Ah, Cal's annual 'C' matchup against an FCS team. This is always the most difficult preview to write, if only for a lack of meaningful information about whichever lower division team Cal plays each year. It took me a good 15 minutes just to find out that Southern Utah finished the 2011 season with the 87th ranked rush defense - and that's not even on a per play basis! Oh the tempo-free stat-nerd humanity!
Of course, for all of Cal's struggles over the last few years, the Bears have never even flirted with losing to an FCS team. Here's to small victories? So you're probably not reading this preview in an effort to decide whether or not Cal will win, even with last week's debacle fresh in the mind. This week isn't about winning or losing, it's about fixing what did go wrong last week so that it doesn't go wrong against Ohio St. and USC.
Last week, I wrote this:
If the offensive line struggles against Nevada's completely new and completely inexperience front seven, you have my permission to worry about how they'll do against the conference schedule.
When Cal is on offense, all I really want to see is an offensive line that executes and dominates. After last week, I'm not worried as much about the wide receivers. I'm not worried about Isi and C.J. I'm not worried about Maynard, assuming he, you know, plays the entire game. But an offensive line without Matt Summers Gavin, without Dominic Galas, without Mark Brazinski . . . that's a ton of turnover that may be too much for this team to overcome. The backups need to step up and gel this week, because things are going to get really tough really fast.
Here's an abbreviated Southern Utah preview, focusing more on what we'd all like to see from the Bears:
Stats of Dubious Value
Last year, Southern Utah had an average-to-below-average FCS defense, and that defense lost seven key contributors. That defense was then shredded for 581 yards by Utah St., a team that went 7-6 last year in the WAC.
I won't go so far as to say that the Thunderbirds are a bad FCS team, but they aren't Eastern Washington or anything. As long as Cal can send out 5 scholarship athletes to start along the offensive line they should be able to gain plenty of yards and points.
What I want to see from Cal's offense:
-Big holes for Isi and C.J.
-No sacks, no knock downs, and minimal pressure on Maynard.
-Exactly zero procedural penalties (this has nothing to do with SUU, but it would still be nice, wouldn't it?)
-No injuries (duh).