Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cal Preview


MSU is 2-1 all time against the Golden Bears, with the last game in 2002. This was the game that sounded the death march for the Bobby Williams era, as Kyle Boller shredded the secondary, and Cal won 46-22. All of a sudden, the Jeff Tedford era was off and running. Four years later, the greatest moment in Golden Bears football history happened:

To this date, no other football program in history has had a postgame celebration topped off by one of its players ghost riding da whip on an injury cart. Kudos to you Marshawn Lynch.

Cal Rushing vs. MSU Rush Defense

There's a lot of optimism in the rushing game this year, mainly due to Jahvid Best. Best was the Bears' kick returner, and also rushed for over 7 yards a carry last year. Pretty impressive, but keep in mind that number's based on only 27 rushes, which is a pretty small sample to draw conclusions from. Nevertheless, expect him to be a good to great running back for Cal this season, and MSU will get him fresh. Cal's O-line is more good than they are bad, even if their starting LT is out. Blocking will not be their Achilles' heel.

Can MSU stop the rush? It's going to be a bit dodgy with all the new starters on the defensive line. I'd feel more confident if Greg Jones was starting in the middle; however, he's starting outside due to Adam Decker's emergence as the #3 LB in the unit. I expect MSU to get their fair share of stops, but overall, I'm going to have to say...
Advantage: Cal (slight to moderate)

Cal Passing vs. MSU Pass defense
California has finally decided on a starting QB; he is Kevin Riley. In his press conference, Tedford said Riley can "make plays with his legs" (provided there's more than 30 seconds left in the game), so presumptively that's why he got the nod over last year's starter, Nate Longshore. However, Longshore will play at a predetermined time by Tedford in this game, so there'll be a little of both. Also, Cal's starting left tackle, he who can supposedly handle 245 lb. defensive ends at 80%, is most likely out. About the receivers, Tedford said that there would be "a bit of a learning curve", the kind of quote that does not promote confidence in the first game.

As for MSU, the secondary will still be missing Roderick Jenrette most likely, but Kendall Davis-Clark should be a more than adequate replacement. Otis Wiley will hopefully play like he did the second half of last year, and Chris L. Rucker and Ross Weaver are both experienced corners. Let's hope this doesn't turn into the abortion the Northwestern game was last year.

Edge: MSU (Moderate)

MSU Rushing vs. Cal Rush Defense

For MSU, it's Javon Ringer, Javon Ringer, and Javon Ringer. The highlight of this game will be which running back can produce the most - Best or Ringer. A.J. Jimmerson and Andre Anderson will get a few carries as well, along with whoever's playing FB (Hawken or McPherson) when a 3rd and short comes around.

As for Cal, they've switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, most likely to highlight their LB corps, which might just be the best set of linebackers in the Pac-10. However, the defensive line has looked iffy, and if MSU lines up in a power I, that might force Cal to go deeper on the line.

Advantage: MSU (slight to moderate)

MSU Passing vs. Cal Pass Defense

Brian Hoyer has had a long, long time to think about this game. He had a performance that could only be described as horrendous in the Champps Sports Bowl, in which, I believe, he went red-green colorblind, which is the best explanation for why he threw so many picks to the Boston College secondary. The only returning receivers with any tangible experience are Mark Dell and Deon Curry. B.J. Cunningham, Fred Smith and Keshawn Martin are all talented but have the same amount of college game experience, which would be zero. It'll take a couple games for Hoyer to get used to them.

The Cal secondary was average to above average last year, and some of that should carry over. They'll need to be good, because they most likely won't get any push with the defensive line.

Advantage: Push

Special Teams

All of MSU's returners are new. It'll be intersting to see how Jimmerson and Davis-Clark return kickoffs, and how Wiley returns punts. Compare those three to Jahvid Best, and I think it's obvious to see who gets the Best out of that matchup (Sorry, I knew I wasn't going to make it through without one Best related pun). Cal's starting kicker last year, Justin Kay, was benched to make way for true freshman David Seawright. Well Justin, that's what will happen if you only go 2 of 5 of your 30-40 yarders. Brett Swenson is still solid from inside the 40 for MSU. At last, we get to the true pyrotechnics of this preview: punting. Cal has two redshirt freshmen on the depth chart, while MSU has do-it-all punter Aaron Bates - emergency 3rd string QB, and also was in the bottom 10 in net punting in 1-A. Ouch.

Edge: Cal (Moderate)


How does one determine who's going to have the better game plan? I've always hated these parts of predictions, were the writer see two evenly matched coaches, looks at tea leaves and portents who will have the better game plan. I'll say this much: Dantonio and Tedford are two good I-A coaches. Let's call this part a push, and keep going.

Edge: Push


This'll be a good, close game. Both teams are relatively green at wide receiver, have explosive running backs, and experience at QB. It's going to come down to defense, namely the defensive line. I gotta believe that come the 3rd and 4th quarter, MSU will tire out the 3-4 of Cal by running Ringer et al. up the middle. It'll be close, but MSU comes out of Berkley the winner.

Final Score: MSU 28, Cal 21.

Coming up Tomorrow: My Guest Lecturer piece on MSU for EDSBS that didn't quite make the chopping block.


Anonymous said...

Did he actually ghost ride it? Doesn't really matter, hilarious either way.
Good post, glad kj linked to you.

G0EL Pete said...


For the record, I believe that does not technically count as a ghost ride, as he was driving the cart at all times. If he did, that becomes the greatest moment in football history. Period.