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Roundtable: Cal Football Expectations in 2012

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TwistNHook: So, 2012. The first season in New Memorial. Cal has worked really hard to get to this point and Coach Tedford is an integral part of that. But the sad reality is that the football team has muddled through the last few years. Cal had a losing record in 2010, hasn't beaten USC since the Jurassic era, and hasn't given its fans a lot to cheer about in recent times. In today's "What have you done for me lately" society, it's put Coach Tedford right on the hot seat. Some fans have wanted him gone for several years now, but even the most ardent supporters realize that realistically his time might be almost up. After Cal lost to a rather pathetic UCLA team in LA last year, many of the biggest Sunshine Pumpers had fallen off the Tedford wagon. Had Cal beat Texas in the bowl game, they might have jumped back in the pool there, but that was a moment wasted.

So, the big question is what does Tedford have to do to keep his job? Is it a low bar, like win more than 3 games? Is it a high bar, like win a bowl game of actual note? Sock it to me!

Atomsareenough: The bottom line is, we need an 8+ win season in the worst way. I disagree with the notion that Tedford is on the hot seat right this minute, but it's warm enough that another 7 win season (or worse) would instantly place his posterior directly on the front burner. 8 wins is the bare minimum he needs to show that we are taking a step forward and not just treading the waters of mediocrity. 9 wins would at least signal to the college football world that we are on the path back to relevance. 10 would make a real statement that we're back. I absolutely think this team has enough talent and experience to be capable of producing 8-10 wins, but it could just as easily be a 5-7 win team if there are key injuries, misfortune, or a few poor performances for whatever reason. They're walking a razor's edge.

But hey, I'm a Cal fan, and an eternal optimist. Not only do we have our home field back, we have 7 games at Memorial. We're a good home team, and I fully expect five or six wins from that slate, as Nevada and Southern Utah should be fairly automatic, ASU and UCLA shouldn't challenge us quite yet, and we should be at least competitive with Washington, Oregon, and Stanfurd. From our road slate, trips to Washington State, Utah, and Oregon State present 3 games we have a pretty decent shot at winning. Heck, I think we have a good chance at being competitive at Ohio State, if we don't let the crowd intimidate us. So, 8 wins is totally doable, and that's even without counting a possible bowl game. I wouldn't be exactly thrilled by 8 wins, but I depending on how we play in our losses, I would probably be satisfied enough that we are making progress to not be calling for Tedford's head just yet.

Vincent S: We're a great home team. However, this also means we have problems on the road. One of the reasons people are calling for Tedford's head is that Cal is almost regularly, in their words, face-planting in high profile games. In addition to winning 8 games, I think Cal has to look good @Ohio State and @USC. "Winning the second half" will not get it done this year. In general, Cal fans do still like Coach Tedford, so losses may be tolerated, but blowouts will not be. In addition, I think the two most important games for Cal fans this year are Stanford and Washington. If we can win back the axe and deal a blow to a "resurgent" Husky team, I think it will go a long way towards alleviating the collective DOOOOOOM mentalities of a fanbase looking for a glimpse of promise.

Berklium97: 2010 was obviously a low point for Cal football. For Tedford to keep his seat from getting uncomfortably warm, he needs to show that this team is on an upward trajectory.

In 2009 and 2010 the team showed a remarkable lack of consistency in its competitiveness. Many games (2009: Oregon, USC, OSU, UW; 2010: USC, OSU, Stanford) were all but over during the first half. This was unlike anything we had ever seen during the Tedford era. My biggest concern heading into last season was that we would continue this trend of showing up for certain games looking completely unprepared.

The fact that we were competitive in every single game last season was a great relief to me and is the primary reason I am not particularly dissatisfied with the outcome of last season. Sure, we lost big to Oregon, USC, and UCLA, but these losses were different from the 2009-10 losses. We led Oregon at halftime, held USC to its lowest offensive output of the year, and were only down 3 heading into the fourth quarter against UCLA. Somehow, someway, we seem to have righted that ship. Now, we have to iron out the smaller issues.

While 2011 was a solid step forward in showing that we are climbing out of the hole that was 2010, we were plagued by mistakes that were atypical of Tedford's teams. Having a lone 5-turnover game, let alone 3 of them, was mind-boggling. Add to that recipe shotgun snaps flying all over the place, the most penalties ever for a Tedford team, and special teams performances that would embarrass a high school team (how many blocked PATs?), and you have a team ripe for improvement.

For this team to satisfy me, we just have to solve some of those issues while continuing to be competitive in every single game. Again, we have to show that we are improving overall and on an upward trajectory. I will happily take a tough, competitive 7-5 season over an 8-4 season with 4 blowout losses. Ironing out the issues I just mentioned will go a long way towards improving this team.

LeonPowe: I've mentioned it before, but for me its not really about wins and losses. Its really about - are we competitive? If and when we lose games are we in them or just getting run over? You can have two very different 7-4 seasons - one where you're in every game and lose because of a few better execution plays by the other team. Or you can lose 4 games due to throwing 4 picks and leaving the ball on the game 1 time.

Obviously, a winning season and a bowl game (with a win!) will go a long way in cooling down Tedford's seat- if it is in the least way warm. But I'll be more interested in seeing how we win (and lose) games next season. 2011 were some of the more depressing losses I've ever seen.

Vincent S: At this point, we've all mentioned some important points. We must be competitive in games, we must win a few more than we've averaged in the past 3 years, etc.

I think all of these goals center around the fact that Coach Tedford must build excitement around California. When he first got here in 2002, any winning was icing on the proverbial cake. By simply scoring lots of points and winning often (though not consistently enough to join the elite coaches of the country), Tedford created an atmosphere of excitement. California was not some lowly backwater school perpetually playing second fiddle to the USC's and Oregon's of the world; we were somebody worthy of respect! Despite occasional setbacks (e.g. 2005 following on the heels of an outstanding 2004 season), that aura of inevitability, that we were going places, stuck around. Despite "only" 7 wins in 2007 and 9 wins 2008, Cal fans still believed that Tedford had the power to take us to the Promised Land.

2009 was a successful season (the 2009 Big Game will be one of the defining moments of California in the 2000's), but the ending of the season, followed by a disappointing 2010 campaign, left a bitter taste in the collective mouths of a fanbase praying for any sign of a rose. 2011 was a rebound, but at this point, the so-called magic of Tedford has mostly disappeared.

Cal fans want to know that Tedford still has "it": the drive, potential, and brains to take us where we want to go. Beyond the previously mentioned goals of wins and competitiveness, I think excitement is the most important commodity Tedford must generate this year.

Kodiak: I think LeonPowe and VincentS nailed it.

I want to see a well-coached team. Wins and losses aren't the metric that's important to me. Sometimes, the other team is just better or luckier. It happens. But, I want to see a Cal team that plays hard, plays smart, and doesn't beat itself. I don't want to see timid decisions. Or repeated instances of shooting ourselves in the foot. We've had better recruiting classes, perhaps ever, in Cal history. So, let's see this bear fruit on the field. I know that there's a ton of football knowledge we simply don't understand. It's probably unreasonable to ask for "creative" play-calling, etc, etc. I want to see a team that looks prepared. That can adapt to adversity. That does things which forces the other team into an adaptive or defensive position. We had that when Coach Tedford took over in his inaugural season. I cannot say that we've consistently had that ever since, particularly in the most recent years.

If facilities have been the bugaboo excuse, that's been more than addressed. From here out, it's on the field results. I expect to see a disciplined team that executes well. Sometimes, the play call or scheme is beaten by a better one. It happens. But, I want to witness effort which reflects desires, coaching, and sound strategy.

If I don't see that, I don't care if we win 6 games or 10. I'd start wondering about our leadership and our future. And that would pain me greatly because I do have perspective on where we've been and how far we've come.

Atomsareenough: I'm going to go ahead and disagree slightly. Obviously, we all want to see a tight, well-coached team that doesn't make sloppy mistakes and is consistently competitive. Six wins in that manner won't feel *quite* as bad, certainly. But let's not kid ourselves; wins matter. They matter to fans, to recruits, to donors, and I'm sure the coaches and administrators care. Yeah, there is an element of randomness with football sometimes, so we can factor that into the evaluation a bit, but if we're talking about judging Tedford, wins are the bottom line.

LeonPowe: I imagined reading atoms' statement as Lumburgh from Office Space.

Atomsareenough: In retrospect, I should've started it with a "Yeeeahhh....."

UncleSam22: I agree with all of the sentiments expressed previously, especially that we need to see an upward trajectory for the program continue this year. I'd be ok losing some close games to superior teams but I felt like last year I finished watching games we lost saying "Had we held on to the ball, not had huge penalties, not made mental miscues, etc...we could have won that game." I want to see a prepared and hungry team.

I think that the other thing that no one has brought up yet is that Tedford runs a clean program. And with all of the stuff swirling around some of the bigger schools I don't think we can discount this. I'm not sure that I'm ready to pick up 2-3 more wins per season to have a team that makes me wonder when their arrest record is going to show up on ESPN's bottom line. But I'm also not naive enough to think that this is enough to keep Tedford's job in the increasingly competitive Pac-12. Sadly enough, his focus on academics and character may actually be his fatal flaw and doom his programs to mediocrity. I'm not sure what the answer is there, but it is a hard thing to figure out.

HydroTech: I think from a purely win/loss standpoint, Tedford has to hit 9+ wins for it to be a "successful" season. I mean, as a Cal fan no season is really all that successful unless we either beat Stanfurd, or go to the Rose Bowl, but if those things don't happen, I think Tedford would otherwise have to win 9+ games.

An 8 win season would probably be a "pass."

A 7 wins or less season would definitely be a "failure."

But I do agree with some other people that being a college football head coach -- especially at Cal -- is not merely about wins. It's also about graduating players, and molding the young men into responsible, productive, and valuable additions to society. For the most part, Tedford has done that. Actually, he's done that remarkably well. Sure, there have been his fair shares of bad apples or kids who have had academic problems, but Tedford stresses the importance of academics and education perhaps moreso than any other head coach in the nation. Since most of us are probably Cal alumni, I'm sure that makes us all proud.

That being said, unfortunately, graduation rates and molding young men into good people doesn't exactly get you very far in college football. It probably should. But the college football head coaching word is a fairly cut-throat and competitive world which is only measured by BCS Bowl appearances and crystal footballs. You either win or get the boot. I'm not sure Cal is entirely immune to that competitiveness either, despite our interest in maintaining the academic standards set forth by the University. So, although Tedford is doing a fairly good job on the academic side of being a college football head coach, I still think he can't ride that wave forever, and he will have to deliver a 10+ win season within the next two years to really reaffirm the Cal fanbase's long-term confidence in him.

Kodiak: I think Hydro has the numbers right with respect to wins and expectations.

I might add to this that we're going to need to see some signature wins. Several other teams in the conference have managed to pull upsets against ranked opponents. We've gotten close, but have ultimately wasted our opportunities with self-inflicted errors. Last year's 'sc game or the infamous injurygate game against Oregon come to mind as examples.

Norcalnick: Last year I went on the Addicted To Quack podcast and was asked what my expectations for Cal football in 2011 were. I said I wanted to see 3 things:

1. 7 wins
2. No more blowouts
3. Flashes of the kind of talent Cal would need to compete for a Pac-12 title in the near future.

The last two expectations are rather subjective. You could make an argument that all three of those were accomplished, you could argue that only 7 wins were accomplished. As Berklium97 notes, none of last year's loses were true blowouts, but there were games in which Cal wasn't quite as competitive as we'd all prefer. So I'll revise my 2011 expectations for this year with more specificity:

1. 8 wins
2. No losses by 17 points or more
3. Increased flashes of the kind of talent Cal would need to compete for a Pac-12 title in the near future 2013.
4. An improvement in Cal's APR score.

If Cal fails to meet one of these expectations I won't be yelling FIRE TEDFORD (in particular, there might not be much to do this year that will meaningfully impact the rolling 6 year APR numbers) but if Cal accomplishes all four goals then I'll be completely convinced that the program is moving in the right direction again.

LeonPowe: National Championship or ship out Tedfraud!!!!!!11!!one1