"Chase Daniel, scrambling for the open receiver in our hearts!" via blogs.chron.com
Now that it has been proven that Cal has no chance achieving anything this year or any other, it's a giant free for all off the bandwagon. There's no honor here. It's every man, woman, and clown for themselves. So, what bandwagon are you jumping on? Me? I'm going for Mizzou. That Chase Daniel is so dreamy!
But before you make that giant leap into Tiger-land (it's too late for me!), maybe we should take a look at the situation as it really is. Instead of how we perceive it. For all the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes, if you actually look at the schedule going forward, things don't seem all so bad. Let's take a look.
The first thing I want to note is that we only have 3 road games left. Three! 3! The season has barely started and we've already done pretty much half our road games. We'll discuss that more further, but let that be the opening salvo of optimism. I'm going to go through each team left on our schedule and look at where they stand today. At the end, I'll have some closing thoughts.
First up, we have the bye. If we lose to that, let's just all quit the blog.
After that potentially harrowing experience, there is an actual game:
September 27: Colorado State.
Colorado State currently stands at 1-1. They got blown off the block against Colorado and then managed to squeak out a win against SacState. This is a team that is "supposedly" inferior to Cal. Many people said the same thing about Maryland. The difference is a)this game is at home, b)Cal will have had 2 weeks to stew after the humiliating Maryland defeat, and c)this team is not as good as Maryland. If we do not defeat Colorado State, well, then, Cal is not the team we thought they were.
October 4, Arizona State
ASU beat up on Northern Arizona and then Stanford. Not that shabby! But then they lost, at home, to a fairly unassuming UNLV squad. Even with their unexpected defeat, they are still a dangerous team. But the UNLV game exposed them in a manner similar to our Maryland game. This is a team that definitely could put Cal on its heels early and is not one to be taken lightly. I do not feel confident about this game. But if we see MSU Cal, I think we can take it.
Then. Another bye.
October 18, at Arizona
Here, we have a potentially improved Arizona team. They ravaged Idaho and Toledo. There was some buzz about them, but then suffered a solid loss at New Mexico. That certainly has killed the buzz. At Arizona has been a house of horrors for teams in recent years, but oddly enough only in November. This game is in October. I feel reasonably confident about this game.
October 25, UCLA
We all know how UCLA started their year off with a rousing victory over Tennessee. Hopes were high, but then they got mushroom slapped by BYU. How UCLA responds to the BYU game will determine how the rest of their season goes. They have major injury problems, a new coaching staff, and minimal talent across the board. I feel reasonably confident about this game.
November 1, Oregon
Oregon is definitely a strong competitor in the Pac10 this year. But they have had some rough injury problems. They dominated UDub and Utah State, but then struggled to beat Purdue (receiving yet another QB injury during that game). Like you have heard many times already in this post so far, buzz was building, but took a big hit over the weekend. If MSU Cal shows up, I feel like we can take this game. Especially if their injuries continue to pile up. I am happy it is at home. I am happy our two toughest remaining non-USC games are at home. I don't feel confident about this game at all, but think Cal can definitely win it.
Then, we face USC. I'm not going to waste your employer's valuable time even looking at this one. You know as well as I that, yknow, we aren't exactly in their league. It's kind of like USC is my wife and Cal is me. And if we beat USC, people will be as shocked as they were when my wife agreed to marry me. If not more so. And believe me, people were pretty, pretty shocked!
November 15, Oregon State
Oregon State is kind of on the opposite path. Instead of dominating teams and then losing embarassingly over the weekend, they lost to Stanford and Penn State and then destroyed last year's BCS darling, Hawaii. Of course, OSU seems to be like Arizona insomuch as they peak near the end of the year. So, early season disappointments aside, all that matters is how they are playing at the end of the year. Normally, I would feel confident about this one, but, honestly, I don't anymore. They bounced back in an easy way against Hawaii. And its at Corvalis in the end of the year.
November 22, Stanford
Stanford started the year off with an exciting victory over highly regarded OSU. But they were unable to build off that momentum, dropping the next two games in rough fashion to ASU and TCU. Both away games. While we have 5 road games this year, Stanford has 5 home games. With so many away games, it could be a long season for the Cardinal this year. The week before they face us, they face USC. Could be a difficult loss for them and demorialize them further. I think our Cal team will be out for revenge in a big way here. I feel reasonably confident about this game.
December 6, Washington
Washington, well, they've had an odd season. That odd loss to BYU sandwiched between a shellacking by Oregon and Oklahoma. They showed some definite promise in the BYU game, but it doesn't appear that this is their year. Last year, they beat us in humiliating fashion up in Seattle. By the time this game rolls around, Willingham either will be gone or in his last game. I feel pretty confident about this game.
First and foremost, only 3 away games left. Let's just count out USC now. Of those other two, let's split them. Both are teams that we should, in theory, beat. But, Cal has had problems on the road in recent years. Especially late on the road. So, let's say we go 1-2 in the remaining road games. Not great, but that puts us at 3-3, 2-2 in conference.
Of the home games, if this Cal team plays anything like the team we saw play against MSU, we should (should) beat Washington, Colorado State, Stanford, and UCLA. That puts us at 7-3, 5-2 in the conference. That leaves ASU and Oregon. We could as much beat both of those teams as we could lose to both of them. So, let's split them. 8-4, 6-3 in the conference. That seems to be a solid and reasonable expectation for this team.
The sad truth is that given how the non-USC Pac10 has gone, 6-3 might be enough to get 2nd place. It's a wide open race. That alone is enough to make me feel optimistic. Sure, we had a disappointing plop on Saturday. But what other team made you sit up and say "They can be second!" None! It's unfortunate that our goal doesn't appear to be first. And I'd love to beat USC and win it all, too.
But let's just try to be realistic here. And optimistic. I think after this past weekend, some optimistic realism just might be what we need. Oh and Chase Daniels. GO BEARS!