Hello Followers. Hope you’ve had a fantastic week!
As you can probably tell from my absence, this week has been crazy for me. And with a host of deadlines looming, this post is going to be unusually short.
Anyhow, while I wasn’t able to watch the second half of the Arizona-Oregon game, the outcome of that contest was shocking. For me, the most shocking result wasn’t the score, but that the winner of tomorrow’s WSU-CAL contest will actually hold sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North (and the loser will hold sole possession of last). I mean, seriously folks, did any of you think that after losing to Rutgers and Nevada that we might end the first half of the season in first place in our Division?
I sure didn’t.
What I did expect, of course, was that we were going to go down and beat Utah. And after beating them the way that we did, I started to think less about what we needed to do to defeat the opposition and more about what teams need to do to beat us (and that’s an amazing statement unto itself).
And here are my conclusions:
1) If you want to stop our offense, the best way to do that is to overwhelm our offensive line with four down linemen (who are strong and great pass rushers), press the living hell out of our wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, and jam our underneath routes. If you do that; you can force turnovers and lots of three and outs. The two teams that are best prepared to do that: Stanford and USC.
2) If you want to score a lot of points on our new defense, the best way to do that is to play power football. Meaning, run the ball north-south with physical backs and compliment the power running game with TE releases, deep crossing routes, and a competent quarterback. The two teams that are best prepared to do that: USC and Stanford.
In other words, as I look forward to the rest of the season’s games, the two teams that I think are the most poised to beat us in scheme and personnel are Stanford and USC. And when I look at this weekend’s contest against CAL, I don’t see a team that is far along enough to slow down our offense and/or overwhelm our defense.
And based on all that, my prediction for this weekend is that we’re going to win our homecoming game, right?
Mind you, I’ve been touting our prospects in a VERY grand fashion to SeanHawk all week long. And if we win this weekend, I can tell you unequivocally that, if we win again next Friday, we’re going to win the Pac-12 North. So there.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to win this weekend (next weekend I’m not sure about). And the reason for this pessimism is as follows: I still think we’re too prone to beating ourselves.
And in order to win consistently in this league and avoid upsets, we have to learn how to better manage the ball (toward this end, we’re always going to make mistakes in this offense, the question is how consequential those mistakes are/become).
For example—even though I think Connor Halliday is the greatest—in three out of the five games we’ve played this year, we’ve either thrown a Pick Six (Portland State, Utah) or Connor’s thrown an interception that led directly to a touchdown (i.e., the pick that Nevada returned to the nine that resulted in a touchdown a few plays later).
Moreover, in four of five games this year, our special teams have cost us precious points. Here, I’m thinking specifically about the muffed punt against Rutgers, the missed chip shots (FGs) against Nevada, the missed chip shot (FG) and muffed punt against Oregon, and the punt that was returned for a touchdown last weekend in Utah.
In addition, while we have been giving up points because of turnovers and special teams blunders, our defense has not been getting many turnovers themselves. And while I will take the current play of our defense every game for the rest of the season, it will be difficult for us to continue to overcome mistakes if we’re not catching a few breaks ourselves. In fact, our own blunders represent a key reason why we’re 2-3 right now instead of 3-2 or 4-1.
In short, when you factor in that CAL is much improved, the one certainty in this game is that we cannot find ways to manufacture additional points for them. And because I have a sinking feeling that we’re going to come out overcharged on Saturday night, I think we’re going to make mistakes early and drop this one 38-35.
1) Halliday over 400 yards (Over, I think he gets 450)
2) Running Backs Over 100 Yards (Over. I think we run for 101)
3) Scoring 35 points or more (over/push).
Enjoy the game everyone. Who knows, maybe we’ll take care of the ball, Goff will continue to look long and not look underneath (as he did against Colorado), and we’ll get into the backfield all night. Do that, and we’ll win 48-27.
All for now. Go Cougs.