1. So do you have a chance in the Civil War this year?
AndyPanda: It certainly seems like a slim one, unless Stanford injures a bunch of the Ducks. It may be that the sophistication of some NFL-style defenses that new secondary coach Rod Perry throws at Oregon may give them pause, but even the improvements he has brought have still allowed for a lot of damage to be done by mobile quarterbacks, and there aren't any more dangerous than Marcus Mariota.
rvm: Hmm, one game at a time. The quick answer here is yes, but will think about and validate this answer more after the Cal game.
2. How is this year's OSU team doing it after being a less than average team last season. What has changed from last year to this year?
AndyPanda: Maturity (physically and mentally) of what were a lot of very inexperienced players, an actual defensive secondary strategy, staying mostly healthy (the importance of this can not be over-stated; an issue Cal fans surely grasp fully after the way the Bears have been bruised and battered), and Coach Riley calling the plays.
rvm: Somehow, somewhere, the team came together as a team over the preseason. The defense is probably the main key, and they have come together much better as a team defense with a strong front, a very improved and strong linebacker core, and excellent coverage backs. I also feel that there were QB issues last year, and with the whole back and forth during the first few games it snowballed for the offense in terms of lacking confidence. What confidence was established in Mannion was established too late. This year was much more regular in that the QB battle took place before the first game, and this key leadership position was settled before they started to play. I feel this also made it easier for Vaz to come in when Mannion was hurt, for the team had its identity and could pull Vaz up and along with the team.
AndyPanda: Mannion is taller, and as a result he's not as subject to getting balls batted down by leaping defensive linemen. Vaz is more mobile, though. Mannion seems streakier, which can be bad, but can also be good when he is really on. Mannion seems more likely to engineer a blowout than Vaz, if there is to ever be one, though the biggest win came under Vaz's direction.
rvm: Mannion is the starter this year, and I just believe he has better overall field vision. I do like that Vaz zips balls in there more than Mannion, who has a bad habit at times of floating and leading receivers too much, but Sean just seems to see the field much better (when he isn't playing at Century Link). For me, Mannion also has a better mentality. When Vaz gets down he gets down, and Mannion has more leadership here. Sean is more about let's get back in there and make things right, more calculating, which to me fits a Riley offense very well. Taking the season as a whole I feel Mannion is just a better QB in my opinion. I think Vaz may have potential but I think Mannion's mental make up and field vision separates the two.
4. How can Cal shut down the OSU offense?
AndyPanda: Get pressure on the quarterback, especially if it is Mannion, enough so that checkdowns and sacks are the result of a number of pass plays. The Bears can not allow the ball to get to Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks very often.
rvm: Hope whoever starts at QB has another total brain-fart type of performance? Honestly I don't think they will be able to shut down the offense at Reser, but I would say to have a shot in the game Cal needs to keep the offense enough off-balance to keep the score low, but that then puts it into a more defensive battle and our defense is better than our offense.
5. How should Cal attack the OSU defense?
AndyPanda: Crossing and compound routes that force the safeties to have to communicate and make transitions in their defensive coverages, Mistakes and even hesitations in this area have produced many of the big plays against Oregon St. this year. Tight ends can also be a problem, as Stanford demonstrated last week.
rvm: I think Cal needs to win the line of scrimmage, and make it a smash-mouth, up the middle type of game, and have that open up some long passes every so often. OSU has too much speed and discipline this year for a team like Cal to stir it up with any consistency with lots of quick hits, reverses, and just going sideline-to-sideline. The quick, short, and wide game may work for a bit on this OSU defense, but they will adjust. Overall I have to be honest though, its going to be tough for Cal as I think the OSU defense will be as strong as usual, and to be honest, I feel that for OSU to lose this game it will take another poor offensive passing performance. Cal is going to have to win this with their defense.
6. Where advice would Mike Riley give to Jeff Tedford?
AndyPanda: Be patient. Its almost always Riley's response to any issue you can think of. But also do what you do best. Riley made a mistake in handing off play calling, something he does very well. That got him in hot water, and when he went back to doing what he does well, things turned around. If Tedford survives, Riley would probably suggest he make sure he doesn't fail by being distracted from where his strengths are.
rvm: Find a fast food joint and make that your theme!
7. Oregon State is one of those schools that definitely has some down years, but has some up years to balance those out. What kind of advice can you offer to another fanbase dealing with an underachieving team in terms of coping?
AndyPanda: Make sure at least most of your players are the kind of people you feel good about because of their commitment regardless of the level of success they have. You can hold a program together a lot longer in a bad stretch with good people than with bad actors you can't tolerate unless they win.
rvm: I'm more the weather the storm type, for I have been around for the REALLY down years in the 80s and 90s. so I know I'm not in the same school as the younger fanbase. Take this as you will, but you need to be patient with it all. I think if your program has a lack of money and resources, versus the big boys, you have to rely on the down years actually being transitional in nature. I think that at times these down years can be good for realignment, and are unavoidable. That said, I will say I did not see this type of season coming at us at all, and things maybe even look brighter over the next couple of years with our program, so don't give up hope!
8. Who is one player on offense that Cal fans should know about?
AndyPanda: You can't separate Wheaton from Cooks. They are a package deal, and how they go as a package, so goes the Beavers.
rvm: Storm Woods. I think he could be aligned to have a big game.
9. Who is one player on defense that Cal fans should know about?
AndyPanda: Jordan Poyer. He's the one player above all others the Bears can't afford to lose track of on any play.
rvm: Assuming you all know about Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer, so will go for look out for Andrew Seumalo and Sean Martin. Oh you said one? Hmm, okay how about D.J. Alexander (if he plays; he's struggling with possible rib problems).
10. Who to you want to punch in the face?
AndyPanda: Whomever in the officiating community decided playing pass defense is always a penalty, but no time should be wasted learning what is and is not holding. Not even Chip Kelly has changed the game as much as officiating that doesn't conform with what's actually written in the rule book.
rvm: I'm in my vibe right now and no one has mentioned the ducks for a bit of time so I'm cool.