Football: Pac-12 picks — Week 3

The best thing about USC playing at Stanford on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Fox: It’ll be 7:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio, and I can watch the game after finishing up coverage of Cal at Ohio State.

Yes, the two Bay Area teams take on heavyweights this weekend. And the assignment looks too big for both of them.

The Bears’ problems go well beyond the fact that they haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1920. The best teams win because they dominate the line of scrimmage, and Cal will be challenged offensively by an OSU squad allowing just 13 points and 51 rushing yards per game.

Stanford’s best chance is to establish a running game and get the lead early. The Cardinal won 56-48 in triple-overtime last year, but does not have the firepower to stay with the Trojans and their elite wideouts.

BearTalk survey: Before giving you my picks, here are results of our unscientific survey of Cal fans (and anyone else participating on the blog): Picking against the spread (which has come down from 17 1/2 earlier this week), 21 of you picked the Buckeyes, just eight said you’d bet on the Bears. 

SEASON: 16-7

This week’s games


— Washington State at UNLV, 6 p.m. (ESPN): It’s hard to get real excited yet about the Cougars (1-1), who are averaging 15 points under new coach and offensive guru Mike Leach. But UNLV (0-2) is coming off a loss to Northern Arizona (which lost 63-6 to Arizona State), and a year ago the Cougs drubbed the Rebels 59-7. Washington State 35, UNLV 14.

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Football: What welcome awaits Bears? Meyer says he wants Ohio Stadium to be an`inferno’

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes’ crowds for their first two games have been OK, but the former Florida coach expects more.

Will he get the atmoshere he wants in time for Cal’s arrival on Saturday? He’s campaigning for it.

“I expect the stadium to be an inferno. I expect players to be diving over each other to hit quarterbacks. I expect the offense to score a multitude of points and celebrate in the end zone,” he told the Columbus Dispatch.

“So no, it’s not that close (yet), but I understand the journey. It’s not a sprint, it’s a journey, a marathon to get it where we want it. What we’ve done the first two weeks is nothing like the vision I think this place should be like.”

“I think that stadium should be absolutely electric.”

Meyer conceded that part of the equation is the Buckeyes need to play better.

“You want to get a stadium going? Go hit a quarterback,” he said. “You want to really get a stadium (going)? Put a hand on a punt. That’s when people come out of their seats.”

Elsewhere . . .

— Ohio State running back Jordan Hall, who missed the first two games with a foot injury, is likely to play Saturday, Meyer said. Hall had surgery to repair a cut he sustained on his right foot in June, and was cleared to practice this week.

Senior linebacker Storm Klein has been reinstated after serving a two-game suspension, but Meyer said he wasn’t sure how much Klein would play against Cal.

Klein was dismissed from the team in July after being charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and assault as result of an altercation with a former girlfriend in his apartment. The woman later changed her story, and Klein’s charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty, and Meyer let him come back to the team.

— Here’s a Columbus Dispatch feature on Zach Maynard and Keenan Allen and the odyssey that brought them together at Cal. There’s not much new in it for Cal fans, except for one amusing comment from Allen at the end.

Asked if he has any regrets about his de-commit from Alabama as a high schooler, Allen said, laughing,  “I definitely wished I could have been part of that national championship team. But it’s cool.”


Football: Brace yourself — Bears set for most challenging 2-week road set in school history

 How tough is this two-week road stretch for the Bears?

Well, perhaps the toughest in school history.

I did some research and Cal’s games the next two Saturdays at No. 12 Ohio State and No. 2 USC mark just the 10th time the Bears have played road games on consecutive weekends against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top-25.

Never have they faced teams both ranked No. 12 or higher in a back-to-back road situation.

So welcome to the most challenging two-week road schedule in school history.

Here’s how the Bears fared the previous nine times they went back-to-back on the road vs. Top-25 teams:

Nov. 8: lost 17-3 at No. 7 USC
Nov. 15: lost 34-21 at No. 23 Oregon State
Oct. 5: won 34-27 at No. 12 Washington
Oct. 12: lost 30-28 at No. 20 USC
Oct. 18: lost 63-37 at No. 13 Washington State
Oct. 25: lost 35-17 at No. 13 UCLA
Nov. 5: lost 13-6 at No. 18 Arizona
Nov. 12: lost 31-19 at No. 22 Washington
Oct. 10: lost 35-16 at No. 1 Washington
Oct. 17: lost 27-24 at No. 18 USC
Oct. 27: lost 46-7 at No. 7 Washington
Nov. 3: tied 21-21 at No. 21 USC
Nov. 8: lost 49-0 at No. 5 Arizona State
Nov. 15: lost 28-3 at No. 13 USC
Oct. 27: lost 31-7 at No. 20 USC
Nov. 3: lost 44-14 at No. 1 Washington
Sept. 11: lost 36-24 at No. 16 Georgia
Sept. 18: lost 28-17 at No. 4 Oklahoma



Football: Tedford praises Maynard, says Bears aren’t interested in playing up underdog role

A couple items from Jeff Tedford’s news conference Tuesday:

Asked about Zach Maynard’s decision making through two games, Tedford praised his senior quarterback.

“Zach’s done very well. He hasn’t forced the ball,” Tedford said.

Maynard ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency at 154.2. He’s completed 64.2 percent of his passes for an average of 237 yards per game, with three touchdowns and one interception in 53 attempts.

“Last week’s interception was a total fluke,” Tedford said of the first-quarter pick on a screen pass. “You never see that happen on a wide screen. You’re supposed to cut the (defensive) end. It’s a blind throw, really, for the quarterback. The end didn’t get cut. You never expect that. You’re not reading the defensive end on a wide screen.

“For the most part, Zach has done a nice job of not forcing the football. Has made some plays with his legs,” he said, alluding to Maynard’s 30 net yards rushing. “When he’s got outside the pocket, he’s been accurate with his throws. I think his managemenet of the game and protecting the ball has been good.”

He noted that Maynard was stripped of the ball once in the Nevada game while scrambling.

“He’s got to put it away when he starts running,” Tedford said. “As far as throwing the football, he’s managing it pretty well.”

Later, Tedford was asked if his team is embracing the underdog role against Ohio State, which is favored by 17 points. Tedford said exploiting that motivational angle is not part of his preparation this week.

“We’re not going to play to that,” he said. “We’re going there to win a football game. I don’t know what the (outside) perception is. I know the perception in our locker room is we’re going there to win and compete and execute.

“We understand we’re playing a great football and a great tradition in a place that’s a hostile environment. We understand the level of competition, but that’s not something we’re backing down from.”



Football: Summers-Gavin out for Ohio State; McCain, Rodgers listed as probable

Jeff Tedford today confirmed that OT Matt Summers-Gavin (knee) will not play at Ohio State on Saturday. He will miss his second straight game and will be replaced in the starting lineup by junior Bill Tyndall.

Tedford said MSG is week to week.

The news was better for OLB Chris McCain and TE Richard Rodgers, both listed as probable.

Here’s my Cal notebook.