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Football: Pac-12 picks, Week 9

Cal coach Jeff Tedford tells us every week that the Bears are taking the rest of the schedule day by day, game by game. Really, what choice do they have?

But it’s an approach that could work for Cal, at least to a point.

The Bears have four games left, and need to win three of them to become bowl eligible. It won’t be easy, but the order of the games works to their favor: at Utah, vs. Washington, vs. Oregon, at Oregon State.

Imagine if you flip-flopped those four games, and the Bears, at 3-5, were facing unbeatens Oregon and Oregon State the next two weeks. Admit it, you’re thinking 3-7, right?

But Utah and Washington — a combined 1-7 in Pac-12 play — are games the Bears can win. If they deliver on these two, suddenly they are 5-5 and the mindset is different.

At that point, the assignment no longer feels quite so imposing. The Bears can tell themselves they simply need to win one more game and they’re in. Then playing ‘em one at a time is all they need.

Can they actually win that one?

Let’s see if they can get there first.

LAST WEEK: 5-0
SEASON: 44-16

Saturday

– Colorado at No. 2 Oregon, noon (Pac-12 Networks): The Ducks (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) host the Buffaloes (1-6, 1-3) in a battle of the league’s best offense (51.0 ppg) vs. its worst defense (42.6 ppg). Oregon — which has scored 30 points or more in 20 consecutive games — apparently has something to prove to the BCS computer after falling from No. 3 to No. 4. But what could the Ducks possibly do against this opponent to impress? The Buffs’ most remarkably grotesque defensive statistic: They have allowed nine times more TD passes (27) than they have pass interceptions (3). Oregon 56, Colorado 3.

– UCLA at Arizona State, noon (FX): An intriguing game for the Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1), who will try to bounce back from a reality-check shellacking at the hands of Oregon. Just as hard to figure which Bruins (5-2, 2-2) will show up. Their only wins since beating Nebraska back on Sept. 8 have been at the expense of Colorado and Utah, a combined 1-7 in the conference. Arizona State 30, UCLA 24.

– No. 10 USC at Arizona, 12:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN2): Could be a trap game for the Trojans (6-1, 4-1), who must avoid looking ahead to a week from now and a showdown with Oregon. USC leads the all-time series 28-7 over the high-scoring Wildcats (4-3, 1-3), who have scored at least 50 points three times for the first time in 58 years, but whose defense cannot be trusted. I’m seeing four more Matt Barkley TD passes. USC 35, Arizona 24.

– Washington State at No. 19 Stanford, 3:15 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Cardinal (5-2, 3-1) may run for 400 yards against the Cougars (2-5, 0-4). Seriously. The game plan may just call for quarterback Josh Nunes to hand the ball off to Stepfan Taylor 37 times while throwing just 10 passes. And that could work against the Cougs. Stanford 38, Washington State 10.

– Cal at Utah, 6:45 p.m. (Pac-12 Bay Area): Can the Bears (3-5, 2-3) run the ball again? Can they survive the road? Will the Bear quit, will the Bear die? With a bowl bid fading from realistic view, this is a real test of a team’s will to hang with its coach. Coach Jeff Tedford and his players have had each other’s backs so far, but the defense-minded Utes (2-5, 0-4) won’t be easy-pickings. Cal 21, Utah 17.

– No. 7 Oregon State at Washington, 7:15 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Beavers (6-0, 4-0) are off to their best start since . . . drum roll, please . . . 1907. No kidding. The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) have dropped three in a row since upsetting Stanford, surrendering 52 points in two of those. Oregon State has allowed just 99 points all season — best in the Pac-12. Defense wins this one. Oregon State 24, Washington 14.

Jeff Faraudo

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    UC East Bay gets Cattoused. There is just too much * power.

    Here’s hoping that your #73 isn’t carried off on a stretcher after * finishes with him.

  • CoBears

    One * does not make a team. The game against Utah is eminently winnable, assuming the coaches still have it in them to develop a winning game plan against a team with inferior talent, and, make no mistake, Utah has inferior overall talent on their team.

    At the same time, these coaches, and Tedford in particular, have not been showing that they retain that ability any more. This game will speak to whether they have anything left, or whether we are just plain done.

    Of course, Tedford should be done anyway, as winning against woeful Utah shouldn’t mean much to his job security. Regardless of the outcome this week and against the Fuskies (Huck ‘em!), the Oregon schools will be there to ensure Tedford’s demise at the end of the season in any event.

    Go Bears!

  • oldcalfan

    I keep hearing that Cal has superior talent than their opponents and that they underachieve. With the exception of 3 games this year Cal has looked far from having more talent. If they had superior talent they would have made the plays necessary to win games. The reason Cal is 3-5 this year is they are not as talented as their opponents. Their QB is way to inconsistent, their O and D lines have been beaten almost every game, and although the coaching is suspect, it’s not all the coaches’ fault. When Keenan Allen is your most talented player, others need to step up to take the pressure off. And they haven’t done so.

  • CoBears

    @Oldcalfan: I completely disagree with your post. We haven’t looked like we’ve had more talent because our talent hasn’t been properly prepared and hasn’t executed as well as other teams. I would venture to say there is no one out there who would contend that Nevada has more talent on their team than we do. Same for Arizona State, though it is a lot closer. Utah isn’t that close, which is why they have not won a game in the Pac-12 this year. Look at the number of players we’ve been sending to the NFL every year–we have solid players, and have had solid players here for years.

    Our failures this year are not really failures of talent. They are failures of coaching, of discipline, of execution of plays. All of those failures reflect primarily up to the coaches, who need to put our players in a position to succeed and win games. They need to work with the players we have and figure out how to use them to our advantage. If the line can’t keep pressure off, throw more quick slants and screens, and throw to the backs in the flat, etc.

    Compare it to Riley at Oregon State. He wins with lesser talent than at most of his rivals, year after year. No one can challenge that his coaching transcends the level of talent the Beavers put on the field. They are currently ranked 7th in the country, and are undefeated. Give Riley this stable of Cal players, and they might have been able to do even better.

    Talent is important, but coaching is critical, particularly in college ball, and Tedford has lost his edge.

  • http://sportskaster.blogspot.com sportskaster

    Just thinking out loud. If the Bears somehow manage to win three out of the next four (the loss, of course, is to Oregon)and sneak into a bowl, would Tedford keep his job? It would still be a crappy season but…
    What if he wins two, which is possible, and doesn’t make a bowl? Does he keep his job in that scenario?

  • BlueNGold

    Does the parasite have a final score prediction? If so, put it out there. Or, are you too much of a COWARD to do that?

  • BlueNGold

    I have a feeling that AZ is going to be a big surprise against the sleazy cheaters. Probably will be close, but would not be surprised to see the wildcats eek out a win.

  • oldcalfan

    @CoBears, Where’s all this talent besides Keenan? QB? OL? Defense is OK but has bad lapses. RB’s? Yes they are talented but without an OL they are average at best. Cal has suffered from poor QB play since Rogers.
    We have sent players to the NFL but that’s not a measure of this year’s talent.
    I agree with you about the coaching, but the talent still has to be there and, it’s not.
    What do you attribute no Rose Bowl (for 53 years) to?
    Cal han’t been a power since the late 40′s! Why? They don’t make football a priority like USC, Alabama etc. do. THEY DON’T GET THE TALKENT that the power teams get.
    I am sorry, I wish they did.

  • BlueNGold

    Hey, nice prediction, BlueNGold!