Weekly Musings – Cal Edition

I did not have a lengthy musings piece last week, and they came quite belatedly due to work issues, but this week I am ready to go. It was a delightful day spent at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and obviously a win is a much better feeling than what we experienced last week. It is, indeed, odd – to say the least – that Stanford, which can not sell out its own tiny football stadium, has beaten us four times in a row, and yet Cal, who was supposed to be the new conference rival for USC when Tedford arrived, has now lost to USC nine times in a row (yep, NINE consecutive times). Something is off there, but I’ll take the second part of it. Let me travel around the country a bit first and then get into our USC Trojans …

– I am sorry, but Kirk Ferentz would have the world by the you-know-what if he didn’t have to live in Iowa (and I assume he doesn’t spend a minute there the second the season ends). At $2mm per year in Iowa, that would be like making $145mm per year in Newport Beach. And what does he have to do to earn this wage? Lose to Central Michigan on Iowa’s home field, a feat I would have thought impossible. Good work if you can get it!

– UCLA lost to Oregon State. Yawn. By the way, a lot of Bruins out there are saying they get more excited when USC loses than when UCLA wins. This is news to me in the way that hearing Lindsay Lohan is in trouble is news to me. Now that Franklin was held to 45 yards and UCLA lost at home, I assume their fans have reverted to not caring about the season until their last game of the year, if you catch my drift.

– I got home in time to watch the entire Arizona/Oregon game. I have never seen a team get within a few yards of the endzone four different times in the first 18 minutes of a game and end up with ZERO points. It is not a good idea to do that, Arizona, when you are playing the offense of Oregon.

– Oklahoma loses to the #15 team at home. I assume their press and rivals will now write their obits as well? Of course, not. That type of response is reserved for those in the press corps of the team that every single team in the country is most envious of … Oklahoma likely is overrated, but no one thinks their season is over.

– LSU had 12 points against the atrocious Auburn Tigers. In their defense, I think 12 is more points than were scored in the entire LSU-Alabama game last year. But yes, this does not bode well for LSU’s chances against Alabama.

– Tennessee struggled mightily against AKRON. When this little run Nick Saban is having at Alabama ends, history will have to record that it came in a period when the entire parity of the SEC was thrown out the window. Georgia appears legit (time will tell), but Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee are insanely bad. THAT was the SEC I used to like – when there were seven or eight good teams, not two or three.

– I like South Carolina’s offense, a lot. Is this Spurrier’s year?

– Speaking of offense, Boise State beat BYU by the score of 7-6 on Thursday night.

– I am praying Notre Dame is undefeated when they come into the Coliseum the last game of the year – praying for it! I am not praying that they leave the Coliseum undefeated.

– Whatever Arizona’s defense did in the first half to D’Anthony Thomas, that’s what I think all teams should do.

Okay – let’s talk USC and the Kal game …

– There are two things I am not at all convinced of: (1) That Matt Barkley will leave USC without beating Stanford; (2) That USC is not playing Oregon State this season. Though I will grant that BOTH of these things can not happen. -)

– It is not often that I read a single thing in the press I consider to be worthwhile. But the reporting about the relative “quiet” in the Coliseum was accurate. And disappointing.

– There are folks worried about Matt Barkley’s play so far this season but I do not think he has looked bad or particularly good – just “regular”. His receivers did not help him a lot on Saturday (Lee and Woods dropped balls downfield that should have been caught). BUT, can anyone say that he looks WORSE than the first four games of last year? No way. This is a kid who gets better week by week, and if last year is an indication, will spend the final six weeks of the year tearing people apart. Teams are coming to terms with the dilemma they face in defensing USC – they have to give up the run, or the pass, but they can not stop both. To the extent that Stanford did, I think USC just played poorly on the line. The chemistry and rhythm and explosiveness and USC’s offense will come, in my opinion, but I agree it has not arrived just yet.

– The defense has been 1.5x times better than I thought it would be so far this year, but the offense has been 0.5x as good … The key to the next leg of our season will be for the former to stay at that level or higher but have the offense get up to 1.0x of my expectation.

– TJ Macdonald’s pick in the red zone was every bit a “play made by the safety”, and not merely a “bad pass by a bad QB”. This Maynard kid is one of the worst quarterbacks I have seen at Cal (at least when he plays USC), but TJ made an extremely athletic play and it buried Cal.

– Can’t say enough about BOTH Curtis and Silas – just strong runners, tough to tackle, low-to-the-ground kind of guys, that both have breakaway speed. We have not seen their last game of two guys breaking 100+ yards!

– The defensive line’s pass rush was the story of the game, but I also believe the secondary is making that pass rush much more effective because the coverage was very good.

– The bye week seems to come at a great time, as does the existence of a Thursday night game on October 4, essentially giving us another “mini-bye” before the next game. It goes without saying that we must beat Utah, Washington, and Colorado, and I am not considering any of these games to be games to take for granted. If we can get to Tucson in a month with a 6-1 record, with Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, and Notre Dame in front of us, it may set up one of our toughest and most exciting Novembers ever.

– The referees were atrocious Saturday. I want to blame it on the NFL strike, but I think the far more plausible explanation is that “all referees hate USC”.

– I love Coach Lane Kiffin, and I mean love him. Cal’s acceptance of Jeff Tedford is a mystery to me, and likely only explainable by the state of the Regents UC finances. The big issue people do not talk about when it comes to firing an under-performing coach is not the buyout involved, which is usually insane enough. It is the REPLACEMENT cost that a top tier coach represents. We live in interesting times. Did I mention Kirk Ferentz’s salary?

Okay. I imagine I will take next week off from my musings as USC is not playing, and I am leaving on Sunday for almost two weeks of business in New York City. Yes, I will be watching the Utah game from New York, and if any NY Trojans want to join me, I WILL BE BUYING. But next Saturday I will miss most of the action as I want to engulf myself with the kiddos who I will be away from for a bit. Fight on, and I can’t wait to muse away after a win over Utah!
This week’s edition of the musings is again dedicated to my dear friend, Jason Carson, who remains one of the few people I have ever known with a true heart of gratitude. Nuff’ said.