I wrote in-depth game analyses last season for CyberBears and after about the third game, I noticed a pattern developing... Cal triumphed convincingly in those initial three OOC contests but could not win two consecutive Pac 10 games! Tedford's team played competitively in all twelve tests. The Bears won a couple of games by meaningful margins but usually the measure of victory or defeat was narrow.
Here's a summary quote from Phil Steele which is representative of the consensus opinion on Cal: "Last year's team had 23 seniors and 15 of them were starters so naturally the losses are heavy. Cal returns the fewest amount of starters in the Pac 10 ( and their 23 lettermen lost (37%) is tops in the conference.
Beside the starters and lettermen lost, there are two more troubling bits of information for Cal this year. First of all, they benefited from a +18 in turnovers last season which will be difficult to duplicate. Secondly, despite the Bear's solid 4-4 league record, they were actually outgained by an average of 65.2 ypg in Pac 10 play which suggests that they were not as strong as their record may indicate. With the graduation losses and the fact that opponents will be better prepared for them this season, I think it will be very tough for Cal to bag a second consecutive winning season." Mr Steele even forgot to throw in the fact that Cal faces the second toughest schedule in the country...
In translation, Tedford & Co. did it "with mirrors." Cal was #2 in the Pac 10 in scoring offense @ 35.6 ppg but how in the world did they accomplish this fete? In the Pac 10, Cal finished #8 in total offense (355.6 ypg) and #9 in total defense (392.8 ypg). On offense, the Bears ranked #102 in the nation (11 in rushing offense, averaging only 108 ypg. On defense, Cal's pass defense was even worse, rated #112 out of 118 Div I teams, yielding approximately 279 ypg!
How did Cal win seven games and qualify for a bowl game? Is this formula duplicatable this season?
Tedford's MAGICAL Formula: 6 keys to victory in 2002!
#1- **Start fast due to a superior Tedford gameplan & lead @ halftime**. Cal accomplished this in 10 of its 12 matchups, including a 100% correlation with every positive outcome. key: The players collectively believe that they can defeat anybody if they efficiently carryout the weekly gameplan! This stat also shows that Tedford and his staff could improve on their halftime adjustments to their opposition, relinquishing three leads after intermission...
#2-**Win the turnover margin**. Cal accomplished this objective in 8 out of 12 battles, winning 7 times. IMO, Cal needs only to come out on top of this stat each week even though they averaged roughly 1.5 TOs per game advantage (Cal forced 36 & committed 1 .)
#3-**Convert redzone scoring opportunities (85-90% range)**Tedford's offense was in a battle with Oregon the entire season for top honors in this statistical category. Prior to the Oregon State game(#9), Cal had failed only once to score INSIDE THE OPPONENT'S 20 YARD LINE! key: score more touchdowns (27) tha fieldgoals(12). Last season, Cal produced TDs almost 70% of the time that it registered on the scoreboard. The losses of the Air Force & Oregon State games could possibly have been avoided had the offense scored more touchdowns inside the redzone. The Bear's proficiency dropped off markedly over its final four encounters from 95% to 83% (39 of 47 chances). Oregon captured this precious category @ 89.4%.
#4-**In every game that Cal triumped, they won the sack battle.** The Bears tallied an average of 3.45 sacks per game while allowing only 2.11 sacks per game. To be a success here, mandates a combined effort of OL pass protection plus consistent defensive pressure by the front seven...
#5-**Stop the run.** Three teams physically dominated Cal's defensive front last season, rushing for in excess of 175 ypg. Cal was 0-3 in those contests (USC, Oregon State & Air Force). USC was "in big trouble w/ Cal" until they made the halftime adjustment to pound the run inside the tackles. The Trojans did not run wild, averaging 4.5 ypc but controlled "time of possession". Cal barely had the football in the second 30 minutes. This stat may prove of paramount importance this season because 6 of Cal's initial 7 opponents are predominantly running football teams (Kansas State, Southern Mississippi, Colorado State, Utah, USC & Oregon State)...
#6-**Exhibit SUPERIOR special teams' play. Cal MUST WIN the critical special teams "one-third" of the game** Cal was ranked @ the top or near the top in every ST stat category except one: net punting. The Bear's finished "dead last" behind Tyler Fredrickson's inconsistent punts and mediocore punt coverage (especially late in the season). Cal should be able to excel on kickoff coverage, again. The top kickoff return team will need to find a replacement for the speed of LaShaun Ward. The punt return unit needs to replace Jemeel Powell. Mark Jensen was consistent (70%) on his FGs so someone needs to step up here as well. Hopefully, the Bear's special teams can continue to force turnovers due to aggressive tackling (fumbles) & blocked kicks/punts...THIS AREA LOOKS DIFFICULT TO DUPLICATE in 2003. Cal won the special unit warfare almost weekly in 2002.
BOTTOM LINE: If Tedford's troops come out on top in four or more of these six statistical categories, THE BEARS WIN!
I would like to insert a #7 stat category (RUN THE FOOTBALL greater than 130 ypg) if Cal is to overcome huge odds and a tough schedule to manufacture another winning season and a bowl berth. Cal's senior leadership needs to come from its offensive line with four (4) senior starters! This group learned pass blocking last season from Tedford's offensive scheme but has yet to master run blocking. Guess the only Pac 10 team that averaged 4.0 ypc? Oregon. If the Bears can improve here, this would accomplish two important things: (a) keep Cal's inexperienced defense off of the field & (b) relieve some pressure from the neophyte quarterbacks by producing a balanced offensive attack.
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