Friday, December 26

The Emerald Bowl: Guaranteed* to Rain

This is the only bowl around where there's at least a chance of someone doing a full-on muddy head-slide into a dugout; for some reason the Emerald Bowl folks decided to host this in whatever they're calling Pac Bell Park these days. Apparently some people really like nuts. Speaking of nuts, nobody can figure out if they want to stick around with a bowl affiliation here; I suppose it's been the ACC's domain since 2002 back when it was the San Francisco Bowl, but in '04 it picked up a sponsor along with Navy. Because that makes all the sense in the world. Either way, the ACC's 3-2 in this game - the last two years against the Pac-10 they've been 1-1.


The Baby Canes ended up 7-5 overall and - like so many other shit teams in the ACC - 4-4 in-conference. Shockingly, their losses were actually mostly understandable; a tougher-than-expected loss to Florida coupled with losses to the other Florida team, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina + bitter stepbrother. Wait, they lost to NC State? Fuck that shit. At least they beat Virginia Tech - and they won the return game against TAMU, so they've got that going for them too.

Like so many ACC teams, Miami really doesn't do anything well other than be young and get guys suspended. Sure, their scoring offense is 2nd in the ACC (good enough for mid-40s nationally), but they only outscored their opponents by an average of 3.7 ppg - and that's including their 52-7 blowout of Charleston Southern. Good job. They don't run, pass, or stop the run very well - but they do sport a pretty decent pass D. It's left as an exercise to the reader if this is due to a good secondary or shitty ACC quarterbacking; you know which one we're siding with.

Of course, the keyword here is Baby Canes; leading rusher Graig Cooper is only a sophomore, and both QB Robert Marve and QB Jacory Harris are freshmen. (Of course, Marve's suspended for the game, but he played earlier, so he counts here.) Leading WRs Aldarius Johnson and Thearon Collier? Freshmen. At least their leading tacklers (LB Glenn Cook and DC Anthony Reddick) are seniors. Of course, their leading backfield penetrators - Alan Bailey, Marcus Robinson, and Sean Spence - are all underclassmen. Great.

Predictably, a team this young is going to have problems with turnovers (19 INT allowed vs. 4 taken away; -9 total on the season) and third down conversions (33.5%). However, they excel in the red zone and have an excellent kicking game for once. That should help them out in playing a team that lost to fucking Maryland.

What'll Miami have to do in this game? Stick to what they've done in the past; win the battle of field position and get lucky enough to come out with a victory. This is a good-not-great Cal team they're facing off against; RB Jahvid Best is the best guy on the team, so it might be worth stacking up a bit and daring Kevin Riley or whatever Weeblie is under center to beat them over the top. Really, a win here would be nice but not necessary; the bowl season experience is going to be the key here.


The Cal Golden Bears being a tale of two teams should come as no surprise to anyone who remotely follows the Pac 10. In 2008, the Berkley Hippies put a new twist on things by going 7-0 at home and 1-4 on the road, although the fact that USC and Oregon State were road games may have biased that outcome. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that college teams don't travel long distances well (see: home win over Michigan State, road loss to Maryland) unless they are vastly superior to their opposition… or, I dunno, if they have Vince Young on their team. Always helps when the line can forget to block, the WRs don't run routes, and the QB just says "fuck it" and takes off for 50 yards.

Oh by the way – that one road win? Washington State. So yeah, moving on… Jahvid Best leads the Cal offense, rushing for 126.7 ypg and an astounding 8.0 ypc, chipping in 22.4 ypg in receptions as well. Shane Vereen throws in another 56 ypg to make this a run-first kind of
offense. That's fortunate, because Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore have both been mediocre quarterbacks. Combined they have a 23/10 ratio, so at least there's not an excessive amount of turnovers. However, neither completes more than 60% of their passes (Riley at just 50.7%) and both average only a shade over 6 yards an attempt. To put that in perspective, Sam Bradford averages 6 yards per incompletion. Jahvid Best has more receptions than any WR on the team, so we're not really going to talk about them. In fact, Best and Vereen have the same receptions total – 52 – as the top two WRs, Nyan Boateng and Cameron Morrah.

Defensively, the Bears counter their mediocre passing offense with a mediocre passing defense. By mediocre I don't mean "bad" – I mean just that. It's a wash; technically Cal outpasses opposition by a shade under 3 ypg – practically, a wash. It's the 183-122 edge in rushing
ypg that allowed this team to win more often than not. That or the fact that they played at home more often than not, which we've already shown to be the true indicator of this team's success.

So let's discuss that home field advantage which is clearly more important to Cal's success than things like overall talent, positional advantages, schemes, etc. It's a short drive from Berkley to San Francisco, certainly shorter than the trip the Canes are making. Will that be enough to win the game for Cal? Frankly, nobody cares.

*not actually guaranteed