Football: It’s all on the line for Cal, USC

Cal’s struggles against USC — a current 10-game losing streak and only four road victories since 1958 — aren’t primarily the work of O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen and Carson Palmer.

“The skill position players win the Heisman Trophies,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “But you look at their history and they’ve always had good offensive and defensive lines. That’s how they’ve built their program over the years.”

Those are the battles the Bears (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) must win Thursday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum if they hope to topple the Trojans (6-3, 5-2) in a game that could earn Cal bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons.

“We’ve got to bring the fight to them. It’s a big challenge for the offensive and defensive lines,” Cal defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil said. “I’m 100 percent confident in our team. We’re ready to come down and get some of that Trojan.”

It won’t be easy. It never is against the Trojans, who feed the NFL a consistent diet of talented linemen.

Eighteen USC alums are playing on NFL lines. Since 1970, the school has produced 26 linemen drafted in the first round.

The current Trojans measure up nicely to that legacy. Dykes called junior center Max Tuerk “one of the best linemen I’ve seen.” Junior defensive end Leonard Williams is projected by CBS Sports as the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

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Basketball: A full plate Friday on Pac-12 Networks

Ten Pac-12 basketball teams will make their season debuts on Friday, and the Pac-12 Networks is making all of them available to fans for free on a one-time basis via their Full Court Friday programming on Pac-12.com.

Cal’s opener against Alcorn State at Haas Pavilion is part of the coverage that will start with a pre-game show at 4:30 p.m. and run until midnight.

Twenty-four on-air personalities, including former Cal coaches Mike Montgomery and Ben Braun and ex-Stanford star Casey Jacobsen, will be at 10 sites or in the Pac-12 Networks’ studio in San Francisco.

Mike Yam, Lamar Hurd and Kevin O’Neill will present the pre-game show and will return at about 11 p.m. for a post-game wrapup show. In between,  the 10 games will be aired in three different windows, at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Ashley Adamson will bring viewers “whip-around” coverage of five games in the 7 p.m. slow.

Here are the game matchups:

At 5 p.m.: Mount St. Mary’s at Arizona and Drexel at Colorado.

At 7 p.m.: Chicago State at Arizona State, Alcorn State at Cal (J.B. Long and Montgomery), Rice at Oregon State (Rich Burk and Braun), Ball State at Utah and South Carolina at Washington.

At 9 p.m.: Coppin State at Oregon, Wofford at Stanford (Ted Robinson and Jacobseb) and Montana State at UCLA.


Football: Will Cal play chicken in bowl season?

The San Francisco Bowl, formerly known as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, has a new title sponsor and name: The Foster Farms Bowl.

In its 13th season overall, the Foster Farms Bowl is of potential interest to Cal fans because it will pair teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Levi’s Stadium.

Cal needs one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

Gary Cavalli, co-founder and executive director of the Foster Farms Bowl, said the game’s mission remains the same.

“Even though the game will no longer be called the ‘Fight Hunger Bowl’ we will continue our initiatives to fight hunger in the Bay Area,” Cavalli said. “Every ticket sold to the game is a ‘meal ticket’ for a hungry family in the Bay Area, generating donations to our partner organizations – Glide, St. Anthony’s, SF-Marin Food Bank, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Second Harvest Food Bank.”

The previous 12 games in the bowl series all were played at AT&T Park.


Basketball: Why the college game struggles in Bay Area

BANG colleague Jon Wilner and I write about why college basketball in the Bay Area isn’t more popular.

Click here to read our story.


Bay Area attendance figures 

The average attendance for the six Bay Area Division I men’s basketball teams last season, arena capacity and all-time record attendance:

• Cal – Average attendance last season: 7,774. Haas Pavilion capacity: 11,877. Record attendance: 10,839 per game average in 2003-04.

• Stanford – Last season: 5,111. Maples Pavilion capacity: 7,391. Record attendance: 7,391 in 1999-00.

• Saint Mary’s – Last season: 2,654. McKeon Pavilion capacity: 3,500. Record attendance: 3,236 in 2008-98.

• USF – Last season: 2,023. War Memorial Gym capacity: 5,300. Record attendance: 5,207 in 1976-77.

• San Jose State – Last season: 1,772. Event Center capacity: 5,000. Record attendance: 3,012 in 1996-97.

• Santa Clara – Last season: 1,719. Leavey Center capacity: 4,500. Record attendance: 4,141 in 1995-96.

Note: Stanford’s record attendance reflects only figures since 1999-2000.


NCAA basketball attendance decline

A look at NCAA Division I men’s basketball average attendance in selected seasons since figures first were compiled in 1976:

• 1975-76 — Average attendance: 4,759. Schools playing Division I basketball: 235

• 1979-80 — Average: 5,217. Division I teams: 261

• 1989-90 — Average: 5,643. Teams: 292

• 1990-91 — Average: 5,735*. Teams: 295

• 1999-00 — Average: 5,386. Teams: 318

• 2009-10 — Average: 5,245. Teams: 334

• 2013-14 — Average: 5,014. Teams: 345

* All-time record


Basketball: Bears set to start same 5 in opener

Met today with Cal basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, who confirmed the Bears will start the same five players in Friday’s season opener against Alcorn State.

Those five are: forward David Kravish, forward Christian Berhens, guard Jabari Bird, guard Jordan Mathews and point guard Tyrone Wallace.

Martin also said freshman guard Brandon Chauca remains on the shelf while the NCAA clearinghouse checks on his eligibility. Martin declined to reveal the nature of what the NCAA is investigating. Chauca worked on the side during Tuesday’s practice.

Will have more on the Bears before Friday’s game at Haas Pavilion.


Football: Ex-Cal star Mebane out for NFL season

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will miss the rest of the season for the Seattle Seahawks after being placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a hamstring injury.

The move was expected after coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the injury suffered in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the Giants was “legit.” The team had been waiting for additional results.

Fox Sports first reported that Mebane suffered a torn hamstring. The loss of the Cal product is a blow to Seattle’s run defense, which ranks fourth in the league at 79.8 yards per game. Mebane has also been in on the most snaps of any of Seattle’s defensive tackles.

Mebane appeared to have been hurt early in the second quarter while chasing down a wide receiver screen. Eli Manning completed a short pass for Reuben Randle and Mebane appeared to grab at the back of his right leg while running after him.


Basketball: Ivan Rabb won’t be signing Wednesday

Courtesy of Phil Jensen, who covers preps for our staff, here’s an update on Bishop O’Dowd HS five-star forward Ivan Rabb, who said he won’t be picking a school during the NCAA early signing period, which begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 19.

“I’m just not ready to sign yet,” Rabb said. “I’m not sure where I want to go yet.”

Click here for the full story.

Cal, which is on Rabb’s final five list, is not expected to announce any signings Wednesday.


Football: Dykes chuckles at silly idea of the day

Sonny Dykes said after practice Tuesday he had not heard about Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde’s published speculation that Dykes might an interested candidate for the vacant Southern Methodist University job.

One year after talk that Dykes’ job at Cal was in jeopardy because of a 1-11 maiden season, he’s now being mentioned as a possible candidate elsewhere.

“That’s how it goes,” Dykes said. “You’re either on one list or the other.”

In defense of Forde, I guess when you’ve got to make 40 (Forde) points in your column, you’re bound to have a couple that don’t have much basis in reality.

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Football: No Big Game kickoff announced Monday

We normally learn Monday morning the start times and TV info for Pac-12 football games scheduled for the following week.

But we have no word on Nov. 22 when Cal and Stanford will wage the Big Game at Memorial Stadium.

TV is exercising its right to hold off on scheduling for that day until at least this Saturday night, after the completion of all Pac-12 games. It’s possible final word won’t come until Sunday, or even Monday.

Word is there are five possible time slots/TV affiliations for these three games: USC at UCLA, Arizona at Utah and Stanford at Cal.

They are 12:30 p.m. on ABC regional; 12:30 p.m. on ESPN; 1 p.m. on FoxSports1; 4 p.m. on ESPN2; 5 p.m. on ABC.

We do know that the Big Game will not be televised the Pac-12 Networks. They are taking three games that day: Washington State at Arizona State (10 a.m.), Oregon State at Washington (no time yet) and Colorado at Oregon (no time).

Stay tuned.


Football notebook: Bears prepare for USC return game

No one associated with the Cal punt coverage unit is excited to relive last year’s game against USC.

“We don’t spend much time talking about last year on anything around here,” Cal special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl said.

Among the many nightmares the Bears endured during a 1-11 campaign, perhaps none left them shaken in quite the same way as the three punt returns for touchdowns they gave up in a 62-28 loss to USC.

“That was once in a lifetime,” junior punter Cole Leininger said.

He certainly hopes so because Cal (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) gets another shot at the Trojans (6-3, 5-2) and return specialist Nelson Agholor on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Agholor ran back punts 93 and 75 yards for touchdowns that day and USC scored a third by running in a blocked punt.

Leininger said it’s difficult to express his emotions about that game. “The blame’s inherently going to go on me,” he said. “Obviously, everyone had something to do with it.”

Leininger’s focus this season has been to get more hang time on his punts in order to help the coverage unit. He has improved, Tommerdahl said, but needs to be better still.

“That’s what separates an NFL guy from a great college punter,” Tommerdahl said. “You’ve got to be able to hang it up there a ton.”

Coach Sonny Dykes said it’s possible the Bears will try to kick ball away from Agholor, but added, “At some point you’ve got to get where you can cover. We’ll challenge our guys.”

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