I’ll be completely honest: I might be temporarily out of interesting things to say. I put out everything interesting I have to say about MBB last Wednesday, and since then all the Bears did was almost lose to the ~300th best team in the country at home, which probably sets some sort of record as least encouraging last second win in Cal history. Three games stand between Cal and a still-down but still-daunting Pac-12 schedule.
By far the marquee Cal event of the week will be UConn’s visit to Haas Pavilion on Saturday. CGB will have a roundtable with UConn thoughts (mine included) later this week, but suffice to say that the still-undefeated Bears very much deserve your support. Hopefully that means attending in person on Saturday if at all possible despite potential holiday conflicts.
Meanwhile, signing day is nigh but the dust hasn’t settled. What’s left? Well, let’s go over the news of the day:
Devon Modster is a Bear?!
Way back in November of 2017, Josh Rosen got hurt at halftime against the Bears and Devon Modster played the rest of the way, and my defining memory of that experience was thinking “%@&$, UCLA is going to have an above average quarterback for another two years at least.”
Devon Modster was a redshirt freshman with solid recruiting pedigree, and his stats over an admittedly small sample really weren’t any different rate-wise than what true junior and high draft pick Josh Rosen was putting up as the starter.
So let’s start with an apples-to-apples comparison of redshirt freshmen that isn’t really apples-to-apples at all:
By the numbers Modster is superior across the board. Even QBR, which factors in a quarterback’s rushing ability (not Modster’s forte) gives him a solid advantage. Reasons for skepticism:
- Modster’s sample size is roughly three games - full games against Utah and Kansas State, and half games against Washington and Cal (plus three throws in mop-up duty against Hawaii). Having said that, he faced opposing defenses that ranged from mediocre to excellent in games of consequence.
- Modster was playing with a very different offensive cast around him that included two linemen and a wide receiver that were NFL draft picks.
- Until the bowl game, UCLA was heavily run based in Modster’s playing time, presumably to protect their rookie QB. But UCLA was also willing to let Modster air the ball out down the field, something that Cal’s offense barely bothered to even try after the OSU game.
Basically, we know enough to say that Devon Modster will have a very real shot at winning the starting QB job next August, but that Chase Garbers has shown enough flashes of talent and has enough on-field experience that his chances can’t be dismissed either. Hooray for months upon months of speculation!
Signing Day is Nigh!
With the new structure of recruiting dates, we’ll have a good sense of Cal’s 2019 class on Wednesday, but perhaps not the entire picture with mid-February still open for late signees. There will also probably be more commits between now and Wednesday, with rumors flying about potential offensive skill position transfers and JCs.
When the dust finally settles Cal will likely compete with ASU for a ‘best-of-the-rest’ type of class behind the presumed Pac-12 powers of Oregon, UW, USC, and Stanford. This is both encouraging and mildly disappointing at the same time. Over the last few years Cal hasn’t recruiting significantly differently than the Wazzus and Arizonas of the world, and finishing well ahead of an MIA Chip Kelly at UCLA is nice as well. But there is still a pretty noticeable gap between Cal and the top of the conference, where Oregon and Washington have taken advantage of UCLA’s inaction by pillaging high-end California high school talent. Meanwhile Stanford continues to mostly win the one-on-one battle for academically inclined recruits that Cal has shifted towards with higher entry level academic requirements for incoming recruits.
Defensive recruiting has been solid. But with the offense unusually desperate for talent that can contribute immediately, this will be the rare recruiting class that might actually be judged in just a year - at least on one side of the ball. Modster is a good start, but Cal still needs multiple WR/RB types ready to play in nine months.
I’ll have a longer article trying to figure out what needs to happen for Cal to improve on offense once signing day shakes out and we have a better sense of what the 2019 roster is going to look like.
USC hires Kliff Kingsbury
One of the sharpest offensive minds in college football is given USC’s young, uber talented offensive roster and the power to recruit to USC’s brand-name? I’m now even more thankful that Cal got their win when they could because it probably just got a lot tougher.
Pac-12 revenue sports and operations are a delightful mess
Jon Wilner has been (slightly over-the-top but mostly correctly) bashing the conference for the better part of a year for a variety of sins. John Canzano recently published is own (slightly over-the-top but mostly correct) take down of how the conference office has operated.
Meanwhile the Pac-12 failed to get a team into the playoff, only got one team into the New Years’ Six bowls, and only got seven total teams eligible for a bowl period. ASU has already lost decisively to Fresno State. The Pac-12 championship game was an exercise in ugly football and far uglier crowd shots.
Meanwhile meanwhile, ASU is the only team in the AP top 25 for men’s basketball (but UCLA is receiving 3 votes!) and the highest rated team in the Kenpom rankings is Oregon at 32. The conference’s performance thus far suggests that the Pac-12 is closer in quality to the AAC and the WCC than other power conferences. One year after getting exactly one team into the Round of 64 and zero into the round of 32 in last year’s tournament, the Pac-12 appears to have made no improvement.
Saying anything interesting about this would take a few thousand words and an amount of work that I couldn’t begin to contemplate until April at the earliest. But I wanted to compile all of it because it makes me laugh.
Also: Everybody related to Washington State who got mad about Wazzu missing out on a NY6 bowl should really give in to reality. Mike Leach schedules nobody every year (Wyoming, SJSU, and E. Washington) and beat exactly one ranked team this year. Every objective shred of evidence tells us that the Pac-12 is a solid way behind every major conference but maybe the ACC and Wazzu’s resume lags way behind the teams they were in competition with. Bummer, but truth.