Oregon State shootaround: Can the Bears bounce back?

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Do you think last week’s break will help or hurt Cal as it returns to action nursing a two-game losing skid?

Shailin Singh: Given the quarterback situation, this is probably the best timing for a bye week that Cal could’ve asked for. Quarterback Devon Modster was clearly out of sync in terms of timing with receivers, so an additional week should help their chemistry blossom. Injuries were also starting to build up on the team, so an extra few days of recovery should have helped the team in multiple facets.

Josh Yuen: I don’t think a bye week has ever “hurt” a team that wasn’t 6-0, 7-0 or something along those lines. I guess the only person who “hates” a bye week is inside linebacker Evan Weaver, who (along with probably 99% of the healthy members of the team) is down to compete every single day of the week at any given time. He’s basically the elite, 8-year-old swimmer who loves doing 1,000 yards of butterfly for warm-up. In all seriousness, the bye week was super helpful for Cal’s offensive line in terms of health and increased reps for scout team players. A couple weeks of work for Modster probably helped too. 

Emily Ohman: Cal’s first bye week came at an absolutely critical time for the team — Modster still clearly needs time to settle into his role at the helm after throwing two interceptions and completing only 17 of 34 passes at Oregon. Oregon State is a beatable team, but its only two wins of the season have come against Stanford and UCLA, two teams it was slated to lose to. Luckily for Cal, the Beavers are fresh off a 52-7 stomping at the hands (or cleats?) of Utah, so if anyone is going to be off their game come Saturday, chances are it’ll be the Beavers. 

Spencer Golanka: I don’t think this bye week could have come at a better time for the Bears. Nursing two consecutive losses and a host of unfortunate injuries, this break was vital not only for Modster and the offense to continue to gel, but for the players as a whole to regroup and set their sights on a winning season and a notable bowl appearance. The Pac-12 is as wide-open as its ever been, and with OSU coming to town, the Bears are in pole position to kick the second half of the season off in the winner’s circle.

 

The Bears opened up the week as 9.5-point favorites over Oregon State. How do you think they stack up against those odds given the plethora of injuries of offense?

SS: Although the line sounds about right, it is still quite hard to guess because of the small sample size we have with Modster running things. Oregon’s defense is objectively one of the nation’s best, so if Cal’s offense can improve on that game, I could see this offense putting up around 30 given Oregon State’s lackluster ball-stopping abilities. 

JY: It’ll be a close contest. Every team is dealing with injuries at this point, and although Cal’s most notable are concentrated on the offensive line (and of course, under center), I think people have to be patient with the offense and give offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin a little bit more slack. With that said, a loss to the Beavers at home, presumably low-scoring and sloppy, would be the first nail in a coffin that Cal fans have been waiting to build. Either way, expect less than 40 points in the game (again). 

EO: At some point, the Bears will need to figure out how to function without the injured starters — it’s been a long while since the offensive line has been completely healthy, and the bye week should have allowed the Bears ample time to get players who will see game time reps in practice. Cal has defied odds earlier this season, but so has Oregon State, so the Bears will need to put their best paw forward if they want to break their losing streak. 

SG: It’s a fair line in regards to how atrocious Oregon State’s defense has been, but the 9.5-point margin puts a little too much faith in Cal’s new-look offense. The Baldwin-led unit can’t maintain a steady, successful drive to the end zone, let alone convert a third down to save its life. It is an entirely new project with Modster at the helm of the offense, and this weekend’s matchup is a perfect time to get a good grade.

 

Given Utah’s 52-7 beatdown of the Beavers last week, who on OSU’s offense could cause problems for Cal’s defense?

SS: Quarterback Jake Luton could pose a threat to Cal, as the Bears have a defense that thrives on forcing turnovers. Luton, though, is quite smart with the football, having thrown just one interception this season en route to 14 passing touchdowns. Cal has faced its fair share of quality quarterbacks this season, but Luton’s connection with defensive lineman Isaiah Hodgins — the pair have already teamed up for a whopping nine touchdowns — is definitely something to watch out for. 

JY: Hodgins is the obvious answer. At his current pace, he’ll be an All-Pac-12 first-team selection on a team that might win just two or three games all year. But one of the difference-makers in this showdown may be someone who may not even see the field Saturday, and that would be running back Jermar Jefferson. As good as running back Artavis Pierce typically is to bring down, Jefferson is the player to watch in the Beavers’ backfield; if he plays, it would be a huge plus, as he would help alleviate the pressure on Luton’s shoulders. 

EO: OSU is not a team to be underestimated despite what its season record may show, especially on the offensive side of things — the Beavers have scored 128 points this season thanks to Luton’s slipperiness. A very second-year-Chase-Garbers-esque quarterback in nearly every regard other than on the ground, Cal will have to either force Luton out of the pocket and get him to run or defend the deep ball with extreme precision in order to mitigate the scoring threat Oregon State poses. 

SG: Luton and Hodgins are a problem for most defenses in the country, but taking into account Cal’s inability to stop the run when it matters most, I believe OSU’s senior running back Artavis Pierce will bounce back from his prior, subpar performance against No. 15 Utah. The mindset of each one of Cal’s opponents should be to run first, then get things going through the air.

Shailin Singh, Josh Yuen, Emily Ohman and Spencer Golanka are the 2019 football beat writers. 

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