every year, our goal for the team should be National Championship, Rose Bowl, or another BCS bowl (in that order).  But our expectations have to be tempered to the realities of the team's situation.", I get all tingly inside. 

Aside from SC, there are no teams in the pac-10 (and very few in the country) that can "expect" to compete for the national title every year.  Tedford has done a remarkable job to put Cal in a position to compete for the national title (2004) and the rose bowl (2006), but our recruiting and depth are not yet sufficient to expect this on a yearly basis.  What is a more relevant question, perhaps, is whether or not this year's potential is satisfactory within a larger context.  A year after losing a school record number of players to the NFL draft, we probably shouldn't expect to win the Pac-10.  But are satisfied with the prospect of winning 6-10 games in a "down" year?  Should we consider 7 wins or less a disappointment, considering all of the question marks regarding our personnel?

I'm expecting 8 wins this year.  This will probably change once we see the team in fall camp, but right now there are too many questions for me to expect more wins and too much talent to expect less.  Furthermore, I would be satisfied with an 8 win campaign in what appears to be a down year.  Once the SAHPC is built (oh happy day!), I will expect more every year, but for this season, in the context of what Tedford has accomplished, 8 wins seems a reasonable and satisfactory expectation.

Ragnarok:  So, it sounds like 8 wins is the consensus expectations, though none of us would be surprised to see another 10-win season.  That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Is this a 'down' year?  I tend not to think so.  8 wins -- our minimum expectation -- would be an improvement over last year.  Sure, there are question marks going into fall camp, as we struggle to fill in for departed seniors, but what team doesn't have those?  Even USC has question marks, it's just that they have 5-star recruits vying for a chance to fill those spots.  Cal doesn't have that luxury, but there's still plenty of talent on our roster.

To me, the question mark this year -- the difference between 8 wins, a middle of the Pac finish, and 10 or 11 wins, challenging USC for conference supremacy -- is the team leadership, both from the coaches and from the players themselves.  Moreso than Nate's ankle, that was truly our team's downfall last year, and it's something that is going to have to get fixed.

To get back to the 'expectations' theme of this post, I would say that I expect our coaches to produce a more disciplined team this year, one more capable of weathering the ups and downs of the season, and I expect some of our juniors and seniors to step up and become leaders for this team, helping the coaches achieve this goal.  I can live with our team getting beat by a more talented team.  I can even live with less talented teams out-scheming our team (as unlikely as that is to happen as long as Tedford is our coach).  What I can't stand (and I don't think I'm alone here) is our team getting beat by less talented teams that are more focused and disciplined than ours.  I expect last year's problems to be resolved, and if that happens and Cal still get beat by 4 teams that are more talented, have better schemes, or are just plain luckier than ours, 8-4 will still leave me quite satisfied.

Yellow Fever:  Hey, did anybody see what Hydro put in his SBN rider?  I have to bring him chilled water every hour on the hour.  And we have to decorate with only white lilacs.  What a diva!
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