Time for our weekly look at UW’s opponent, which this week is Cal, a game that kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m.
Our guest this week is Jeff Faraudo, who covers the Bears for the Bay Area News Group. You can follow him at @CalBearsBANG.
Q1: The perception from afar is that the Bears are falling apart after their loss at Utah last week and may not have much left in the tank for this week’s game against UW. How does it look from up close?
A1: Without question, they have played very poorly the past two weeks. So far, at least, I don’t think it’s due to a lack of effort. Jeff Tedford (pictured at Pac-12 Media Day in July) is unhappy with execution and consistency, but has no complaints with his players’ commitment. I would expect them to be fired up for Washington because they are buying into the notion they still can qualify for a bowl game. In that quest, of course, the Huskies may be the least of their worries, with games ahead vs. Oregon and Oregon State. But until they are mathematically finished, I don’t expect them to wave the white flag.
Q2: There seems to be lots of talk about Jeff Tedford’s job being in danger. How realistic is it that there could be a change?
A2: I think it’s a very real possibility for a variety of reasons. Cal has won just 15 of its past 36 games, and 11 of those 21 losses were by 17 points or more. This season, however, is far worse than any Tedford has had — they could finish 3-9. On top of that, Cal got a very poor graduation report last week, and recruiting is not going well. But the overriding factor is financial. The athletic department faces a huge burden following the renovation of the stadium and construction of the high-performance center. Paying down that debt depends on the sale of high-priced seat endowments, and Cal cannot afford an apathetic fan base at this moment. Athletic director Sandy Barbour has been supportive of Tedford, but this has become more than purely a football question. It will cost a lot to fire him, but some fans believe it could cost more to keep him.
Q3: What are 2-3 things that you think are most responsible Cal’s slide the last few years under Tedford?
A3: I’m not sure this can be properly covered in 2-3 items. The Bears have struggled with quarterback inconsistency pretty much since Aaron Rodgers left. Their offensive line play wasn’t great last season, and is worse this fall. They haven’t fared well on the road and they don’t deliver predictable performances from one game to the next. For most of a five-year span from 2004 through 2008, Cal was a top-tier program in the conference. That’s no longer the case.
Q4: Everybody appears to be saying all the right things about Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau and their return to Cal this week. Do you think there is any real lingering bitterness about that?
A4: Tedford and his players also are downplaying this, but it’s a real subplot to the game. The issue for Cal fans — and even players — is not that Lupoi left, but the circumstances and timing of his departure. There is a strong belief, especially among Old Blues, that Lupoi was working both sides of the recruiting fence as he shifted allegiances from Cal to UW, almost overnight. The players will be busy playing on Friday night. But fans at Memorial Stadium are almost certain to let Lupoi know how they feel.
Q5: Finally, what are 1-2 keys for Cal against UW in this game.
A5: When Cal has started fast, it’s been fine. But too often the Bears get stuck in the starting blocks and have a big hole to overcome. They trailed 42-6 at Utah before revving up a little. They didn’t score touchdowns against either USC or Stanford. The key all season has been the play of the offensive line. When the Bears are able to run the ball and give quarterback Zach Maynard time to throw, they have been productive. Too often, that hasn’t been the case.