This opening game is not underwhelming. It’s unfamiliar. For many of you, it’s probably uninteresting.
Let’s face it, students: Memorial Stadium’s one-year sabbatical and last year’s losing season don’t have you as excited about football. The Big Game loss definitely plays a small role too, even if you successfully blocked that one out (sorry to those that had). And now student attendance has to be lowered because of the limited AT&T Park seating capacity.
Can “gamedays” successfully take place in a city across the Pacific Ocean from the stadium? How many students have the nerves/guts/gumption to continue the gameday experience and go BARTying? And then after that, navigate San Francisco?
Well, it’s clear that hardly any students (and apparently alumni, just look at the ticket sales) are going to make the trip on Saturday because it costs an extra $30 and a ride all the way to Candlestick Park. Beer-stained big screens are always on, though, and that’s an acceptable way to watch football. I still encourage you to go (it’s an NFL Stadium! Kind of… School spirit, maybe?) but the inability to predict anything about this game should give you at least one reason to watch.
If you’re a college football fan, you will be tempted to turn to the Texas-sized Oregon-LSU showdown (foreshadowed by a bar fight that jailed the Tigers’ starting quarterback) that takes place in Jerry Jones’ $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium in Dallas; A game John Madden would probably give a BOOM! Rating.
But wait, I’ll try to save you.
Sure I’ll be peeking at the Pac-12-SEC throwdown from the press box, but if you don’t focus on the Cal game, you may miss out on the debut of perhaps the most uncharacteristic Jeff Tedford-coached team since he took over the program ten seasons ago.
I said perhaps. Coach Tedford has even let us know that starting quarterback Zach Maynard can move and knows how to avoid absorbing any big hits. His freshman year statistics at Buffalo lead us to believe that he can be turned loose. How loose? We’ll see, but Maynard is not Tedford’s prototypical pocket passer.
See, the Bears have a dynamic receiving corps and both a running back (Isi Sofele) and receiver (Keenan Allen) that excel in the open field. The coaches are, as they should be, comfortable with the ball in Allen’s hands. He wasn’t Cal’s leading receiver last season (that was the Bears’ other weapon, Marvin Jones) but he’s got that big-play ability that spreads out opposing defenses which in turn opens up the field for the rest of the offense. Maybe this will trigger Jeff Tedford’s tricky side, a side that helped elevate the program once upon a time.
So what are we going to see? End-around handoffs? Lots of screen passes? More direct snaps? I have no idea (though I hope most of that direct snap business left with Andy Ludwig) but more lateral movement and maybe a flea-flicker could be in stock. All in all, it should be more creative. I mean, it has to be after last year’s struggles even with a player of Shane Vereen’s caliber running the ball.
The defense has the personnel to be one of the strongest units in the Pac-12; it just needs to avoid the meltdowns that, especially with NFL draftees Cameron Jordan and Mike Mohamed, were far too frequent last season. For you locals, you can throw your support behind Dan Camporeale — the sophomore walk-on and Lafayette native who surprisingly won a starting outside linebacker job.
Your expectations are probably low. You’re not that different from the pundits nationwide.
But none of that matters at this point. What matters is that it’s the beginning of football season and that everybody lines up even. Don’t lose faith yet since there may be reasons to get excited in a hurry.