"It's kind of fun, but it can be distracting, because I'm not just watching x's and o's," Ludwig was saying this week. "Every player's got a story, and I know most of those stories."
That's why the story of this bowl game, as much as anything, is Andy Ludwig vs. the Utes. Mix in the longtime friendship between him and Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, the reunion with the offensive coaches he supervised for four seasons and the mixed views of his schemes in Salt Lake City, and we have the makings of an intriguing evening in San Diego.
"Fun for you, maybe," Ludwig clarified for a visitor, smiling.
As for himself, Ludwig again must find ways to attack Whittingham's aggressive defense -- having lost to the Utes in previous existences with Fresno State and Oregon -- and figure out his own offense, the group that averages 29 points but never scores 29 points, exactly.
"We either scored 50 or three," Ludwig said, barely exaggerating. "If I could explain it, I'd fix it."
Among fans, little sense of loss was publicly registered last December when Ludwig announced he would be leaving (initially, joining the Kansas State staff, before moving again in February) after the Sugar Bowl. Partly because of having to follow the dynamic Alex Smith/Urban Meyer offense, Ludwig never was embraced.
Even last season, when Utah won every game, much of the credit went to senior quarterback Brian Johnson for directing rallies against Oregon State and Texas Christian and orchestrating a no-huddle offense that stunned Alabama in the first quarter.
That scheme was Ludwig's parting shot. Yet, true to his self-effacing nature, he described the strategy as his effort to "take the coaches out of the game."
Whittingham ("Andy did a very good job for us") and Johnson ("He definitely made me the player that I was") need little prompting to praise Ludwig's contributions. After a season when Whittingham took some duties away from Dave Schramm, Ludwig's successor, and Utah five times settled for field goals in a loss to BYU, perhaps the glee in Uteville regarding the departure has lessened somewhat.
In any case, Schramm and play-caller Aaron Roderick now have to live up to Ludwig's 4-0 bowl record with the Utes, with averages of 32 points and 438 yards.
After the jump we have more on the decision to seat Best for the bowl game as well as his thoughts on his post-season plans, more previews of the Cal-Utah matchup, 20 questions with Max Zhang, and more.
SFGate recaps the decision to keep Best out of the bowl game. With the bowl decision made, Best's final decision for the season is whether or not the 2009 season will have been his last with Cal. Right now he says he's on the fence about the decision.
- JO's Wednesday night update brings more bad news: Matt Summers-Gavin has not practiced at all and is day-to-day with his concussion. Tedford spoke with all the team's juniors about declaring for the NFL draft. Not surprisingly, Best is the only one interested so far. Though JO says Cam Jordan has good measurables, he has no interest in declaring for the draft this year.
- ESPN's Bowl Dash predicts a 24-21 Utah victory. This yet another prediction that expects Utah will be happy to be at the bowl game while Cal will be ambivalent.
- After battling through a virus that left lesions on his brain and spinal cord, Utah DT Kenape Eliapo will return in the Poinsettia Bowl. He is expected to play about twenty snaps.
- Buster Sports hands out various Pac-10 awards. Cal's only mention was part of Best's "Play we loved/hated seeing" award for the leap that led to the concussion that ended his season.
- Farudo does 20 questions with Max Zhang. Max talks about everything from his favorite food, his least favorite sport, and which has better looking girls: China or Berkeley.