Was Cal’s victory in Los Angeles last weekend more of a Cal win or a USC loss?
Christie Aguilar: My fellow writers can confirm that I was baffled in the press box when USC’s Iman Marshall got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct with 3:28 left to play. The penalty, while not completely responsible for the Trojans’ loss, encompassed the underlying feeling that Cal didn’t necessarily win the game, but USC lost it. Still, Cal’s regrouping at halftime alongside head coach Justin Wilcox should not be undermined. After 14 years, it feels like a USC-leaning cop-out to not give Cal credit for its passionate win.
Josh Yuen: For all the credit I want to give the Bears, especially their defense, the Trojans quite frankly self-imploded. Cal made plays when it had to, but USC played about as poorly as a team can play in the third quarter and did nothing but punt and commit costly penalties in the final frame. Shoutout to Chase Garbers, Patrick Laird, Evan Weaver and company, but a bigger shoutout to USC for the self-inflicted mistakes.
Sophie Goethals: I’d have to go with a mix of both. Yes, USC undoubtedly made mistakes — but Cal was also able to capitalize on them. I have to give the Bears credit for absolutely turning the game around in the second half, but I also have give the Trojans credit for making that turnaround pretty damn easy. Every win is a combination of factors, and this one was precisely on trend.
Andrew Wild: USC made enough mistakes that in most situations I would probably not give an opposing team much credit, but something genuinely clicked on offense in the second half that made me impressed with the win overall for the Bears. I imagine it’s a hard loss to stomach if you’re a USC fan, but this was more than a fluke series of errors.
Does Cal’s offense have enough playmaking ability to keep up with Stanford and Colorado over these next couple weeks?
CA: Cal hasn’t had much offensive playmaking in, well, quite frankly, much of the season. But all things considered, its offense is looking better. If Cal’s defense continues to play as dominantly as it has all season, the Bears do not need many big plays, just timely ones. I believe Garbers can muster enough offensive rhythm for Cal to put up some decent points.
JY: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the Chase Garbers show. Get used to it, Cal fans — the good and the bad are here for the foreseeable future when it comes to the redshirt freshman quarterback, but against Stanford and Colorado, there’s a lot to be excited about with Garbers under center. Stanford has failed to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks across the conference slate, so get ready for Garbers to run wild and take more shots down the field (for better or worse).
SG: Honestly, I think the offense has been getting better and better over the course of the past few weeks. Yeah, it was rough there for a while, but things are starting to improve. Garbers looks way more comfortable running the offense, and the turnovers have decreased markedly. Is that enough to keep up with Stanford and Colorado? That remains to be seen — but it’s more possible now than it was a few weeks ago.
AW: I’m no big fan of Garbers or offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin’s play-calling this season, but I think the consistency in letting Garbers be the guy and get comfortable on some intermediate passes bodes well for the home stretch of the season. And unless something goes drastically wrong with the defense, it’s not as if the offense needs to light up the scoreboard.
If there’s one thing the Bears need to do to end their losing skid against Stanford, what is it?
CA: Do you think Cal could trade a few of its defensive backs to Stanford in exchange for a few wide receivers? The Bears’ wide receiver core is worryingly thin, and could be even more sparse come Saturday. Cal does not have a true deep-ball threat — Jeremiah Hawkins possesses the speed and athleticism but lacks in ball security. That in mind, Garbers needs to target more of Moe Ways, who is a big body who can get up and over his defender, and Nikko Remigio, who is speedy and shifty.
JY: Kaden Smith stands in at 6’5”. Colby Parkinson is 6’7”. Don’t be surprised to see Alex Funches and Jaylinn Hawkins in coverage. Stanford’s tight ends are towers with hands as soft as your pillow, and they have wreaked havoc against opposing defenders all year long. If Cal’s going to win this game, Stanford’s big tight ends and receivers can’t put on a clinic.
SG: Score. Touchdowns. More than one, preferably early on.
AW: The Bears actually moved the ball against Stanford pretty well last year — it just came down to finishing in the red zone, and Cal come up short in that area. The Bears need to get creative and utilize their big-body guys such as Moe Ways, Ian Bunting and Malik McMorris to ensure they capitalize on every opportunity.
Fact or fiction: Bryce Love will have a big game against the Cal defense.
JY: Fiction. He’s due, no doubt, even after an explosive game against Oregon State last weekend when he flashed glimpses of his former Heisman-candidate self. But Cal’s defense has held its own against some of the Pac-12’s best playmakers, surrendering fewer than 20 points in each of the team’s past four contests. I expect Love to rattle off between 50 and 100 yards, but I don’t anticipate a breakout performance for the slumping senior.
AW: Fiction. The defense is on an absolute roll, and there’s no reason for that to change.
Fact or fiction: Chase Garbers will excel against the Stanford defense.
CA: My editor’s word choice of “excel” in the question above is the only reason I am prompted to answer “fiction.” I think Garbers will do enough to get a win over the Cardinal, but “excel” may be a stretch.
JY: Fact. It’s Garbers time, folks. Stanford has an elite secondary headed by sophomore Paulson Abedo, but Harrison Phillips isn’t here anymore to man Stanford’s diminished pass rush. Garbers’ legs have played a key role in Cal’s spurts of success offensively, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he posted at least 250 yards combined through the air and on the ground.Garbers’ legs have played a key role in Cal’s spurts of success offensively, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he posted at least 250 yards combined through the air and on the ground. There’s no better time for him to put this quarterback debate to bed for good, whether it’s over the next few weeks or into next year as well.
AW: Fiction. Don’t bother putting “excel” in the same sentence with Cal’s 2018 offense. Just hope for no turnovers and 20 points.
What is your favorite word to describe this rivalry?
Christie Aguilar, Josh Yuen, Sophie Goethals and Andrew Wild are the 2018 football beat writers.
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