Football: Pac-10 ballot — No. 2

No. 2: Cal. I know some of you were wondering if I would pick Cal to win the Pac-10. While the Bears certainly have enough pieces in place to make a nice run this season, they haven’t improved enough to overtake USC. I agree that this may be the best chance in years for the Trojans to be dethroned. But to do that, it will take a complete team, one that has been competitive over the years and finally has put it all together this season. I don’t believe Cal is there yet. The Bears still need to find more balance in their offense. They can be a defensive-oriented team once again and win a lot of games that way. The problem with that approach is you leave less margin for error. You are going to play in more close games when they are defensive struggles. Until the Bears find a passing game, it will be hard to call on the offense to bail them out if the defense is having  a bad day or they are facing an explosive offense. Cal may indeed find that passing game, and if that happens, it will become a serious contender. But as we stand right now, the Bears aren’t much different from last year’s team. They will have more experience and their defense might be even better, and that’s why they will climb a couple of notches up from fourth place. But until they find a balanced offense to complement their dominant defense, it is difficult to pick them as champions.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • rollonubears

    so you’re basically predicting the bears will NOT find balance this year? of course if they go out there the same as last year, they can’t win. that’s what all the offseason work is for. i agree, they need a balanced attack to win. the difference is, i think they’ll find it this year, and therefore win the pac10. you also have to consider the possibility of u$c dropping a couple gimmes. they almost always do.

  • iamalcindor

    Do you think BURQAlee will end up in a BCS game or will melt down in the Holiday Bowl? Okanes, we want to know.

  • Davidson

    Why do you spell Berkeley like that?

  • Jabes

    Cal is the team that you want to pick to win more, because you know they won’t be the majority pick and you can look smart being in the minority when you are right. Unfortunately, Cal has perfected the art of losing with style and winning with anonymity.

    No one expected Cal to win @ Michigan State or Illinois, hell no one was actually watching outside of Big-10 audiences and Northern California, so there is no story of winning a game played @ 9a California time. Cal @ Maryland, high expectations, Cal loses with a flourish (Jahvid makes Youtube fame for a day) and the story of playing in the morning never ends. Even when Cal wins they can lose, like the win *AT* Southern Mississippi that caused the poll voters to suddenly see the overall record for Texas in a whole new light.

    My point? Cal has a history of making you look stupid for picking them to win because of losses when people pay attention (Holiday Bowl v. T Tech, Cal @ Tennessee) and winning when no one is paying attention (Holiday Bowl v. T A&M, Tennessee @ Cal). So, there is no “percentage” in picking Cal to win, even for the Cal beat writer for goodness sake!

    Nothing is won is pre-season polls. Can’t control the BCS. All that matters is winning the Pac-10 championship outright on the field.

    GO BEARS! The most important game is the next game. I’ll start to think about SC on Sep. 26 on the drive home from Eugene.

  • Jethro

    Cal has 5 Pac-10 road games this year, and they have been generally terrible on the road the past couple of years. That fact kills my optimism.

    I think Cal loses 2 Pac 10 games (either USC or Oregon and one other away game) and maybe Minnesota for a 9 or 10 win season. I think they win their Bowl game for a 10 or 11 win season, which is far superior to last years 9 win season when we effectively had 8 home games.

  • Davidson

    Jabes, “Cal has perfected the art of losing with style and winning with anonymity.” is right on the money; never has anyone put my feeling in so few words…

  • Davidson

    Our D, and running game is very good and that is good enough for a top 3 finish in the Pac-10. But if we want the grand daddy of them all, we need our passing game to also be GOOD. There lies the uncertainty.

  • Pete Carroll

    I have to agree with Rollon; if they’re the same team as last year, they won’t win. That’s the point; they’re not the same team. You haven’t seen it yet just like you haven’t seen how USC has performed with its unproven quarterback and retooled defense. So you’re giving the nod to SC based on reputation because their unanswered questions don’t make them vulnerable. In the words of Dennis Green “if you want to crown them, go ahead and crown their a$$” I do respectfully disagree with your timid selection.

  • Larry

    “Timid Selection” is right! I pick CAL to win the Pac-10! Is that so hard!

  • Pug

    QB and WR are the questions, of course. I think Riley emerges this year as a pretty good QB and Boteng, Jones and Calvin might be pretty good.

    The good news, I think, is that both lines are going to be big and tough. The DE’s are 295 and 286 and the NT is 304. The back ups are big, too.

    The OT’s are 329 and 339. The guards are 304 and 334. Nobody will maul Cal this season and they will “lumps on yer head” as Keith Jackson would say. Jahvid can run all day behind that line.

    This is the year I think the Bears really do have a shot at USC in Berkeley. Unfortunately, Cal has been a terrible road team for quite a while now. It seems they always lose a game in Arizona, and why Oregon State gives them such fits I’ll never know.

  • Pete Carroll

    Remember Cal always used to lose in the Palouse. They always used to lose in Eugene. They always use to lose in Seattle too. Their reputation as a team that always loses on the road is overrated. Almost all teams are better at home than on the road.

  • rollonubears

    the oregon game should be as good as 2 years ago, when a cheap shot to the qb cost nate his career and a pathetic call on a late hit out of bounds (we ALWAYS get screwed on that) almost cost us the game. winning in eugene takes an A+ game because the officials do everything they can to make you lose. if we beat oregon on the road, we’ll win the pac 10.

  • uh oh.

    I remember the days when we were happy to simply win the Big Game. Going to Cal games as a kid were a way to enjoy a Saturday afternoon with the family: tail gate, wonder around the stands looking for Oski, and listen to the groans of the Old Blues. So long as we beat Stanford, it was all okay.

    Recently, I reviewed the price structure to keep my grandmother’s 50 yard line seats. My, how times have changed. Fans complain when our beat writer picks us to finish #2, and the University is asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars to watch.

    I will savor the memories of my youth.

  • rollonubears

    yeah, ticket prices are ridiculous, but i’ll take the bears in the rose bowl on TV over cheap seats for a 1-11 team, any day. fortunately, there are plenty of people with cash to blow, and the fact that this is all privately financed is pretty impressive. it’s pretty tough to move out of 50yard line seats once you’ve experienced them, but even today, you can get in to see all the games for a reasonable price. and there’s still tightwad hill. go bears.

  • Rocko

    Just three questions J.O.:

    What passing game has USC found this year?

    Do you really think SC’s running game is better than CAL’s this year?

    With only three returning players on the SC’s defense how do they rate better than CAL’s?

  • Rocko

    Sorry, I meant returning “starters” not “players”!

  • uh oh.


    I made a rough calculation in xls of the ticket prices. If one buys the same Stadium level section “A” (50-yard line seat) for advance 50 year purchase, it will cost $125,000 (UC’s given quote), or $385 per seat per game. That per game ticket price is WAY more than the current face value, and total is enough to fund a child’s entire UCB education, far more valuable than watching 6.5 games x 50 years = 325 football games. However, let’s just roll with it.

    What are the ticket prices if you are able to take advantage of the 62% deductibility? With CA plus Fed top tax bracket being 45% (I increased a bit to be aggressive with the savings) the effective total cost of the package drops to $90,125, or $277 per game.

    And what if we assume that the current pricing for future seats is at a discount relative to inflation? (Meaning, $277 for a seat now seems expensive, but in 50 years seats might cost $1000 after inflation.) Well, if we figure in an inflation rate of 4% per year, the total cost drops to $39,210, or $120 per seat.

    Now who thinks that’s a bargain?
    Oh yeah, that just buys you 1 seat. And you’d better hope for heavy inflation, the sooner the cheaper.
    And, if you can’t afford the 50 year commitment, the price per game soars.

    Since most people who can afford this type of thing won’t be alive in 50 years, I assume they are considering a gift to their future generations. A better idea might be to simply leave them the scholarship.

    …wish I could post the entire xls file here for folks to pick apart…

  • milo

    J.O. is a good guy and he’s calling it as he sees it and acknowledges if there’s a season for Cal it’s this year.

    Well I have to say it’s more then that. All ties to Chow’s offense, Chow or Sark, are gone…just like Pete wanted. Add in the new starting QB and the offense is gonna wallow a bit. No so bad really except the D has to be retooled. 8 starters left.

    I’m telling you guys — this is the Bear’s year baby. That’s right, you know it, you know the story, you tell the whole wide world, this is Bear Territory!

  • abe

    Cal has all the talent on the field and a favorable schedule, specifically U$C at home to get the job done this year. but here is the problem programs like Cal and Oregon, that is programs that are not quite powerhouses but who manage to find the right combination from time to time to make a great run always have, THEY LACK DEPTH AT KEY POSITIONS. it is unfathomable to think the offense will not be better this year, better experience at OL, WR, QB, a great OC should make it possible to improve the offense just enough to make the team a contender. nonetheless we might end up relying on our defense in key games like the $C game and our lack of depth, severe lack of depth, at the DL will be the biggest issue for Cal this year. even if all our starting D linemen stay healthy, we need depth for rotation b/c they tend to get tired very quickly, especially if one is running the 3-4 in which DLmen often are taking double teams and once again we simply don’t have depth there. it will be interesting to see how that affects our season.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Here is what JO will say about USC:

    Until one of the 9 dwarfs upstages USC they still remain the hands on favorite to win the league championship and earn the right to yet another BCS game. We don’t know if they are national championship quality since there are significants questions at important positions including QB and LB. However the return the best OL and secondary in the Pac 10 and we very well have to include the same kudos for the DL. Their stable of RBs and WRs including Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson both who could have All American seasons will more than offset any of the early season jitters felt by their QBs. Taylor Mays is the elite player in the Pac 10 and few of the opponent’s WRs will want to challenge down the middle. Still if there is a year to unseat the Trojans this could be it.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    BTW I forgot to add that if anyone wants to challenge Taylor’s prowess for separating Wr from helmet just ask your receivers. They should know, that is, if they can remember.

  • BluenGold

    The CCTimes allows moron the troll to put up endless posts calling JO a ‘coward’, ‘clueless’ and the like, but when someone puts up a message calling it, its deleted. What is up with that?

  • Steve W

    Every year I buy my Athlon College football pre-season edition, and every year I am floored by how USC out recruits everyone else on the West Coast. C’mon people, USC had half of their team drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL draft this year. The stockpiling of talent at USC is unprecedented in college football history. Why worry about losing more than half of your defense to the NFL when you have six or seven guys who were top 100 recruits in the country to take their place? It would be absurd to pick anyone but the Trojans to win the Pac-10 as long as Pete Carroll is coaching that team with the same energy and enthusiasm and as long as he continues to out recruit everyone else by a country mile. I love the Bears to death, but I have given up hope of ever reaching the Rose Bowl as long as Carroll stays in Trojan land.


    Thanks for your honesty Steve. The truth hurts.

  • covinared

    I agree with Steve except I believe that given a little luck we will come out on top. We are in perhaps the best postion to do so in years. Anything can happen, even while PC is coaching USC. He is not god, and troy ultimately burned to the ground . Talk is cheap, and pronosticators are often wrong. I am still very grateful that after so many years of just hoping we beat an LA school, we can consistently go into a season expecting to contend. Even if we don’t, I am still just as proud to be a Bear as wefohx.

  • uh oh.

    Everyone across the nation would agree with Steve, except that they don’t play the game on paper. Just ask Oregon State.

  • BluenGold

    Over the past several years it has been shown that the U of Sports Corruption is vulnerable. I think Cal can beat them; they just have to play a smart game for 4 full quarters.


    Easier said than done.

  • Jethro

    Any year Cal plays USC at home increases the odds that Cal can beat USC, which in turn increases the odds that Cal can win the Pac-10.

    This year the odds improve because Cal will likely be better than last year on both offense and defense.

    What cuts against the Pac-10 title optimism are the unproven/undemonstrated passing game and the 5 Pac-10 away games.

    I think Cal has to beat USC to win the Pac-10 because USC will not lose 2 other games if they beat Cal. I also think it is unlikely that Cal wins both the Oregon and USC games, but a loss to Oregon won’t cost the Pac-10 title if Cal can win out and Oregon loses to USC at home and somebody else.

    I’m also not worried about DL depth – the coaches are pretty high on Kendrick Payne, Owusu, Guyton, and Tipoti as backups to Alualu, Jordan, and Hill. Alualu and Jordan are regarded as two of the best DEs in the Pac-10.

  • Davidson

    CAL beats Oregon. USC beats CAL. Oregon beats USC.

    All 3 teams win out other games. DUN DUN DUN!

  • BluenGold

    It may be easier said than done, but the only way Cal is going to progress to higher levels than where it is now will be to be if it is able to put together good games against quality opponents. Until that happens, we might as well all be resigned to being an also-ran in the Pac 10 and playing in 3rd tier bowl games. If that is the reality, then there’s not much use in endlessly blogging about it, is there?

  • Pete Carroll

    Yes, to be the best you have to beat the best. USC is good for the PAC-10 because it forces the other teams to raise their games to match USC’s. Yes they outrecruit, outpay, and have awesome cheerleaders (though I think the Arizona schools have them beat there). I for one think that SC will be beat. No one picked Tampa Bay Rays to beat the Yankees last year, and yet they did. No one expected the Arizona Cardinals to get past Carolina and Philadelphia and yet they did. The one thing that’s true, streaks don’t last forever. Someone will beat SC. Remember there was a time when Washington dominated the PAC-10, look at them now.

  • uh oh.

    Everyone is saying that the D this year will be better than last year. But I recall a sick feeling at the end of the season last year, knowing that we were losing THREE big time linebackers. Those guys are the key to the 3-4 defense, no? Everyone praises the new 3-4 formation, but I think more to the success might have been that we put great players on the field. Yes, we have a more experienced secondary, with talent. But the backers, man, they are your core of the defense.

  • BluenGold

    Pete Carroll, you pretty much summed up my earlier point. I think that the U of South Central can be beaten and, given the right circumstances, Cal has as good a chance as anyone to do it. But it requires a quality effort and smart play for all 4 quarters of the game. That is what has been missing from Cal’s matchups against the troy boys and other good opponents over the last few years. Hopefully, this will be the year when all that changes. As I remember yelling from the student section at Memorial, “Trojans pop under pressure!”

  • Jethro

    I don’t think Cal loses much at LB this year. They effectively have 2 of 4 returning LBs in Eddie Young and Mike Mohamed. I think Mohamed had the best football instincts of any of last years LBs and will be better this year. Young should also be better.

    I think we lose experience with Felder and Williams, but I think they can be replaced with equivalent or better talent (Mychal Kendricks and Mohamed).

    I think we lose talent, experience, and leadership at Follets OLB position. If Bishop can make a few plays at OLB, then I think the overall group is as good or at least close to last year’s group.

    I’m anxious to see if Kendricks and Mohamed can play “downhill” at the ILB positions and make a few tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. That rarely happended on running plays last year.

  • Pete Carroll

    Jethro is right, Mikey Mo is a beast. He played exceptionally well last year and had more snaps than the starters. I am not worried about linebackers. I do worry about DL depth, QB and WR play, but that’s not news to anyone. It will take exceptional play to beat USC, Oregon, OSU and the rest of the PAC-10. But we’ve seen it from these players. Kevin Riley has had flashes of excellence in games. They have the talent, they need sustained effort and decent health and they can beat anyone in the PAC-10.