To get a California point of view on Saturday's match-up against the Golden Bears in Berkeley we sat down with California Golden Blogs for a quick Q&A. You can read our answers to their questions here.
The Bears seem to have a two-headed monster at RB. What are the differences between the two and how effective do you see them being against the Buffs?
Scott Chong: Lasco is more of a slasher who can take it the distance if he gets free. He's gotten better at going north-south instead of dancing and has shown a much improved ability to break tackles. His hands are a bit questionable as a receiver. Muhammad has elite speed and can be very dangerous attacking the edge or if he gets it in space. He's not the biggest back, but he's shown surprising toughness. Neither of our backs has a lot of wiggle or elusiveness. The effectiveness of our running game will depend on how consistently the Oline executes blocks at the 2nd level, and how well your guys tackle. We set up a lot of one on ones by scheme/formation so that one of your LBs or safeties has to make an open field play, or give up big yardage.
boomtho: Like Scott said, Lasco is a bit more of a power back that will have more success between the tackles. He has good top end speed but he's shown a more consistent ability to run through tackles and "fall forward" (miss you Coach Gould!) Muhammad is crazy fast and the team will try to get him on the edge more, but he will generally have a bit less success running inside.
The biggest factor for their success is going to be the OL - neither of them has shown a consistent ability to make lots of people miss, but they are showing good vision to follow their holes / cutback lanes. Given the success we've had running the ball this year, I expect Cal to have a good day on the ground against Colorado.
Leland Wong: In addition to what Scott and boomtho said, I'll go for the extra credit and discuss the four-headed monster at RB. We've got two talented true freshmen who've been getting a few snaps each game, so there's a chance you'll see them. Vic Enwere is our big bruiser who may come in for short-yardage situations. Tre Watson had an incredibly prolific high school career and the Bears like him for his shiftiness.
More Colorado - Cal
Cal's defense is greatly improved over last year's squad. What is the strength of this unit and can they shut down Spruce and Company?
Scott Chong: We've gotten very good linebacking play out of Jefferson, our cagey vet, and several promising youngsters, Barton, Davison, Kearney, and Downs. Our Dline was a question mark at the beginning of the season. But our starting unit has been a pleasant surprise. No idea if we can shut down Spruce or not as evidenced by Caleb Jones catching yet another pass even as I type this. Our new DC Art Kaufman admits that he should have adjusted coverages against Zona. He generally prefers to keep it simple for the players. But Spruce is dangerous enough that he might try to roll something by going quarters on Spruce's side and a half on the opposite side. Naturally, there's a long, proud traditional of Cal helping a secondary player have a career day. So, someone might want to DVR this game for the Fields' family.
boomtho: This unit has seen improvement across the board. I think the most improved group is the secondary, largely because we're healthier, but also due to the addition of our new DC (Art Kaufman) and DB coach (Greg Burns). Honestly, moving from Andy Buh to Kaufman is like upgrading from a rickshaw to a Camry - we're certainly not elite yet, but we're so far away from the basement that it's laughable how bad we were last year. Our LB's have also shown much better play, in particular on wrapping up tackles and maintaining their assignments (not overrunning their gaps). Spruce is going to be a really, really tough test given how well he's played this year. He's not quite as big as the AZ receivers who had a field day in the fourth quarter against us, but he's catching everything thrown his way. If Spruce gets going early, it could be flashes of Paul Richardson all over again...
Leland Wong: The key improvement may be as simple as now having competent coaching... Our safeties have been a pleasant surprise this year. Team captain Stefan McClure is a converted cornerback who has been playing well at safety and nickle; however, he suffered an injury in pre-game warmups last week and missed that game. Michael Lowe is the veteran who really stepped up his game for his senior year and it shows with his ability to read the offense's play and his crisp, reliable tackling. Avery Sebastian is a fiery leader who's coming back from an unfortunate injury, but particularly excels in run support. Lastly, Griffin Piatt is having a breakout year with an interception in each of this year's three games, two of which were notably spectacular. It's great having four guys whom--when healthy--I feel comfortable seeing back there, especially in the conference of quarterbacks. I think they'll be a huge asset at shutting down Spruce.
3. Who is one player CU fans should watch for on Saturday on offense? What about on defense?
Scott Chong: True frosh QB Luke Rubenzer is our mini-Tebow. It's 99% run when he gets platooned in there. But at some point, they're going to let him pass. Exciting guy to watch. Safety Avery Sebastian is still working his way back from injury. When healthy, he's our pound-for-pound fiercest hitter and a disruptive force in run support.
boomtho: Since Scott said, Luke Rubenzer, I'll go ahead and say Jared Goff, the captain of the Bear Raid. After a good freshman year, Goff looks incredible this year - he's showing great touch on this throws to all parts of the field, nice mobility in the pocket, and good decision making. He already has a good TD:INT ratio, but nearly all of his INT's have been tipped of our receivers hands. If Goff continues on this trajectory, I think he's Sunday bound. On defense, Mustafa Jalil is one of my favorite players. He's a huge body on the DL with tons of strength, but he's dealt with lower body injuries throughout his career. He has the potential to be very disruptive.
Leland Wong: To expand/clarify on boomtho's point about Goff--both of his interceptions this year were on crazy plays and off his receivers' hands. The first came flying out of an RB's hands as he was spun for a tackle and the second was bounced off the receiver's hands as he hit the turf.
Offensively, I think the easy answer is WR Kenny Lawler. Insert every cliché about a human highlight reel and they apply here. He's had jaw-dropping catches this year and a beautiful one-handed catch on a fade route that got lots of media love.
As I mentioned in question 2, Buffs fans should keep a nervous eye on S Griffin Piatt. He has demonstrated a brilliant ability to make beautiful plays on passes to break them up or pick them off.
How do you see this game playing out?
Scott Chong: Cal has been really sharp out of the gates, not so much in the 2nd half. I think you'll get a motivated and energized Cal team that will put up points. Not sure what we'll do on D to slow down Spruce. Home-field should carry the day, either way.
boomtho: I think Cal is going to come firing out of the gates given the emotional loss last week. The players all sounded great and super motivated after practice this week. I have faith that Kaufman that will come out with a gameplan to slow down Spruce early. The key will be countering any second half adjustments the Buffs make.
Jared Goff and Sefo Liufau were both freshman starters last year. How has Goff developed and who are some of his best weapons?
Scott Chong: Goff is stronger, more decisive, and more accurate. He's making better decisions and checking down pretty well. He still goes through some bouts of inconsistency, but as a true soph he's playing better than everyone we've had in the last decade not named Rodgers. His receiving corps are all legit scoring threats; Lawler makes the highlight reel catches, Harper is elusive, Davis is a deep-threat, Treggs is a technician, Powe is a great blocker + very physical, Harris uses his size well, and Hudson is quietly developing into a TE-like presence.
boomtho: I touched on Goff's development above, but let's get into his weapons. The Bears have a ton of dangerous WR's - in fact, our top 2 from last year, Treggs and Harper, might even be #3 and #4 this year. Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis is on the field after spending all of last year drawing raves from the scout team, and he has great stretch-the-field speed. Kenny Lawler has shown the ability to get nice separation and probably has the best hands on the team. In addition, we have gotten contributions from receivers like Ray Hudson, Darius Powe, and Mo Harris.
Would you rather have Cheeto's dust permanently stuck on your fingers or sweat mayonnaise every time you sweat?
Scott Chong: I guess legalizing marijuana isn't as fun as it sounds.
boomtho: Cheeto dust... hello gloves?
Leland Wong: Cheetos, duh. That sounds like a perfect way to improve and class up any meal.