As Cal football fans, we look with dread upon those conference rivals who seem to have our number. I won't name those nemeses here. We know who they are. But are there any programs in the Pac-12 who look at the California Golden Bears and think "oh noes"? If there is such a program, it would have to be the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Since Jeff Tedford became Cal's coach in 2002, the Cal-ASU series has gone thusly---
2002 Cal 55, ASU 38 (Tempe)
2003 Cal 51, ASU 23 (Tempe)
2004 Cal 27, ASU 0 (Berkeley)
2006 Cal 49, ASU 21 (Berkeley)
2007 ASU 31, Cal 20 (Tempe) -- the outlier!
2008 Cal 24, ASU 14 (Berkeley)
2009 Cal 23, ASU 21 (Tempe)
2010 Cal 50, ASU 17 (Berkeley)
2011 Cal 47, ASU 38 (Tempe)
That adds up to an 8-1 record for Cal against ASU during Coach Tedford's tenure, with Cal scoring half-a-hundy three times, 49 another time, and 47 yet another time. What gives?
It may defy explanation, but Cal fans can agree that it's been nice to be on the winning side of one of these unexplainable runs of dominating a series. Will it continue this year? The conventional wisdom suggests that ASU is in rebuilding mode with the departure of capable quarterback Brock Osweiler and mercurial linebacker Vontaze Burfict, not to mention this being the first year for new coach Todd Graham.
What do the fearless CGB writers and mods think of this year's meeting in the series?
TwistNHook: We seem to have these guys' number. Why do you think that is?
Berkelium97: Just as we always seem to play our worst game of the year against USC, ASU never seems to have any luck against us. Last year they could not stop our offense and allowed us to pile up our second-highest point total of the season. The year before they got absolutely dismantled in Memorial Stadium as they surrendered their highest point total of the season (50). And it's not just that we beat them in one phase of the game. Our recent winning streak over them features Cal dominance in every phase of the game, even special teams (remember that Tavecchio game-winner in 2009?)!
I bet it's a curse left by Zack Follett. He hated those Sun Devils.
(The roundtable continues after the jump...)
Ohio Bear: It is more than the curse of Zack. The lack of success ASU has had goes back much further than that. Ironically, Zack was on the 2007 team, the only Tedford team that lost a game to the Flaming Anti-Christs.
I can't explain why the Cal-ASU series has been so one-sided in Cal's favor during Coach Tedford's tenure. Cal has been the better team most of these years, in my opinion. So you could say we just take care of business against the Sun Devils. But as we know, the ball can bounce funny, mistakes can be made, and the so-called "better" team doesn't always win. But against ASU, it seems like Cal has been the team to make the big play and to capitalize on the opposition's mistake(s). And ASU has made many mistakes over the years against Cal.
Blast from the past: one of ASU's many back breaking mistakes against Cal over the years.
Avinash: This is going to be a much different team than the one that we've faced the last few seasons. ASU will be moving to a high-tempo spread option attack that combines the speed of Chip Kelly's offense with the scheme of Rich Rodriguez's. Unfortunately, it's unclear who will step up and be the Sun Devil quarterback this season.
Continuing one of the more dubious streaks in the conference, Arizona State will be opening the season with a new starting quarterback for the fifth straight year. Brock Osweiler's departure for the NFL opened up a three-player competition for the job that has continued into fall camp. While each player is talented and offers something different-Michael Eubank is a powerful runner and has the most long-term upside, Mike Bercovici a talented passer, and Taylor Kelly a mix of the three-none has any extensive game experience. Whoever gets the nod against NAU may not be there for too long, as Graham has repeatedly said that using a two-quarterback system is a distinct possibility.
So they'll be relying heavily on Cameron Marshall to generate offense in the run game. How concerned would you be about a run-heavy attack from ASU with an uncertain QB?
Berkelium97: I'd be happy to see ASU try to run into the Cal front seven. Despite having a solid back in Cameron Marshall, ASU was thoroughly mediocre at rushing the ball last season. They averaged a paltry 129 rushing yards per game (85th in the nation) on only 3.97 yards per carry. While you might expect improvement this season, they only return two starters from last year's disappointing line. Over the past several years ASU usually is in the bottom third of the conference in recruiting rankings, so they will not be stocking the cupboard with solid prospects. It seems ASU has been saddled with bad O-lines since the Rudy Carpenter days--I doubt this team will be any different.
Call me extremely skeptical of this ASU uptempo spread offense. I have serious doubts that Todd Graham will turn ASU into anything better than a middle-of-the-pack team. He struggled last season despite having a pretty good Pitt team.
ASU can play as fast as they want--it'll be that much faster that they go three-and-out and hand the ball back to Cal. With Cal's solid front seven matched against the ASU rushing game and the Bears' ability to grind out the yards on the ground, I expect Cal to dominate the time of possession in this game.
unclesam22: Yeah, I agree with all of the above points. For whatever reason, ASU is like the anti-Oregon State to me. We just have their number recently and I don't think all of the changes that they've made are going to reap immediate benefits. We've shown we can stop the up-tempo offense with the Oregon games and I'm assuming ASU will not be on that level in their first season with it. And clearly their defense last year had no answer for our offense, so I'm not worried there either.
All in all, I think that this is a game that we should win going away and continue our dominance of ASU.
TwistNHook: What do you think about ASU's new coach Todd Graham?
Avinash: He has done alright. He struggled in his one year at Pitt, but before that his offenses at Tulsa and Rice were really explosive and high tempo (80 plays a game, top five scoring almost every season). He runs a spread option attack which relies heavily on a run-first, play action pass offense, a direct contrast to the pass first philosophy of Mazzone last season that relied heavily on one back, four WR offense. We'll probably see more multiple sets and better commitment to the run.
In his time at Rice, Tulsa and Pitt, Graham's teams typically ran the ball at least 57 percent of the time on standard downs and 27 percent of the time on passing downs. This is still quite a bit more pass-heavy than the national average, but in comparison to Erickson's ASU offenses, RiceTulsaPitt resembled a service academy in their focus on the run. Only once in the last four years did Arizona State run more than 53 percent on standard downs, and they were consistently one of the most pass-heavy teams in the country on passing downs.
A shift to the run would probably cater nicely to Arizona State's personnel.
As for Graham as a person? Based on the way he left Pitt and Tulsa before that and Rice before that? Read this and draw your own conclusions.
Ohio Bear: Todd Graham? He's still there?!?!?
unclesam22: His newest dream job hasn't come open yet.
TwistNHook: I'd like to announce that we're adding Todd Graham to the team here at CGB as a Jahvidtician. He said it was his dream job!
Berkelium97: At Media Day Todd Graham very much reminded me of a used-car salesman. He had that same smile and insincere tone in his voice.
What's the over/under on the number of years he'll stay at ASU?
TwistNHook: Don't you have to provide a number first for an over under, Berkelium97?
Berkelium97: That's right. 3. And I'll put 10 top dogs on the under.
TwistNHook: Big money!
Speaking of Todd Graham, he's on this video, ready to fire up Pitchfork Nation.
TwistnNHook: I'm just sad that Burfict left. That guy was always interesting. I wonder how that will affect their D.
ragnarok: I think the big change would be that our offense couldn't rely as much on 15-yard penalties to get them out of a tight spot.
Kodiak: I think ASU's defense will play better without Burfict. Too much of a headcase/freelancer. I'll really miss him. Now we might actually have to do some real analysis instead of settling for cheap "Burfict eats people" jokes.
I don't think much of Graham as a person. It remains to be seen if he has any coaching chops. His problem is that Erickson didn't do a good job recruiting for his Oline. Even when they've had explosive players, they've been undone by an Oline that struggles to protect or run-block. I'm not certain that this issue will miraculously be fixed overnight by bringing in a used-car salesman coach.
ASU's weakness plays right into our strength on D. I'm hoping to get a Waterboy-like montage after the game where they show slow motion clips of our backup defensive ends blowing up their 4th string QB.
LeonPowe: Burfict not playing wont be a huge change for us - last year he barely played one quarter.
TwistNHook: Score predictions?
atomsareenough: I think ASU is going to have a pretty bad year. It feels kind of like rebuilding mode for them, so I'm not too worried about this game, honestly. I also don't hold Todd Graham in very high esteem, either. Most college coaches have a bit of that "used car salesman" vibe, but Graham pretty much epitomizes it. Sarkisian too, for that matter.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there, I suppose. I haven't been following all that closely, but other than Cameron Marshall, who is extremely impressive and hard to take down, I don't feel like they have a lot of other pieces that truly stand out. I can't really remember the names of any of their receivers, except Pflugrad, and even with him at least half the reason I remember his name is due to his super hot sister who used to be an Oregon cheerleader. But yeah, he's gone and so are most of the other starting receivers from last year, I believe. I still don't think they have a starting QB determined going into Fall camp. They didn't have a very good O-line last year, so unless they make a sudden major improvement, we should be able to win the battle of the trenches. On the other hand, I thought the same thing about Colorado last year (MARSHAAAALLLL!), so who knows. We haven't had trouble scoring against their defense, and they've got a lot of new guys who will see time at safety and linebacker, so they might be soft in the middle, especially as they're breaking in a new defensive scheme this year.
Add to that, the fact that the game is in Memorial... All in all, I feel like we should win this one pretty comfortably.
Score prediction: 42-20
Ohio Bear: I don't think ASU will be particularly good either, but I can't say I'm "not too worried" about this game. I'm worried about all the games. And as to ASU, they weren't very good in 2009 and we still needed a Giorgio Tavecchio FG in the closing seconds to win.
It helps that we're at home for this one. ASU has not done well at Memorial Stadium in the 2000s. So I'll say Cal gets it done, 38-20.
atomsareenough: Sure, as our trip to Pasadena showed last year, we could end up losing any game in conference. But it's all relative, right? 38-20 doesn't exactly sound like a reason to stay up at night fretting.
Ohio Bear: I'm a fretter. Not an Eric Holtfreter, but a fretter nonetheless.
solarise: 28-14 Cal. ASU's special team hangs 2 TDs on Cal and makes things interesting.
Ohio Bear: Looks like solarise thinks we'll fret a little!
unclesam22: 38-21. ASU just doesn't have the firepower to outscore us or the defense to stop us.
Berkelium97: Cal 42, ASU 17
For those of you with children who might attend ASU, we leave you with parental advice from Jack Donaghy.