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The Burfict Juggernaut - Cal Versus Arizona State Football In 2011

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TwistNHook: At least this year, our post-Thanksgiving Game is away. No half-filled Memorial this year.

But we're finishing up the year against an ASU team with a lot of hype going into the 2011 season. Is this the year it all finally clicks for Dennis Erickson and his Sun Devils?

Berkelium97: Someone is going to be embarrassed in this game. This is the Bears' eighth game in as many weeks and the Sun Devils' fifth game in a row. To make things worse, this is only six days after each team's rivalry game. If ASU or Cal loses to its respective rival, you can bet that team is going to sleepwalk through this game. The final factor in this trifecta of horror is that this is the day after Thanksgiving. Is there any reason to believe that either team will be motivated to play in this game?

Atomsareenough: I'm going to go out on a limb and say Cal probably loses this one. First off, I'm apparently the only non-ASU fan who thinks they're going to be a decent team this year. Hopefully we'll both be bowl-eligible by this point, but I'm wondering if ASU might be in the running for the Pac-12 South crown. That would give the Sun Devils something to play for. Secondly, I think we've only won a single post-Big Game game in the past few years, and that was back in 2008.

Anyway, I just don't have a good feeling about this one.

HydroTech: So it seems like Arizona State is the sexy underdog pick for Pac-12 surprise of 2011. Count me as one of the skeptics. People are saying how they have a good defense supported by their stud linebacker Burfict. Sure. He's a good player. But then I'm also hearing that their QB Osweiler is also pretty good. I'm not sure if I can agree with that. I watched last year's Arizona/ASU game (the double overtime stunner), and Osweiler didn't strike me as a great QB. In his defense though, just one week earlier he had an off the charts game against UCLA where his passer rating was over 200 (four TD passes, 75% completion rate). But then again... that was against UCLA.

I just don't know what to think about this ASU team. I think Berkelium97 brings up some good points that both teams have a short week to prepare for this game and should one of the teams lose their rivalry game, they could be very prone to losing this game.

I see this as being a pretty close game.

Berkelium97: Hydro makes a good point. I have heard over and over about how Osweiler threw for over 600 yards with 5 TDs in his two games as a starter. Of course, nearly 400 of these yards and 4TDs came against UCLA, whose passing defense was nothing special. Against Arizona, Osweiler threw for 267 yards, but that was on 49 attempts. That's a lousy 5.4 yards per attempt. And Arizona's pass defense was not much better than UCLA's. If I am skeptical of the young Osweiler, it is because we Cal fans also thought we had the a prodigy-in-the-making at QB when a youngin named Kevin Riley dazzled us in the Armed Forces Bowl against an underwhelming Air Force defense. ASU might not offer much in terms of academics, but I bet that by the end of the season several fans will be very familiar with the term "regression to the mean."

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom for Osweiler. First, he's blessed with a 6' 8" frame and he is surprisingly mobile despite his size. Second, the O-line returns all but one player from the two-deep. Sure, they gave up 31 sacks (that's 8 more than the Bears), but they ought to improve and they are much better than when Erickson first arrived (we all remember that 54 sack season, right?). Third, ASU has considerable experience at receiver. Though Kerry Taylor was the top target with 54 receptions and 699 yards, the returning players combined for over 220 receptions and more than 2700 yards. None of the receivers are household names (maybe not even in households in Tempe), but they were serviceable last season.

Still, it's tough to envision ASU as a team whose passing game will rival that of Stanford, USC, Arizona, and Utah.

TwistNHook: Most of USA Today's Players To Watch for ASU are defensive players. What does this mean for a team that people think will put up big offensive numbers?

LB Vontaze Burfict -- He'll be playing for his draft status as a true junior in 2011. He has all the physical tools, but he'll help himself if he plays with more emotional control.

RB Cameron Marshall -- A physical runner, Marshall rushed 150 times for 787 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore in 2010. With Marshall and speedy Deantre Lewis (92 carries on 529 yards as a true freshman), the Sun Devils seem set at tailback for the next two seasons.

LB Brandon Magee -- He made 73 tackles as a junior on the weakside. With Magee, Vontaze Burfict and plenty of other experience at the other outside linebacker position, Arizona State could have one of the best linebacker groups in the country.

CB Omar Bolden -- He's a big-play performer who had three interceptions and returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a junior. The All-Pac-10 corner thought about leaving for the NFL Draft.

NorCalNick: Ahh, but one of the reasons many aren't so bullish on ASU is because the above-mentioned Omar Bolden injured his knee and will almost certainly be out for the season. It's entirely unclear if the USA today had any clue about that, though!

TwistNHook: The article said it was posted early Friday morning August 12, 2011.

What are people's score predictions in this game?

Kodiak: This has all the earmarks of an ugly, ugly game. And I'm not just talking about the ASU crowd. Both defenses look to be pretty solid. Although I would give us the edge on a neutral field or at home, playing on the road after a rivalry game can be tough. Just look at our results against UW the past couple of years.

A flat Cal team could find itself getting punched in the mouth all game. Whichever team can establish some semblance of a running game will probably win. Or, it may come down to some momentum-changing big play like a turnover or something related to special teams.

I'd love to see Galas pancake Burfict again and then see Burfict go ape. On the other hand, I'm somewhat worried that Vontaze is going to eat Sofele.

Sadly enough, I'm not all that optimistic about this one. I think we're the better team. But I'm just not sure if we're be in the proper emotional mindset to play our best.

Berkelium97: Despite having enormous draft potential, Vontaze Burfict has not yet demonstrated that he can control his emotions. In the first week of camp he was involved in a locker room altercation with a teammate. We might be able to take advantage of this on the field, like MSG and a couple other O-linemen did in the '09 Big Game: talk some trash to the opponents, get in their heads, and distract them from doing their jobs. Of course, as Kodiak mentioned, this could go horrifically wrong and result in Burfict going absolutely nuts.

OhioBear: I actually think playing on the road on Thanksgiving weekend is better for the team's focus. But even so, I agree that this game could go horrifically wrong, especially if ASU is in the mix for the South title and we (Bak Bak forbid) have nothing to play for.

That said, I hesitate to buy into ASU. We have had good success against them, both at home and in Tempe. We've won 7 of 8 against them in the Tedford era and have scored half a hundy in 3 of those games (and 49 in another one).

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, Burfict commits only 3 personal foul penalties. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, all of them prolong Cal scoring drives. Cal wins 21-17.

Berkelium97: After a 59-minute defensive battle, Cal is driving towards the endzone until Maynard throws a pick to--who else--Burfict. Burfict steamrolls a couple players en route to a game-winning pick six as time expires. A victory gives ASU a 6-3 record and a tie with USC and Utah in the Pac-12 South, but ASU's victory over the Utes sends them to the Pac-12 Championship game. Well, almost. As Burfict scores the winning TD he goes apetit in the endzone and is assessed an excessive celebration penalty. The penalty nullifies the TD and regulation is over. In OT Chris McCain uses his go-go-gadget arms to intercept Osweiler. Tavecchio hits a field goal to give Cal a 3-0 victory. Burfict, still fuming from the excessive celebration penalty, tears down a goalpost with his bare hands.