Friday, September 2, 2011

Q&A Battle at the Bay with California Golden Blog

As we continue to break down Fresno State, position by position, here at Bulldog Bounce, it's time to split our focus to the opponent as well for Saturday's opener at Candlestick Park. Fresno State and cal fans have long had a hate-hate relationship on message boards over the years, rarely agreeing on anything. So we thought it'd be fun to keep it respectful -- as it should be -- and really dive in to the mindset of some of cal's most educated fans.

And don't forget to see the Q&A we answered over at California Golden Blog.

Bulldog Bounce: Fresno State has long fought the perception that it can't compete with the state's Pac-12 schools. And now the 'Dogs are 2-0 vs cal, have won 2 straight vs ucla and are 1-1 vs usc, while stanford still wants no part of the schedule. Do cal fans respect Fresno State as a university and a football program?

I don't want to devalue Fresno State's last win over Cal, but it was a Tom Holmoe coached team. It's like getting a win over San Jose St! As for Cal fan's perception of the Fresno State program? I think you'll find universal respect for the attitude and ethos that Pat Hill has instilled in the Valley, and if they are being honest they know Fresno has a solid chance to beat the Bears. I know the bloom has come off a bit on Hill over the past few years because of the Boise problem, but that doesn't mean he isn't a good coach in the right situation. Actually, sounds similar to how most Cal fans feel about Jeff Tedford. As for Fresno St. as a university? I can't say I know anything about Fresno State beyond 'it's a state school', but let's just say we Cal grads can be a little insufferable about our academic reputaton.

We certainly respect the Fresno State football program. In fact, there's been quite a bit of hand-wringing over the fact that the Bulldogs might very well take this game, because they're a good team, but the fact that they get little respect from the rest of the college football world means that even if the Bears do manage to come away victorious, we won't get a lot of credit for it. Playing you guys is a high risk, low reward proposition for a BCS conference team. As a resident of California I think most of us recognize that the Cal State system is a valuable and important aspect of the state's higher education system. I can't say that I know a ton about the Fresno campus in particular, though.

Bulldog Bounce: Pat Hill expressed desire to play 1-2 in-state games vs Pac-12 schools each year. Would cal fans enjoy playing Fresno State regularly?

Probably not. Fairly or unfairly, there isn't much upside to playing Fresno State. Beating them gets you less respect than it should, and losing obviously isn't any help. Plus, for better or for worse, Cal's last trip to Fresno in 2000 was evidently a disaster both on the field and in the stands, and I'm told alumni have basically begged our AD to never schedule a road game in Fresno ever again.

No offense, but I'm doubtful. As Nick said, and as I mentioned in my answer to Question 1, it's not a very good value proposition for Pac-12 teams. Maybe if Fresno State were part of a BCS-qualifying Mountain West or something, the equation might change. Then again, I don't know if too many Bay Area- or SoCal-residing Berkeley folk really relish the idea of a regular road trip to Fresno. Many don't have very fond memories of the last trip down there.

Bulldog Bounce: What type of offense will cal run with Zach Maynard at QB? Any indication schemes will change much?

From all reports so far, it's the same pro-style Jeff Tedford Cal offense that we've seen, though they've usually added a couple of new wrinkles every year. Perhaps Maynard's running ability might result in a few more designed QB run plays. Mostly though, we're hoping it means that when the original playcall is busted, Maynard can pull the ball down and scramble for some extra yards rather than having to throw the ball away or take a sack.

Bulldog Bounce: What is the defense's gameplan likely to be? Will cal focus on stopping the run? Will it be an aggressive blitzing scheme?

Cal's defensive gameplan will probably be aggressive and oriented towards shutting down Robbie Rouse while putting a lot of pressure on Carr. We have two solid corners in Anthony and Williams (both former US Army All-Americans) and Coach Pendergast doesn't mind leaving his defensive backs on an island. He'll mix things up, though. There will be plenty of pressure, plenty of blitzes, and plenty of zone blitzes. I think he'll throw a variety of looks to try to confuse Carr into making mistakes. There's a big emphasis this year on having the secondary (and the defense as a whole) cause more turnovers. So, the corners and safeties will be attacking the ball more. The downside of this aggressive defensive is that Fresno State will have their chances to pop some big plays if they can handle Cal's pressure. We have some young players scattered throughout the defense, so double-moves, play-action, and misdirection could result in big payoffs. Of course, the classic tight end down the middle on 3rd and long is apparently something that Cal will traditionally leave wide open.

Our second-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast loves to make opposing QBs uncomfortable. With four new starters on the Fresno State O-line and a new QB under center, you can bet Clancy will design all sorts of pressure packages. Cal runs a 3-4 defense, so trying to identify that fourth or fifth potential pass rusher is always tough for a QB, particularly one making his first start. It's not immediately clear whether this pressure-heavy scheme will pick up where it left off last season. We lost a first round pick in defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and we are breaking in two new starting outside linebackers. We also lost our defensive anchor Mike Mohamed to the NFL Draft. There is plenty of talent and experience in the front seven, so the shuffling of roles should not have a major impact on our defense. Still, we cannot immediately expect to be as productive and disruptive as last season.

BUlldog Bounce: How would you rank each FBS football program within the state looking at the past decade as a whole, 2000-2010?

1. USC
2. Cal
3. Fresno St.
5. San Diego St.
6. San Jose St.
7. UC Davis
8. Stanfurd

At first I had UCLA over Fresno St., and then I looked at UCLA's record, realized they had only one season with more than 7 wins, laughed at how hard the southern branch had fallen, and moved Fresno up. I guess you could argue Fresno should be above Cal based purely on W/L records, but I think it's disingenuous to suggest that the WAC is the same as the Pac-10.

Mine is similar to Norcalnick's ranking, but I'll be a little more objective and say that Stanfurd (yes, that's how it's spelled) probably deserves to be closer to #5 or #6 based on the turnaround they've seen the past few years.

Bulldog Bounce: Which matchup within the game favors cal most? Which favors Fresno State most?

I think Cal's front seven vs. Fresno St.'s offensive line is Cal's biggest advantage. Cal has a ton of depth in their defensive line and linebacking corp, and that could be decisive if Fresno St.'s relatively inexperienced line isn't ready. I think Logan Harrell vs. Cal's interior line is Fresno St.'s biggest advantage. Cal didn't have a ton of success running on the inside last year and there are some question marks at the guard position.

Anything involving running water or electricity favors Cal. Anything involving the best porn 'stache favors Pat Hill and FSU. On the field, Fresno State's best match-up is probably Logan Harrell against Justin Cheadle. Until proven otherwise, Cal's offensive line is still a question mark. Cheadle, in particular, had trouble standing his ground last year against dominant defensive tackles. I'd guess that they'd have to double-team Harrell all day. Cal's best match-up is Coach Clancy Pendergast's defensive scheme against an inexperienced David Carr. Coach Pendergast likes to bring pressure from different areas, different looks, and different players. If Carr doesn't make the right read or holds onto the ball too long, he could have a rough day.

Bulldog Bounce: What do you expect from Isi Sofele? How does he compare to other recent backs at cal?

He's short, but he's not small. Although he had the rep as a speedster when he came in, he's put on some muscle and has been compared to trying to tackle a human bowling ball. He's been working hard to change his running style to be more upfield than juking/dancing. If the Oline can hold up, he should be fine. He may not have Jahvid Best's unworldly speed, Shane Vereen's balance/vision, Marshawn Lynch's power, but he could be similar to a Justin Forsett type of back who does a lot of things well. I expect that he'll platoon with Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and CJ Anderson. Whichever runner emerges as the most consistent will likely end up taking most of the snaps.

This is an issue that has worried Cal fans all offseason. Typically, our second running back gets around 100-150 carries and is an integral part of the offense. Although he was our second string last season, Sofele was not as involved with the offense mostly due to Vereen's extreme durability and reliability. We simply do not know what to expect from him. We have tremendous confidence in our running backs coach Ron Gould, but we have not seen Sofele take on as much responsibility as he will this season. He will be productive, however. He's small, he's shifty, and he breaks tackles. When he is not running the ball, Covaughn DeBoskie Johnson will run. CDJ has played a bit of garbage time in years past, but this offseason he obviously did his homework and is in the best shape since he's been at Cal. Again, having only seen him in garbage time, we do not have a great idea what to expect from him against first-team defenses. Behind CDJ is a new face in CJ Anderson, who will mainly be brought in for short-yardage situations. As you might expect, he's the low-running, bruising type of back (something we have not really had at Cal since Marshawn Lynch back in 2006). Whether he will be productive remains to be seen. The biggest question in our running game, however, is blocking. We fired our abysmal offensive line coach after last season and rehired Jim Michalczik, whose offensive lines at Cal from 2002 to 2008 ranged from solid to dominant. We're looking forward to some much-improved run blocking and pass protection.

Bulldog Bounce: Which cal offensive and defensive players should most concern the Bulldogs?

On offense: I'd say Keenan Allen and Zach Maynard. Maynard because I think the Bulldogs are going to have a hard time knowing what to expect from him. Heck, we barely know what to expect ourselves at this point. Fresno State is going to be the first team play Cal with Maynard, and they'll have the least film to go on, so it will be tough to gameplan for him. Allen should concern you because he is a very exciting talent and if he's healthy he can be a gamechanger. He tantalized us last year but then was banged up for most of the season. We're hoping for big things out of him this year.

On defense: Mychal Kendricks, and pretty much the entire D-line. We're really excited about our D-line, especially the young players who are raw but oozing with potential. Mychal Kendricks is the team's leader on D now that Mike Mohamed is gone. He's moving to ILB and will captain the defense. We need a big year out of him.

Bulldog Bounce: Would you like to predict a score?

Sure. I think it's going to be a competitive game, but Cal will come out on top, 34-21.

Bears 21, Bulldogs 10

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.