Today’s article: “Just Give Todd Gurley the Damn Ball: Your Weekly College Football Wrap,” Matt Hinton, Grantland
Hey, welcome back! It’s been a little touch-and-go with school starting for me, but we’re going to try and establish a routine going forward, so you all can stop sending me emails asking when we’re coming back. Anyways, we’re just going to jump right into it, with some college football talk.
Cam, football! Just the sight of it on my television screen — even an unwatchable Arizona-UNLV faceoff — brings joy to my heart. On Saturday I woke up with butterflies in my stomach I was so excited for the day.
Senior year of high school, as I was deciding which schools to apply to, I looked for two things. One, a good academic reputation, and two, big-time sports programs. When my aunts or uncles or old family friends would ask where I wanted to go, I told them exactly that: anywhere I could feel good about the education I was getting, and that prioritized tailgating on Saturdays.
Once they realized I wasn’t actually hoping to play DI football, they’d kinda laugh at my search criteria. Like, ha, stupid Cameron, making a big life decision based on silly old sports.
Four years later, I’m going to say that was the one time in my life I showed any wisdom. College football is the best, and I really can’t imagine what my undergraduate experience would’ve been like without Pac-12 games to attend each fall weekend. Oh wait, I can: it would’ve been miserable. Thanks to all those worried elders that tried steering me in another direction, but I’ll save Saturday poetry reading sessions for my geriatric years.
But yeah, let’s talk Pac-12, Mike. My Dawgs barely squeaked out a victory in an absolutely atrocious beginning to the Chris Petersen era. Meanwhile, and as painful as this is to admit, your Bears might’ve had the best showing of any team in the conference. How was the trip to Northwestern and the subsequent upset?
I’ve also gone to a Pac-12 school for four years, and although I haven’t personally been able to participate in the tailgate scene outside of California Memorial Stadium, it’s safe to say it’s not a particularly rollicking one. I have the pleasure of walking through frat row on the way to every Cal home game, and I’ll let you know it’s pretty casual — some terrible music playing, but not too loudly, and usually a beer pong game or two on any given frat lawn.
So I’d say it’s not necessarily that you chose a big conference school, but you chose one, thankfully, with a great football/tailgating culture. Cal is, uh, not that. At the game, I sat next to a Northwestern student in the press box, and at one point we started to debate over which fan base is worse. For my money, Stanford takes home the gold medal in that department, but in terms of big school fanbases, Cal’s gotta be among the lamest.
I wrote something like 1400 words Saturday on the game so I’m all talked out of Cal football, but I’d be glad to talk about everything surrounding the experience. The upset was welcome, because it definitely lifted the mood and spirit of everyone working for the team, which made the horrible and miserable traveling experience a little less terrible. Being in Chicago was really cool, although the humidity was fucking impossible, but the experience of watching football in person is always a special one. The eighteen total hours on buses and planes on Thursday and Saturday wasn’t the most fun, though.
In terms of Pac-12 football, I didn’t really expect my perception of most teams to change much. Usually, teams are facing cupcakes, and take care of business pretty convincingly. I pegged your squad as a dark horse North contender, but a one-point win over Hawaii…that’s ugly. I think I texted you last week saying I expected it to be over by halftime. If I remember correctly, Hawaii was actually ahead at half. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game — was the poor showing just a product of Jeff Lindquist, or were there other foreboding signs? I’ve seen people on Cal Twitter saying they see the Dawgs game as a winnable one now — you think that’s a classic Week 1 overreaction, or a realistic assessment of the state of the conference?
Anyway, in other Pac-12 matters, I said that I didn’t expect my perception of teams to change much, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Maybe it’s just my myopia but the Pac-12 seems to be the wackiest conference in the country, with UCLA struggling against UVA, Oregon State doing so against Norfolk State, and Colorado losing to Colorado State. These are all results that point to another season full of upsets. I can’t wait.
Yeah, maybe “Power 5 Conference” and “fun sports scene” aren’t always synonymous. I visited you in Berkeley last September, with a few of our other friends, and we happened to be there for the Cal-Ohio St. game. You had to cover the game, so the four of us indeed traveled to frat row, thinking that’s where the action would be. It wasn’t. One house was playing “I Love It” on repeat — and I mean repeat — but, yeah, not so loud that they couldn’t hear us making fun of them. At another place, some of the guys had invited their dads over to tailgate, in what I can only assume was a desperate attempt to feign a happening pregame.
So I guess I can’t be too unhappy with your guys’ win. I wouldn’t wish a lacking college football culture on the worst of my enemies (save 75% of our graduating class at Capital), and shitty fans and shitty team and all — that was your first win against an FBS opponent since October 2012 — even Cal deserves a big upset every now and then.
On to Dawg talk. You actually are remembering incorrectly, as UW went scoreless after halftime, but I don’t blame you for assuming Hawaii led after the first two quarters. The Warriors outgained the Huskies on offense by nearly 100 yards during the game, and considering the expectations leading into the contest, it really felt as if the Dawgs were behind all along. I was at the Mariners game for most of the action and only caught the 4th quarter on TV, but it certainly looked like the flop had a lot to do with Lindquist. At least, I really, really hope it did. He started off pretty well, going 7-10 for 131 yards and a TD in the first half, and his team entered the locker room with a not-pathetic 17-10 lead. But after that, man. He just couldn’t complete anything. I don’t know if it was the nerves from making his first collegiate start, or the UW offensive line not performing up to expectations, but Lindquist couldn’t complete anything down the stretch. Every pass was either tipped at the line or five yards out of the receiver’s reach.
Of course, no, Cal still has no chance come our October 11 meeting. The Huskies’ defense remains a huge strength, featuring the best defensive lineman (Danny Shelton), linebacker (Shaq Thompson), and defensive back (Marcus Peters) in the conference. Our o-line returns essentially six starters from the 2013 season. And if Kasen Williams recovers to full strength, him and speedster John Ross could form the most dangerous wideout duo in the Pac-12. I’m a homer and a half, but I really think the Dawgs have the talent to compete with anyone on their schedule. We just need Cyler Miles back. Badly. And for him to stop punching people.
UW’s shitting of the bed really couldn’t compare to the diarrhetic mess that was UCLA’s game vs. UVA, though. That Bruin o-line is miserable. I know it’s classic fanboy of me to say my school’s loss didn’t mean anything, while UCLA’s meant everything, but at least we had the excuse of starting our backup QB. The Bruins, on the other hand, kinda just realized that their o-line is more a huge glaring hole than a minor weakness on an otherwise strong squad.
What games did you watch outside the Pac?
To be fair, “I Love It” is a fucking great song. Outside of a few glances at those trashy Thursday and Friday night games, I didn’t actually get to watch any games in full. Our buses left the hotels right when the 9:00 PST games were starting, so I pretty much got to watch some College Gameday and the last few plays of that Penn State-UCF game in Ireland. Luckily there were some TVs on the plane back so I did get to see portions of the Wisconsin-LSU game, but I was so tired at that point I couldn’t tell football from Fox News. To be honest, non Pac-12 college football just doesn’t do it as much for me anymore. I know so much more about the Pac-12 than any other conference, so watching other conferences just isn’t as riveting.