Every week Cal Football Blog will look at 5 most intriguing questions before Game Day.
1. Where’s the consistency?
Cal fans have been asking this question for over five years. This past weekend Cal confidently defeated Utah after three consecutive losses to Washington, Oregon, and USC. The defense looked unbreakable while the offense was moving like clockwork. It may be possible that Cal’s young players have finally meshed into the flow of the college game while Zach Maynard has finally found his rhythm. It is also possible that the new coaches finally feel comfortable at Cal, Tedford, and the players. If Cal can bring about the same kind of game the next three games against struggling teams, Cal will be bowl eligible while riding big momentum going into Stanford.
2. What does Cal need to improve on?
There are lots to improve in every aspect of the game but it seems that things have gotten better since the beginning of the year. On offense, Cal’s running game is not the same as it used to be but Isi is doing what he can while he may barely get over the 1,000 yard milestone. However, in order for Isi to have big yardage he will need to be able to keep running with high knees and aggression even after getting hit because there have been many situations where if he were to shed a tackle, he would have been gone for a touchdown. The offensive line is much better than what we all saw early in the season but the big men up front still need to create bigger holes for Cal’s running backs and have better technique against fast pass rushers. On defense, the secondary must continue to win their one-on-one matchups while the front seven must continue to increase their pressure on the opposing quarterbacks while at the same time not over-pursuing. With special teams, pretty much everything except for placekicking and punting.
3. What should we look forward to this weekend?
With UCLA lacking in depth this Saturday, Cal’s defense may go all-out pressure on UCLA to tire out their offense and pick them apart. If the Cal defense can bring the same performance as it did against Utah, the game could be over by half time. However on offense, Zach Maynard must continue to manage the game as he did against Utah. The wide receivers for Cal will look to have another big game against a struggling UCLA defense. If the offensive line should have better blocking against UCLA, allowing Cal’s running backs to run all over the place. However, Cal should tread with caution because the Bruins will most likely be extra motivated against Cal.
4. What should we expect for the next three games?
Cal will face UCLA at the Rose Bowl and then play both Washington State and Oregon State at home. As of now, Cal is favored to win all of these games. UCLA is looking horrible and with a depleted depth chart, Cal should have one of their best away games this season. Even though Washington State looks better this year, they still have not competed well against Pac-12 teams, and Cal should look to defeat them soundly. The only scare should come from Oregon State. Even though Oregon State looked horrible earlier this season, they have looked better and better with every week. Their freshman quarterback looks much better and their team in general have found some rhythm. If Cal can play Oregon State with revenge in mind with the home crowd behind them, Cal will get a tough win against Oregon State. Three wins in a row would mean that Cal will be bowl eligible before facing Stanford and Arizona State. As long as Cal can stay healthy during the next few games, Cal can potentially play as well as it did against Utah against any team.
5. What are the keys to beating UCLA?
The biggest key is whether Zach Maynard can manage the game. As long as he does not turn over the ball or force passes, Cal’s offense should be okay and may be able to do just enough against UCLA. The second key is to shut down and demoralize the UCLA’s passing game. This means pressuring the quarterback and tiring out the few wide receivers that UCLA have. The third key is to have a much better special teams coverage. Both kicking and special teams coverage have been below par this entire season. If Cal can have good field position for most of the game, UCLA will have a hard time even scoring a field goal.