Mid-November. The Saturday before Thanksgiving. You know what that means, don't you? It's the time-honored Cal football tradition of playing...
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is usually Big Game Saturday, the cap to a wonderful week of Big Game activities in the Bay Area. This year, not so much. The Big Game is in October. But Cal still has a game on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. But instead of playing Stanford, the Bears will travel to Corvallis for their regular season finale against the Oregon State Beavers.
Cal could be getting Oregon State at the right time in this one. For Oregon State, the Cal game is sandwiched between a road trip to Stanford and the Civil War game against Oregon. Might the Beavers experience a letdown against the Bears? Or will the Beavers bring their A-game against Cal, as it did the last two times Cal visited Reser Stadium in 2010 and 2008?
CGB's writers and mods break out the roundtable, sit around it, and discuss this one.
TwistNHook: Well, we are back up in the nightmarish hellscape that is Corvallis. We haven't won up there since 2006, I believe. Can we do it this year?
Cugel: Without a doubt.
Berkelium97: When I saw that Oregon State was picked to finish last in the media poll this year, I started to feel bad for them. Then I remembered 2010 and 2009 and 2008 and 2007 and so on...
Ohio Bear: I don't understand the concept of feeling sorry for anyone in the Pac-12 for any nanosecond of time ever. We're the friggin' Chicago Cubs of the conference.
(Wow, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the lair. That Ohio Bear can be a real jerk. See the rest of the roundtable after the jump.)
unclesam22: I think that this is the year that we finally overcome the OSU curse and really take it to them at their place. This is a game we should win, this a game we need to win, and this a game we will win. I think that we have too much talent on both sides of the ball and I think our execution will be down by then so we should take care of business no problem.
TwistNHook: It's not all doom and gloom up there for the Beavs. Uncle Ted really likes their QB:
Oregon State: Perhaps this is a leap of faith for Sean Mannion, but there are three reasons for Beavers fans not to worry about quarterback: 1) Second-year starters tend to do much better under Mike Riley; 2) Mannion has a good crew of receivers; and 3) Mannion, who passed for 3,328 yards last year, has plenty of talent.
Highlights of Cal's win over Oregon State last season
Berkelium97: Mannion is a decent QB who had one huge flaw last year: turnovers. His completion rate (~65%) and yards-per-attempt (7.0) are solid, but he threw 18 interceptions to only 16 touchdowns.
Uncle Ted is right that Oregon State has a good receiving corps, although they lost James Rodgers and TE Joe Halahuni, who accounted for over one-third of the team's receiving TDs. Here's a strange statistic about Oregon State's top WR Markus Wheaton: he had 73 receptions for 986 yards but only one touchdown. One. Uno. That is very unusual for a guy with that many yards and receptions.
The biggest issue for Oregon State's offense is that they generated the third-fewest rushing yards in the nation last year with only 1041. Their opponents outgained them 2:1 on the ground last year (and we outgained them almost 10:1 when we played them).
They also had one of the worst red zone offenses in the nation last year, as they scored TDs on only 49% of their trips inside the 20.
The Beavers have serious issues in nearly every facet of the offense: they ought to be very concerned heading into this season.
atomsareenough: Well, unless our annual catastrophic injury against the Beavers happens early enough and at a key position, I feel pretty good about our chances.
I think (and hope) that we're finally done losing to these guys in painful fashion. We broke through against them at home, and now it's time to take care of business in Corvallis. We should be better than them in every phase of the game. Even if Mannion is the second coming of Andrew Luck, I don't think the supporting cast is there. I think they're in for a very tough year.
Vincent S: If I remember correctly, for the longest time, the funny thing about playing OSU was that we would beat them in Corvallis and they would beat us in Berkeley (see: 2003?-2007). Then we didn't hold up our end of the bargain in 2008 and 2010.
Also if I remember correctly, this is our last game, right? This game screams classic let-down to me, as it follows up a Senior Day game against Oregon. The running game will need to be on, and we'll need to finally solve their "gap-cancellation" defense. Last year was the first year of the post-Stephen Paea era, and the absence of someone with the strength of Captain America clogging up the center, I feel, greatly boosted our running game success against the Beavers. That trend will need to continue this year. Despite an All-American and one of the most-heralded incoming classes ever at receiver, I still believe that as the run game goes, we go.
atomsareenough: What, don't other teams have letdown games? Couldn't we say that OSU might be looking ahead to their Civil War rivalry game the next week against what is likely to be a ranked Oregon Ducks team? Plus they will have just played Stanford, which, although I think is overrated, everyone else seems to think is a top-25 team. Maybe we are the letdown game in the middle for the Beavers...
Berkelium97: Barring a string of catastrophic injuries (which is completely possible, since we're playing Oregon State), we should not have too much trouble moving the ball against their defense. By most accounts, their defense was in the bottom 25% nationwide last year.
- They gave up 30.8 points per game (89th nationwide)
- Opponents averaged 4.8 yards per carry (92nd)
- Opposing QBs averaged a rating of 146.42 (104th)
- The Beavers only tallied 52 tackles for loss (113th)
- Their sack numbers were one of their better stats, but still not great: 24 sacks (63rd)
They return several starters on defense, but that doesn't necessarily mean much when they allowed numbers like that.
Kodiak: Just because the Beavs were bad last year doesn't necessarily mean more of the same.
Coach Riley has made a career out of developing players into dangerous teams. Their D was down last year, but relied a lot on youth.
I've seen Beaver teams struggle with a 1st year QB, then come back the next year and be tough as nails.
The question is, can Riley's magic touch continue, or does the well finally run dry with all these diamonds in the rough he manages to find?
Of all the times to play the Beavers, late in the year is the worst because of how they like to practice. Their schemes are relatively straightforward, but they practice them over and over until all of their guys can play fast.
They'll have a chip on their shoulder for this one after the way we ran it over and through them last year. If we can dominate on the ground again, I think we pull this one out. But, Mannion and their WRs make us sweat.
Isi Sofele rushed for 190 yards against Oregon State last season.
TwistNHook: Score predictions?
atomsareenough: Cal 30, Oregon State 14
unclesam22: Cal 24 -- Oregon State 14
Ohio Bear: As much as I don't like the idea of a trip to Corvallis in November, at least we catch them in a possible "letdown" week (i.e., the week before the Civil War). I expect Sean Mannion to be an improved QB for the Beavos anyway, but he might be really good by November. Still, I have a good feeling about this one. Cal goes on the road and closes out the regular season on a high note.
Cal 27, OSU 23.
Berkelium97: Cal 35, OSU 14. I'm not a Beaver Believer this year.
(What do you think, CGBers? Does Cal end the regular season on a high note? Or does Cal succumb to the Beavers in Corvallis? Tell us what you think in the comments.)