Week 1: Cal Football Buy, Hold, Sell
Heavy selling activity to start the season
Source: Cal Athletics
Following week 1, Cal’s stock is the lowest it’s been in the Wilcox era. Stocks have low valuations for one of three reasons:
It doesn’t get a lot of attention
It’s just a bad company
After week 1, Cal just looks like a bad company. The ingredients for a Pac-12 contender are there, but the right mix hasn’t been found. It’s early and there are plenty of chances to salvage the season, but I’m doing more selling vs. buying after week 1.
Buy: A seat warmer for Justin Wilcox
In year 5 of the Wilcox era (can’t believe it’s been that long), the excuses are up. Any flaw with the Cal football program squarely falls on his shoulders. Poor offensive production? That’s on Wilcox. A lack of depth? That’s on Wilcox. Not enough playmakers? That’s on Wilcox. The same flaws that plagued Cal on Saturday plagued Cal in 2018 and 2019, and it’s concerning that it hasn’t been fixed.
Is he officially on the hot seat? No. Is it warming? Yes. However, a disappointing home loss to Nevada, followed by a horrible season, followed by the head coach being fired does sound oddly familiar. With a road game at TCU next week and a road game at Husky Stadium two weeks after that, things could unravel quickly.
Side note: if Cal loses to TCU on Saturday it will mark Cal’s first 0-2 start since 2001.
Buy: The Run Game
If you’re looking for positives after Saturday, this is perhaps the only one. Cal was dominant on the ground as the running backs averaged over 7 yards a carry. It was a combo of great line play and playmaking on the part of Damien Moore, Christopher Brooks, and DeCarlos Brooks.
The problem? The running backs only had 21 carries and the coaching staff abandoned the run in the second and third quarter.
Sell: The Passing Game
The running backs averaged over 7 yards a carry - amazingly we averaged less than 5 yards per pass attempt.
Was it on Garbers? The receivers not creating separation? Playcalling? All of the above? After week 1, it’s hard to tell. My take? The playcalling isn’t being catered to the strengths of the personnel we have on the field. Garbers is at his best when he lets his instincts and natural playmaking ability take over and the current offensive strategy isn’t allowing for that. I am fine with an offense that is run heavy, but lets take shots downfield when we throw the ball.
Hold: The Defensive Coaching Shake Up
There has been a lot of drama in the coaching room on defense, and that drama got settled this off-season with Tim DeRuyter going to Oregon and Peter Sirmon solely in charge of the defense. Cal’s defense wasn’t perfect on Saturday, but we should be able to win the game when the opponent scores 22 points. Zero blame should be placed on the defense for Saturday’s loss. Tim DeRuyter was just okay in his debut with the Ducks though the first quarter flashed potential greatness. Saving any further judgement until we see more from both on who won that break up.
Sell: Pac-12 North.
Woof. That was ugly - only one win among Pac-12 north teams, and the one win wasn’t remotely impressive (Oregon). Washington scoring one touchdown in a losing effort to FCS Montana is the most embarrassing loss in Pac-12 history.
Next weekend was supposed to be where the Pac-12 North could make a statement with games against Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU. At this point, it looks like that weekend will turn into more proof points for critics to position the Pac-12 as a non-Power 5 conference.
That was the odd part about Cal’s loss on Saturday - as bad as the Bears looked winning the Pac-12 North is absolutely not out of the question. Oregon was lucky to beat Fresno State. Fresno State and Nevada are in the same conference, and Nevada is probably the better team.
If Cal loses to TCU, Wilcox’s most important job will be maintaining the morale of the locker room for a match up against Washington on September 25th. At this stage, that looks like Cal’s biggest game of the season.
Look, I understand that Cal lost. But, is Nevada that bad a team to lose to? (I know they are not Ohio St). In my mind, it was more about how Cal lost. Bad effort. Bad schemes. Bad adjustments. All, of which equals bad coaching.
A loss to Nevada is one data point. If Cal goes 4-8 this season all of us will be monumentally pissed, but if they lose in “competitive fashion” and not because they frittered the game away I can live with it and not call for Wilcox to be fired. If the performance in the next 5-6 games looks like the last 3 quarters of the Nevada game, well, everyone needs to go.
Nevada was the one loss that I can be ok with. They are a scruffy team and I have no reason to dislike them. A win over TCU is more important because it can bring us some respect. A loss to Sac State would be crushing.
And priority #1 is always the Big Game. Win that and Wilcox is safe forever. Then win the conference and beat the LA schools.
I do not mind a Rose Bowl season that includes a loss to Nevada.