Thursday, April 19, 2012
Cal sets up well for Ohio State
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Ohio State is becoming... Oregon Midwest?
That's what Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg noted on Wednesday, getting such analysis straight from the new mouth of the Horseshoe, Urban Meyer.
"All you've got to do is look at Oregon," Meyer told Rittenberg. "We're committed to it. We're still going to pop a huddle once in a while, but we're committed to it."
That sounds like bad news for the rest of the Big Ten, but perhaps not for one of the Buckeyes nonconference foes in 2012: California.
An imposing front seven on defense should help coach Jeff Tedford and Cal be competitive against elite teams in 2012.
While no defense has had consistent success stopping Oregon -- LSU even had its moments of failure in the 2011 opener -- the Bears have produced more stops against the Ducks than most, most notably the 2010 nailbiter that Oregon won just 15-13.
That's Chip Kelly's fourth-lowest point total since he's been in Eugene, including his two years as offensive coordinator (and that includes the shutout the Ducks suffered at UCLA the week after QB Dennis Dixon blew out his knee in 2007). The Ducks also scored only 16 points at Cal in 2008, but that predates coordinator Clancy Pendergast and the Bears' 3-4 look.
Last year, Cal led the Ducks 15-14 at halftime, shutting Oregon out in the second quarter. What happened after the break doesn't support our point, so we will ignore it.
Here's something Cal fans might not be entertaining but perhaps should: Cal can win in Columbus on Sept. 15.
Yes, the Bears tend to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle on the road, particularly when they travel east.
Yes, the Horseshoe is a brutal venue in which to play, one of the nation's toughest.
Yes, Ohio State is still Ohio State, one of the nation's elite programs.
And, yes, Meyer is a feared strategist.
But there's no escaping this: California will go to Ohio State with perhaps the biggest and most athletic front seven the Buckeyes will face in 2012. And the Bears line up against a highly questionable offensive line, one that welcomes back just two starters from a unit that yielded 46 sacks -- 118th in the nation -- on just 245 pass attempts.
For comparison: Arizona, with four new starters on its offensive line in 2011, gave up 23 sacks on 577 passes. Washington State gave up 40 on 492 passes.
The Ohio State offense in 2011 was QB Braxton Miller, who led the Buckeyes in rushing (715 yards with seven touchdowns) and passing (1,159 yards with 13 touchdowns) as a freshman. He's a major talent, but he certainly won't be the first dual-option QB the Bears defense has seen.
I know Cal fans don't want to hear any optimism from the Pac-12 blog because they well know that is typically the program's ineluctable KISS OF DEATH.
So I won't mention the plausibility of the Bears visiting USC on Sept. 22 at 3-0 and nationally ranked.