So it's Big Game Week, though you wouldn't know it based on the number of posts here. I'll try to remedy that over the next couple of days, starting with an interview with the enemy. The fine folks at California Golden Blogs, who are reveling in Cal's Top 10 Big Game Triumphs again this season and dreaming of a performance that will require CalBear81 to revise the list for next year, were kind enough to answer a few questions about Saturday's game. Enjoy.
1. The Bears seem to be playing some pretty good football after losing 4 of 5 in the middle of the season. Is that a reflection of the quality of their opponents, or is this team improving?
Cugel: Primarily I would say our Offensive line has been improving, in fact they are somewhat beastly now, so much so that their penalties cost us three touchdowns the last game.
Kodiak: The team is steadily improving, but let's not kid ourselves. Our wins have come against some bad teams.
LeonPowe: As Cugel and Kodiak mentioned, it's both. I think the most pleasant surprise has been how well Isi Sofele is running the ball. Our ground game - at least over Utah, WSU and Oregon St has looked like vintage Tedford.
2. Stanford fans will be disappointed to learn that Brock Mansion is no longer the starting QB at Cal. What does Zach Maynard bring to the table and in what area does he need to improve the most?
LeonPowe: He's a high risk medium reward QB. Although he has shown the ability to be a game manager - at least against bad defenses and Utah. We would love to get a 230 yard 1 touchdown no iNT/fumble day out of him. He has shown he has the ability to make a variety of throws, but he also has tended to receiver lock as well as sail throws when his footwork isn't set. And it's not often set. Strangely he is fairly awesome throwing seam routes as well as roll outs and bootlegs to the left.
Kodiak: Maynard is a threat to keep it on the zone-read or on the option. He also brings an element of unpredictability that makes it hard for defensive coordinators to account for - I'm not sure if anyone really knows where the ball is going to go on any given play. Footwork and accuracy are the two biggest areas that need improvement, followed closely by decision-making.
3. Wazzu head coach Paul Wulff called the Bears the most talented team in the conference. What's that all about?
Kodiak: Sheer hubris. That's just coach-speak which translates to, "Please don't fire me."
LeonPowe: We have some good players no doubt. And Keenan Allen and Kendricks and Bryan Anger might be the best in the conference at their positions. Maybe. Other than that, I dunno.
Cugel: It was a cleverly designed sop for GooooooooooooBears! to help get Tedford fired.
4. Do you expect Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones give the Cardinal defense fits a la USC's Robert Woods and Marquise Lee?
Kodiak: Yes. KA and Jones both do a nice job of getting open. I'm just not sure if our QB will consistently deliver them the ball.
LeonPowe: Only if we implement the all roll left offense.
5. Stanford will probably try to outmuscle the Bears by establishing the power running game early. How's the Cal defensive line?
Kodiak: A little banged up. Starting NT Aaron Tipoti didn't play last week, and standout senior DE Trevor Guyton was nicked last game. It's one of the deepest positions on the team, however, with plenty of young players in the rotation.
LeonPowe: It would be a strength of our team but we have some many injuries - not only the dline, but both starting outside backers (McCain and Wilkerson) were out against OSU. It is, however, our biggest depth area so - maybe we'll be ok?
6. Stanford's obviously banged up. Are there any key injuries that could affect the Bears this Saturday?
Kodiak: If outside linebackers Chris McCain and Dave Wilkerson still can't go, it really affects the Cal pass rush. Without them coming off the edge, we had to switch things up and play more of a traditional four down lineman look last week instead of a 3-4. Coach Pendergast also likes to use them as ends in passing situations, but that's obviously off the table if they can't go.
7. With an upset this Saturday or a win the following week at Arizona State, Cal will finish the regular season with a winning record. How does the team's performance compare with your expectations at the beginning of the season, and is there reason to be excited for next year?
Kodiak: The record is about on par for what we expected, which was a 7-win season +1/-1 depending on the Oline and QB. What has been disappointing is the nature of some of those losses. We really expected to be more competitive this year instead of self-destructive. Oh...And the incredibly disturbing loss to ucla might be the worse loss of the Tedford era. I think we're all excited about next year because it's a return to Memorial. There are plenty of talented young players to look forward to. It's the quarterback position which remains a huge question mark.
LeonPowe: Yeah. Plus I think more time to work back into a traditional Tedford offensive line will be good.
8. What will it take for Cal to shock Stanford?
Cugel: It's boring, but if we win, it will depend on establishing a ball-control running game to keep the ball away from All-World QB A. Luck, gutty ground out plays to create long clock-killing drives, with occasional field position changing deep strikes to our quality wideouts, without the any turnovers. A lot like 2009. So in other words, we're screwed.
9. Who would you like to Cattouse?
TwistNHook: That is in no way an actual word at any point used by actual human beings and, as such, I refuse to answer such an outlandish question.
LeonPowe: To Cattouse? You mean to embarrassingly run over by? Um, Li Bingbing? Olivia Munn?
Kodiak: Myself, for taking the time to answer these questions. It feels like I'm talking to myself.
[Editor's Note: Mr. Cattouse actually seems like a pretty chill guy.]