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Monday Grab Bag: Which 2020 football season scenario is best for Cal?
Because the most important aspect of a global pandemic is how it might impact Cal's win/loss record.
Well, that was quite a week! Two conferences cancelling non-conference games, a bunch of smaller leagues and schools cancelling or delaying fall sports entirely, mass uncertainty from the NCAA . . well, at least some things are normal.
Jake Curtis and Jeff Faraudo over at SI’s Cal Sports Report put up an article breaking down the different possible ways a 2020 season happens (or doesn’t) while attempting to predict which scenarios are most likely. It’s a good read that gives you a sense of the range of possibilities in play.
But of course, in these parts we’re selfishly blinkered, only concerned about how it impacts Cal football. So, let’s take a spin through the different variables at play and try to determine how each might impact the Bears.
Variable: 9 game conference schedule, or a 10/11 game conference schedule?
While there’s optimism among Cal fans because this is the year Cal gets 5 home games with UW and Oregon coming to Memorial, that’s counteracted by getting ASU and Utah from the South rather than Arizona and Colorado. Adding two of the worst teams in the conference to the schedule while everybody else adds tougher teams would be a net win. Plus, let’s be honest: Round Robin play is beautiful.
Verdict: The closer to a round-robin schedule, the better
Variable: The current schedule of Pac-12 teams, or a completely redone schedule?
In case you needed a reminder, Cal’s current Pac-12 schedule starts September 26th, in order:
You could argue that Cal’s two easiest games might be the last two after the bye week. Personally, I think this is unlikely - a revamped schedule would almost certainly have to fit in more bye weeks to account for the possibility of pandemic related problems.
I’m personally pretty agnostic about the impact of bye weeks and the impact of schedule order beyond the impact of random chance, but that’s a tough looking schedule with no rest.
Verdict: A different schedule with more rest time could only help
Variable: Start the season in September? Late fall? Spring?
The biggest concern here? The further the season gets pushed back, the more likely it is that each team will have to deal with players sitting out because they can’t/wont risk injury prior to the NFL combine and draft, and the 2021 NFL season. So, by that logic, teams with fewer upperclassmen and NFL prospects would presumably better handle a delayed season.
Cal currently has 21 seniors on the roster, and roughly 15 of them are expected to play a major role in the upcoming season*. Any one of them might reasonably want to avoid major injury to increase their NFL changes.
But it’s also true that Cal doesn’t have any likely 2021 first round prospects on the roster with a ton of money to lose and no incentive to risk anything. Kuony Deng, Cam Goode, Camryn Bynum, and Elijah Hicks are all likely to get drafted, but all are likely mid-round picks who may have incentive to play to solidify their draft stock.
Teams like Oregon, Washington, USC, and Stanford, who do have likely first round picks, may indeed have more to risk from a spring schedule
Verdict: Probably a wash. Mostly I’m not looking forward to all of the neanderthals who criticize unpaid athletes for protecting their financial interests.
*Cal will also have 39 draft eligible underclassmen, although when I scanned through the list I didn’t see anybody that struck me as a remotely likely early entrant.
Variable: The season gets cancelled, or starts and THEN gets cancelled
Verdict: Cal’s most promising season in more than a decade is derailed . . . also, this means that a pandemic that has already killed 137,000 Americans is still raging.
This Week in NCAA Obsolescence
Now THAT’S leadership!
Pointless Ranking of the Week: The 10 greatest names in Cal football history
To be clear: sometimes you see a list of ‘best’ names, and it’s just a collection of bizarre names for people to laugh at. But this list is in appreciation of great names, either because of a cool sounding name that perfectly fits the football player, or because of a name that is delightful to say and hear, no matter how many times you hear it from the TV broadcast.
By far the most normal seeming name on the list, but Bishop makes the top 10 in part because it’s a great name-matches-person kizmet. Desmond Bishop sounds like a punisher-type enforcer, a tough guy who will make you regret getting into a fight with him. And that’s exactly what Desmond Bishop brought to the field as a Cal linebacker.
Harold ‘Brick’ Muller
Is it cheating to count nicknames? Probably. But one of the early Cal greats may well be remembered in part because Brick Muller sounds exactly like the kind of football player who would lead a Wonder Team.
What gets Kuony Deng on the list is versatility and surprise. The name looks very cool written out, but is correctly pronounced (coin) in an unexpected (for an english speaker) but differently cool way.
When Tully Banta-Cain was terrorizing Pac-12 quarterbacks while I was in high school, few things delighted me more that shouting Tully (long pause for dramatic effect) BANTA-CAIN! after a particularly great sack. Maybe the best last name on the list.
I’m a sucker for multi-syllable compound names, and this one delivers, with the added DebOSKIe easter egg that just adds bonus points on top.
Perhaps the most lyrically perfect name in Cal history. Immediately catches your eye as unique, but the correct pronunciation (ee-HAHN-yee oo-WAY-zoh-kay) is like a perfectly crafted sentence by a prize winning author.
It helps that he’s a college and NFL Hall of Famer, but even if he were a walk-on bench warmer he should be on this list. His name is a literal prayer that all Cal fans should say prior to attending a home Cal football game.
His last name (AH-sem-wah) is pronounced such that when he makes a big play, you can bellow AWESOME! WAAAAAAAH! in celebration of his absurd talent.
Charles ‘Lol’ Pringle
Again, we’re cheating by including a nick-name entrant, but is there anything more delightful than a turn-of-the-century era Cal footballer with both a nickname and a last name that have vastly different cultural meanings more than 100 years later?
I distinctly recall getting annoyed whenever TV broadcasters would make jokes about how hard it was to pronounce Adimchinobe Echemandu, when the name was entirely phonetic and divided into distinct syllable sounds. Which is exactly what makes his name so great - the harmonious combination of different consonant sounds. D, M, CH, N, and B, in the first name, then CH, M, N, and D in the last name. It’s a tour through the alphabet, and I never got tired of it.