Football: Cal biggest underdog since 1976

How significant is Cal’s 36-point underdog status vs. Oregon?

It’s the biggest involving the Bears since at least 1976, according to research done by my long-time pal Bud Withers of the Seattle Times. That’s 37 seasons ago.

He checked and couldn’t find the Bears as any bigger underdog than 32 points against Nebraska in 1999.

Do they cover?

Consider this: Cal has failed to cover the spread in its past nine games, according to OddsShark.com — the longest such streak in the country.


Basketball: Monty embraces earlier practice start

The college football season is just a month old and already college basketball practice is set to begin. Yes, in September.

The NCAA in May voted to move up the beginning of practice for men’s teams by essentially two weeks from its recent start date of Oct. 15. The move comes two years after women’s teams were allowed the earlier start.

“They saw what we were doing and liked the rule,” Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I think we were the guinea pigs.”

“It makes all the sense in the world,” said Cal men’s coach Mike Montgomery, whose team will begin practicing Saturday. “There’s no negative to it in my mind.”

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Football: Hinder playing the role as Bears prep for force of nature that is Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

Third-string quarterback Austin Hinder has played the role of Oregon star Marcus Mariota on the scout team this week in practice.

Mobile and fast, Hinder seemed the obvious choice.

“Hinder did a good job of operating it. He moves around pretty good,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “I don’t know if he moves quite like their guy moves.

“If you’ve got a guy like that he’s going to be playing for you. He’s not going to be running the scout team.”

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Football: Some candid moments in `The Drive’

Although the Bears had a bye last week, Episode 3 of “The Drive,” which ran Wednesday evening on the Pac-12 Networks, had some very good moments.

Reserve quarterback Joey Mahalic’s impersonation of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin during the Rookie Talent Show was hilarious.

There also was a terrific segment where coach Sonny Dykes talked to the team about the difference between being injured and merely hurt. Clearly, the Bears’ injury epidemic is weighing on the first-year coach.

“Every player within the course of a football game is going to get hurt,” Dykes told them. “You’re going to get hit, you’re going to get dinged, you’re going to twist your ankle, you’re going to get your shoulder jammed, you’re going to get hit in the mouth.

“Whatever it is, at some point during the game that’s going to happen to you. And for us to be where we want to be as a program and have a chance to be a championship program, the No. 1 thing we have to be is tough.

“But we have an issue right now in terms of injuries and understanding the difference between being injured and hurt. Until we understand the difference as a program, we’re going to have some issues, guys. I don’t know how else to say it.”

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Football: Tony Franklin easing into Berkeley, pushing Cal offense to go faster and faster

As offensive coordinator for the Cal football team, Tony Franklin is the mastermind of the Bear Raid attack, notable for its ferocious tempo.

But there are times when Franklin takes his foot off the gas pedal.

He slows it down while savoring his daily walk through campus from BART to his office at Memorial Stadium. One day he stopped to listen at a rally protesting potential U.S. military intervention in Syria.

A 56-year-old native of Kentucky, Franklin has quickly adjusted to the campus often best-known for Telegraph Avenue and the birth of the Free Speech Movement. He’s not concerned with what he wears or if he shaves daily.

Asked if anyone has suggested that he has a Berkeley vibe, Franklin said, “I know I do. The voice just doesn’t reflect it. I absolutely love living here. I just love the openness of the young people.”

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A look at how teams improved after Tony Franklin was hired as offensive coordinator:

At Troy

— 2005: The year before Franklin arrived, the Trojans were 4-7 and averaged 15.9 points and 285.1 yards per game.

— 2006: In Franklin’s first season, the Trojans were 8-5 and averaged 22.8 points and 319.9 yards.

— 2007: In his second season, they were 8-4 and averaged 34.0 points and 452.8 yards.

At Middle Tennessee

— 2008: The year before Franklin arrived, the Blue Raiders were 5-7 and averaged 22.8 points and 349.9 yards.

— 2009: In Franklin’s first season, the Blue Raiders were 10-3 and averaged 32.0 points and 421.7 yards.

At Louisiana Tech

— 2009: The year before Franklin (and head coach Sonny Dykes) arrived, the Bulldogs were 4-8 and averaged 29.2 points and 375.8 yards.

— 2010: In Franklin’s first season, the Bulldogs were 5-7 and averaged 26.8 points and 389.9 yards.

— 2011: In Franklin’s second season, they were 8-5 and averaged 30.6 points and 397.5 yards.

— 2012: In Franklin’s third season, they were 9-3 and averaged 51.5 points and 577.9 yards.

At Cal

— 2012: The year before Franklin (and Dykes) arrived, the Bears were 3-9 and averaged 23.0 points and 391.2 yards.

— 2013: In Franklin’s first season, the Bears are 1-2 and averaging 33.7 points and 556.0 yards.


Football: Ducks impressed by Goff, Golden Bears, but not terribly fearful of Cal’s tempo

Oregon is impressed by what Cal has achieved on offense this season, but the Ducks don’t seem concerned about the Bears’ fast pace.

“We’ve seen guys snap the ball fast before, and it’s not going to make our guys instantly uncomfortable,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told reporters this week.

“You can see in some of these other games there’s teams that aren’t lined up or trying to substitute at the wrong time. Hopefully, that’s not something that throws us off too much.”

Oregon scores at a faster tempo than almost any team in the country, but Helfrich took notice of the Bears’ average of 94.7 plays per game.

“We can’t match that,” he said. “Hopefully our guys are used to playing up-tempo. Our communication, how we do those things different, hopefully pays off in a situation like this.”

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Football: Bears expecting a `fun’ trip to Oregon

It is seemingly a five-star recipe for a colossal mismatch, but the Cal football team embraces the confluence of obstacles arriving Saturday night at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

The Golden Bears (1-2), with as many as seven true freshmen in the rotation, will play their first road game of their season in their Pac-12 opener against No. 2 Oregon, the nation’s second-highest scoring team.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff, the nation’s total offense leader.

The Ducks (3-0) are 36-point favorites.

“Our guys are excited. I’m excited,” first-year Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “There’s a little bit of an unknown to see how we can handle it. It’s a tough environment. It’ll be a challenge for us.”

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Football: RB Daniel Lasco predicts Golden Bears are ready to ‘shock the world’ at Oregon

Running back Daniel Lasco said the Golden Bears are more than excited about this weekend’s first road trip of the season.

He said they are confident they can play with the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

Asked after practice Monday about the Ducks’ defense, Lasco said, “They’re fast, they swarm to the ball. Other than that, they’re just another football team. Nothing special, nothing we can’t handle.

“In my mind, I know we’re going to go in there and we’re going to win.”

Lasco, told by the coaching staff he could get more opportunity to play on Saturday night, said the Bears feel good about their Pac-12 schedule opener.

“If we’re trying to go to the Rose Bowl, this is the game we have to win,” he said. “I feel this team is focused and we’re about to go in there and shock the world.”

Oregon, averaging 61.3 points per game this season and a winner in 33 of its past 36 home games, is favored by more than five touchdowns.

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