Every week Cal Football Blog will look at 5 most intriguing questions before Game Day.
1. How will Cal bounce back after the tough loss against Stanford?
There has been a lot of talk about how the players are down and frustrated about the loss against Stanford, but still uplifted by the support of some Cal fans and of teammates. This is good news going into the last regular season game. If Cal can replicate the energy and heart that they showed against Stanford, California should be able to come out with a victory against a struggling Arizona State. However, if Cal continues to make big mental mistake and cause untimely penalties, Arizona State will run all over Cal.
2. Will Maynard continue his good play?
Zach Maynard had a strong performance against Stanford (though made a couple costly mistakes). He had 20/30 passes, 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions while Andrew Luck had 20/30 passes, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Zach looked poised under pressure and made critical plays in the fourth quarter. It looked like the coaches were making plays that favored the strengths of Maynard, especially utilizing his capability to throw with his feet moving. Consistency will be key for Maynard throughout his Cal career. If Maynard continues to grow throughout the next two games, he may very well be a top quarterback next season in the Pac-12 especially with top quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, and Nick Foles leaving for the NFL.
3. Can the defense recover?
Even though the defense limited Andrew Luck throughout the game, he was still able to make big plays especially in the third quarter. The defense had trouble pressuring Luck and defending one-on-one matchups on long pass plays. However, Cal is one of three teams to sack and intercept Luck this season. Cal should look strong against Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler and their offensive line. Look for the Cal defense to pressure the opposing quarterback all-day. If the defense is forcing a lot of bad plays from Arizona State, Cal may get a similar win against Arizona State as they did in 2010 ( a 50-17 victory for the Bears).
4. Will Cal finally win on ESPN?
Does anyone remember the last time Cal won when the game was on ESPN? I sure don’t. Maybe the lights for ESPN are too bright, maybe the ESPN announcers puts a curse on Cal before every game, maybe the players get distracted trying to say hi to mom on TV, or maybe the national spotlight is too much pressure for Cal. Whatever it is, this needs to stop. Losing on national television does not bode well when recruiting and it doesn’t help Cal get into a better bowl game at all. Let’s hope Cal can end these losses on national television this Friday against Arizona State.
5. Which bowl game will Cal go to?
Right now the mess in the South Division makes this question really difficult. Cal can go to any bowl game ranging from the Alamo Bowl to the Vegas Bowl. Experts place Cal for the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl meaning Washington and South Division team would be above Cal. However, if Cal wins against Arizona State there will be a world of possibilities. The Apple Cup up in Washington is this weekend, and if Washington State can pull an upset, Cal will most likely go to the Holiday Bowl (Assuming that Utah, Oregon, and Stanford takes care of business). If Washington wins like they are supposed to, Cal goes to Sun Bowl. If UCLA upsets USC, Cal goes to Vegas Bowl (anyone down to go to Vegas for Christmas?). If Cal loses to Arizona State, Cal goes to the Hunger Bowl. Cal only goes to New Mexico Bowl if either Stanford or Oregon loses this weekend.