BERKELEY CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears celebrates with Shane Vereen #34 against the Colorado Buffaloes at California Memorial Stadium on September 11 2010 in Berkeley California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Arizona starts Pac-10 play this weekend against Cal in Tucson. As always, we try to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents by asking their respective bloggers through SB Nation. This week, it's Twist N Hook from www.californiagoldenblogs.com. If you haven't been to this site, do yourself a favor and go get learned on some Cal sports. Here we go:
1. How will Cal look to rebound after the loss to Nevada?
By beating Zona's *ss. Seriously. I'm sure the coaching staff is worried about this snowballing into a prolonged skid. With regards to a successful (decent bowl) or unsuccessful season, this is that cliched "must-win" game.
We have a lot to prove on both sides of the ball after the Nevada debacle. There were quotes from some players and coaches that downplayed some of the defensive problems and attributed it to Nevada's unorthodox offense, but the bottom line is that we knew what we were going to be facing, and we were completely unprepared for it anyway. I think the players and coaches will take great pains to demonstrate this week that they'll be ready for what Arizona is going to throw at them. Our offense gained a lot of yards last week (went yard-for-yard with Nevada's, if you can believe that), though it didn't end up being reflected on the scoreboard due to turnovers and miscues in critical situations. I wish I could tell you whether they'll work the kinks out this week or not. They're capable of putting up a bunch of points, but that's about all we know. As was noted in the Riley question, consistency is not the Bears' forte.
2. What's the deal with Riley? Does he lack receivers or is he making bad decisions?
Our best WR (Allen) is nursing a sprained ankle. Without a reliable #2 play-making threat, it may be that Riley doesn't have a lot of confidence in the #3-5 WR's. So, he's either locking on to guys, or he's pressing - he's trying too hard to make the perfect play/perfect throw and this hesitation is messing with his mechanics and decision-making.
It's the same as it ever was with Riley -- accuracy and consistency. He does not lack the receivers: Marvin Jones is an All Pac-10 type of a talent, Keenan Allen (though banged up now) has shown promise, and Anthony Miller is a quality pass-catching tight end. On top of that, Shane Vereen is one of the best (if not the best) pass receiving running backs that Cal has had since Jeff Tedford became the coach. Bad decisions? Sometimes, but that's not what plagues him. He made a bad decision on the pick 6 last week at Nevada, but that type of bad decision is relatively rare for Riley. Above all else, Riley just has not been consistently accurate enough to become the elite quarterback we would love him to be.
3. What is your thought on the amount of hair per player on the U of A football team. (Foles, Tuihalamaka, Antolin, Reed, etc...)
Goddamn hippies. I hope they all make out with Dumpster Muffin before the game.
You jerks are contributing to the economic downturn by abjuring haircuts. Think of the financial damage your team is causing to your local Tucson tonsorialists! Have you no decency??
4. Do you think that Cal can stop the Arizona passing machine?
No. Our corners have improved, but we have two converted CB's playing safety. (poorly) The LB's still seem to have issues with their zone coverage, especially w/ TE's. If Gronkowski were still around, I'd recommend we just forfeit the game and save the university some travel expenses.
If theres any team w/ DB depth, it's Cal. Darian Hagan, Marc Anthony, Bryant Nnabuife, and Steve Williams are all capable coverage corners. Anthony inherited a bit of Syd'Quan Thompson in him in terms of run support. Nnabuife switches off w/ the safeties to blitz QBs. Josh Hill is the fifth DB if necessary.
The Arizona game will help Cal answer two questions in the secondary. 1. Has Darian Hagan matured and can he shake off the ghost of Tray Sessions last week after getting beat twice? 2. Will Steve Williams get his cast off and show off his ball skills against Arizona's 4/5 receiver sets?
My guess is that Cal DBs will do their jobs, but stopping the Arizona passing machine is going to require the defense upfront to apply pressure on Foles a la 2009 from all directions. Nic Grigsby is my x-factor of this game. If he's ineffective running the ball then Coach P is going to have an open season on Foles.
5. What type of defense is Cal going to run against Arizona? Will they blitz, sit in zone, man up?
Prior to this past weekend, I'd expect a variety of blitz/pressure packages with zone. However, we proved rather convincingly that we still suck at zone. So, I think we may see more press-man coverage and a variety of 4-5 man rushes with the extra 1-2 guys coming from different places. Our delayed blitzes stink, so we may do more blitzing from the LB or CB/S lined up over one of the slot receivers. I'm sure we'll still throw in some zone blitzes as variety. Because Foles isn't much of a running threat, we may do more man simply because our CB's don't have to keep eyes on the backfield as much.