Rating the Bears: Cal vs. USC
Cal defeats USC on Championship Weekend, yet the Bears still didn't earn a Rose Bowl berth
Saturday’s win over USC gave Cal fans something to appreciate across multiple timescales.
Short-term: the final game of the season, one last time to spend time with friends and family at Memorial Stadium and during pre-game festivities. One last chance to revel in a Cal football victory until September of 2022.
Medium-term: Lincoln Riley’s tremendous success at Oklahoma portends an unfortunate end to USC’s tendency over the last decade to squander its reams of 4- and 5-star talent. This means that Cal’s win over USC might be the last in a while. It’s such a shame too—with two wins over USC in the last three games, I thought we all could have become quite pleased with this newfound success against a team that had defeated the Bears 14 years in a row..
Long-term: Cal was victorious on Championship Saturday, a feat we may not see again for a long, long time. Sure, the Bears only played due to a Covid-induced rescheduling. And yes, the Pac-12 Championship Game takes place on Friday rather than Saturday. But let’s not let technicalities get in the way of enjoying a very rare victory on a weekend where victories lead to Rose Bowls and playoff berths.
I hope you enjoyed it, Cal fans.
Rating the Bears
A few games into the season we maligned a special teams unit that had directly contributed to losses to Nevada and TCU, as well as LSJU and OSU in 2020. And now, we’ve seen special teams lead all scoring categories in a handful of games since. I have no explanation for it, but I won’t complain. I won’t even complain if Ragle returns next season. Elsewhere, defense barely outpaced the offense while pass offense managed to earn the lowest scores of the week thanks to a lack of explosive production or TDs.
Coaches and overall fared well, as they tend to do during wins. Rather than asking about our chances of defeating the next team on the schedule, our final item asked you all to predict the number of regular-season wins for the Bears in 2022. We’re right in the middle of 6 and 7 wins, a pretty typical set of expectations for a Justin Wilcox team. The defense should again be a strength of the team, but how will the offense fare without Chase Garbers?
We’ve only seen two wins over USC since we started this series, so the ratings will naturally compare quite favorably.
Top-two in every category! Of course, that will happen when most of those games span the seemingly endless losing streak.
Compared to the rest of the Wilcox Era, Saturday’s win is above average in all categories (side note: I need to update how these figures are displayed next season now that we have five years of games under Wilcox).
One last time, let’s hand out our trusty triumvirate of awards.
Highest grades of the week:
Lowest scores of the week:
The Voice of Reason
And the scores that fall closest to the community average:
And now, to the comments:
Any comments on the gameday experience?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Late kickoff allowed me to put the younger one to bed and settle in on the couch with wifi restored. The announcers clearly didn't want to be there, and the microphones focusing on the U$C band all game should have forced me to mute the TV. They also mispronounced several Bear last names.
RememberTheCalamo - I turned up to tailgate town for a photo-op with the axe and was greatly disappointed to find the schedule had been changed. Thanks Cal athletics.
KJ1980 - I was at the game. The SC fans travel well and boosted bear sales measurably. Security visited them lots in our section. Conflicts between SC fans and Cal fans were at time more exciting the the game
Heyalumnigo - Tailgate was incredible. Good to see everyone out there one last time this year. Dr Periodic Table made an appearance. Congrats to Nam. Bulgogi Tortas were incredible. Even after about 2 1/2 hours there, there were still 2 hours to go before gametime, in the dark.
Sacman701 - Regrettably, the SC band still goes out of its way to be as annoying as possible.
1988goldenbear - Another beautiful night at Memorial! Love love LOVE that we built a solid lead allowing us to truly embrace the USC fanbase dejection in the stands. And seeing The Axe on the field? Hard to beat that!
What are your thoughts on Cal's passing game?
Terence - Chase and his wideouts did just enough to win. Would have liked it to be a little bit sharper against a pretty bad defense.
Tangtpt - Lack of deep balls was interesting, but ultimately the deep ball was unnecessary.
1988goldenbear - Solid C (for Cal!). Nothing spectacular, but no big mistakes either. The line was pretty good all night and Garbers hit a lot of short- to mid-range passes. Nothing deep, and I don't remember if they even tried. There were a couple of nice gains on some bubble screens. It was good enough.
SacAlum - Meh. Can't get too excited about 177 yards and no TDs. Quite a difference in play calling from the Furd game.
FuzzyWuzzy - Meh. Definitely some nice plays, but...just adds to the mystery of next year's roster. Too many sacks in the past two games to merit a really high rating. Granted, SC's defenders played better than I thought they were capable of, but maybe we helped them look good. But we won the game, and without the help pf a slew of simply U-stupid-Childlike unsportsmanlike penalties I expected to see a lot more of.
What are your thoughts on Cal's running game?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Our backs are stars. We need to get better O line play in front of them.
KJ1980 - Serviceable
Goldenone - Acceptable but not great, 2 key TD runs by Christopher Brooks
FuzzyWuzzy - Two TD's, so hats off to Brooks and Garbers. Some really nice runs. Not much on the outside from what I recall...stats weren't great though. Poor 3rd down conversion rate, only 88 yds is...concerning.
SacAlum - Yards were really tough to come by. And this was against a defense that has looked crappy all season. But Brooks showed some toughness on a few key plays.
Kevin - Dancy deserves a place in Cal history. What a hardworking, inspiring person.
What are your thoughts on Cal's pass defense?
Terence - The #GOers or #Takers are the strength of this defense and this team. Gonna really miss Hicks and Scott - but the corners will be LOCKDOWN next season. Maybe we can do the Bill Snyder thing and build the defense from the corners in.
Tangtpt - Defense overall was fantastic!
1988goldenbear - Still too many easy completions for my liking, but there was some good pressure, some great hits, and that sack-fumble was amazing and hilarious and ultimately led to the drive that put the game away. The pick by Hearns that was negated by a penalty was highlight reel material - it's going to be fun to watch him shut down WR's for a few more years!
Sacman701 - Pretty solid except for a couple times when DBs left their feet to break the pass up and predictably whiffed on both the ball and the receiver. Pass rush was good.
Heyalumnigo - Very rarely blitzed. Their freshman QBs had a lot of time to throw.
What are your thoughts on Cal's run defense?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Way too many missed tackles, and huge holes given up. We're lucky they kept flaming out in the red zone, and their starting RB was out.
KJ1980 - The D did not give up big plays.
FuzzyWuzzy - Solid - stopped the Trojans on key plays.
SacAlum - Can we give the defense credit for U$C's bobble on our three yard line?
Kevin - One day we’ll have Brett playing, and in his natural position. One day….
1988goldenbear - There were a lot of big chunk runs, but this defense has been on fire lately with goal-line stands! And that hit to knock Dart out of the game was beautiful.
What are your thoughts on Cal's special teams?
TD_24 - Another solid week from the bunch.
KJ1980 - I hold my breath whenever we kick the ball. We got lucky on that first missed FG.
Heyalumnigo - Some short kickoffs and short punts but nothing stands out. So 100%
SacAlum - Punting was good, field goal was accurate (thanks to a penalty re-do). It could have been much worse.
1988goldenbear - Solid game overall. The muffed punt could have been disastrous, but we recovered. And there were no big plays going the other way. The do-over on the FG miss was fortunate.
Terence - Remember how they cost us so many games at the start of the season! Everything seems to be ironed out now.
What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's performance?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Why didn't Musgrave get creative or start calling short passes until midway through the fourth quarter? Does Sirmon simply not think tackling is a part of football? I know we won't, but I really hope we fire both of them.
KJ1980 - The Bears seemed well-prepared and executed well. No mistakes football wins games!
Heyalumnigo - Maybe some day we'll figure out how to pick up the blitz.
Sacman701 - First, props to the coaches for having the team ready to play after laying an egg in Pasadena. The defensive bend-but-don't-break scheme worked almost to a T, but offensively it seemed the play calling didn't adjust well to the line's inability to pass protect.
Tangtpt - Even though throwing deep was not necessary, I would have liked to see deep throws early on in the game for no other reason than to allow our receivers to get that kind of work in against live competition. They won't get that kind of experience until next September.
What are your thoughts on Cal's overall performance?
MoochPunt - A perfect 2-0 in games that matter. I’m happy with the season. How long until we get to watch Cal Football again?
TD_24 - We got it done and beat the spoiled brats. A weird and roller coaster 5-7 season. Beat furd and $C but weirdly it feels off. Glad to have been along for the ride.
RememberTheCalamo - I'm not sure why I enjoy Cal athletics, but I do. Time to go do whatever it is I do for 8 months of the year before rating the bears 100/100 for showing up with two shoes on their feet (110/100 if the shoes are on the right foot).
KJ1980 - Cal needed this win after the UCLA dud of a game. SC really is as bad as advertised. It was a very chilly evening but it was worth watching Cal beat the Trojans (whose fans are also as advertised).
FuzzyWuzzy - It's hard to comment - on the one hand...just win, baby. They did that. The defense played really well, but I expected the offense to be able to do more, especially against a depleted SC secondary and not-so-great linebacking corps. If the Children had Drake London, I think the result may have been the opposite, although we'd have more plays to keep the score close, since they'd be driving down the field in about 5 plays per drive. But I'll gladly take any win over SC, since...they will get a lot better, very soon, with Riley at the helm. Offering free sailboat rides at the Cal Sailing club and a fire-prone tree-sitter house in the Oakland hills ain't gonna attract a coach that can score the kind of 1st and 2nd string squads that Riley has been able to scoop up.
Goldenone - Any win over SC is a good win,
SacAlum - Nothing to write home about, and U$C sucks this year. But beating those guys and reading about it in the LA Times makes my day.
1988goldenbear - This grade is greater than the sum of its parts. Statistically, this wasn't a great show for the offense, and I'm not sure it was a great game from the coaches. But the players made some great plays and took huge advantage of the turnovers, and they shut down a team that has been a big bur in the behind for many years. Love it! Go Bears!
Tangtpt - Lots of fun to watch us beat USC, no matter how crappy they really are.
Terence - I already put next season's opener on my phone calendar, if you want to know my state of mind.
Thanks again to everyone who participated this season. Participation became lean during that stretch of losses early in the season, so I’m especially thankful to all of you who stuck it out during the lowest lows of the season. Until this series picks back up on Wednesday, September 7th 2022 (that feels like eons away), Go Bears!
Overall a good game for the Bears, but obviously there is some room for improvement. My present concern is players in the transfer portal and also the risk that some of our guys opt to go to Oregon should Wilcox get the job.
After a quick look at the schedule, I'm thinking 7 wins--assuming we aren't totally rebuilding with new staff and new philosophies.
Thanks for a season of these analyses. Love geeking out on the data and graphs.