What If? The Bye Week Edition
Hypotheti...cal..ly, what if Cal...
In September, I wrote What If? The Pre-Season Edition to share with you the alternate realities I enjoy in my spare time as The Watcher. As the season progressed, I thought I manifested the Plummer Hail Mary only to see the ball fall to the ground after hitting Jeremiah Hunter. Cal fans were clamoring for Kai Millner to get some reps in the Washington State game, but it wasn’t because the Cal offense was rolling. At this rate, the flea-flicker will come, but it’ll result in an interception because my manifestations are cursed.
Enough of the evil manifestations for now. Some of you wanted “whatever Kool-Aide” I was drinking (it’s not from 2007, I promise) and some of you wanted me to pump more sunshine. But, as many of us know from our time as students at Cal, there would be nothing more fitting than getting your grades back to demoralize whatever hopes you had. So, it’s time to grade…
Jack Plummer throws for 1,200 yards in September
Apparently 300 passing yards in a game is just not in the cards for the Cal offense. Plummer, to some credit, did exceed 1,200 passing yards after 5 games. He’s at 1248 yards, which is good for 38th in the country (1 spot ahead of Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei). But, it ranks just 6th in the Pac-12, behind Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Arizona’s Jayden de Laura, Washington State’s Cameron Ward, USC’s Caleb Williams, and Oregon’s Bo Nix. This prediction wasn’t absolutely outlandish. If you take out the Cal offense’s worst passing day, Plummer threw for 1,064 yards over four games. Considering the number of times we watched J. Michael Sturdivant dive to the ground, the offense was probably just a few plays with solid yards after contact away from 1,200 passing yards.The line play has certainly been suspect, but Plummer often had accuracy issues even if he has connected on more 30+-yard pass plays than the Cal offense has in at least 5 years.
Cal upsets Notre Dame
It was literally within reach. Some fans may point to the phantom offsides call or the terrible offensive pass interference penalty on Jeremiah Hunter, but at the end of the day, the Cal defense couldn’t spot Notre Dame from running the ball in the second half when Notre Dame realized that their QB Drew Pyne could barely do his job and the Cal offense couldn’t get into the endzone. Nevertheless, it’s a loss with a lot of what if possibilities.
Cal goes 7-0
So, this was always a pipe dream. In the 21st century, Cal has only won five (or more) consecutive games, if you count bowl games and across seasons, seven different times. As mentioned above, Cal beating Notre Dame was within the realm of possibility. The performance at Washington State, however, was just disappointing, especially after such a feel-good win against Arizona in the previous week. Beating Colorado is a must, which brings Cal to a record of 4-2, but playing Washington is somewhat daunting given how good the Huskies looked in the first month of the season. Washington does play the Arizona schools in consecutive weeks, which will likely give their offense plenty of time to course correct.
Jaydn Ott wins Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
Ott has won the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week three times already and won the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week once. Meanwhile, Arizona’s Tetairoa McMillan won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week once. The fun and great news is that it feels like we have the potential for Cal’s first offensive superstar since at least Jared Goff. Ott has, perhaps, one of the most important traits of a star runningback: the ability to get positive yards as he has consistently turned potentially negative-yardage plays into a short gain. The potentially bad news is that defenses will certainly have Ott in their prep and a key focus point, and Ott will need to continue be a shining light of the offense if he wants to hold of McMillan for the yearly award.
Cal sweeps the California schools
When I first imagined being The Watcher and conceptualizing an alternate reality where Cal is the greatest team in college football, I wrote this about USC, UCLA, and Stanford. I completely forgot about UC Davis, which, if you can believe, is also in California. Fortunately for me, Cal won that game so the dream is still alive. While I could penalize the grade for my omission, the result is technically still alive so I’m grading on a curve. With that said, the games against USC and UCLA seem nightmarish. Rivalry games are never predictable. Take that as you will.
Grade: A (but really INCOMPLETE)
The grades here don’t seem all too dissimilar from my college transcript. I certainly much prefer the alternate realities that I can see as The Watcher. For now, I’ll be watching, but come back and visit in the off-season as I show you the best alternate realities that I get to enjoy.