The Cal Golden Bears are looking to bounce back after a truly demoralizing beating at the hands of the USC Trojans. They will face off with the other Pac-12 cellar dweller, the Colorado Buffaloes. The teams are a combined 0-13 in Pac-12 play. Both teams have been embarrassed often throughout the season, as they rank near the bottom of the nation in scoring offense and scoring defense.
This game is going to go one of two ways, either it will be a high scoring shootout or a mistake riddled slop-fest. Here are the three keys for the Cal Golden Bears to earn their first conference win:
1. Be more consistent with their drives:
Last week, the Bears only managed to convert four of 15 drives into points. This has been a major story line for the Bears all season, as they have too many wasted drives. Cal is near the bottom of the nation in punts, turnovers on downs and turnovers. They have mounted just 42 scoring drives, with 28 touchdowns and 14 field goals. Their 23.9 points per game is 94th in the nation.
Sonny Dykes’s high-powered offense promised to provide Cal fans with plenty of yards and points, but so far the offense is only putting up good yardage numbers. The Cal offense suffers too many three and outs, but also when they do get drives going they often are unable to maintain the drive. Often, the drives stall after the Bears’ offense gives up a key sack, penalty, or both. In the opposing territory, the Bears will often choose to go for it on fourth downs, a nation leading 32 times, instead of kicking field goals. They have a nation worst 19 turnover on downs, which often means they are giving away three points.
The Buffaloes might be the perfect opponent to get off the downward slide that the offense is going through. Last week, Colorado gave up a score on every drive, except for two against the Washington Huskies. So, the Bears’ offense should be in position to put up points, but they need to be able to convert on these drives and not leaves points on the field. Eliminating negative plays, especially in the red zone, is going to be key to the offense putting points on the board.
2. Continue to run the ball effectively:
The Bears running game has seen a little bit of a resurgence over the last two weeks. The Bears have run for 320 yards over the last two weeks, including running for 190 against USC. Coincidentally, Goff has looked much better over the last week, with 549 yards and seven touchdowns.
The running game helps to alleviate a lot the pressure on Goff, as he was just sacked twice against the Trojans. The Bears have not yet found a back that can carry the load consistently. Against Arizona, it was Daniel Lasco leading the way with 71 yards. Against USC, Khalfani Muhammad and Jeffrey Coppich led the rushing attack with 61 and 55 yards, respectively.
There are yards to be had on the ground against the Buffaloes. Colorado ranks 105th in the nation in rushing defense, as they average 211.9 rushing yards allowed per game. This should be a breakout game for the Bears’ rushing attack. It will be interested how the offense would look with an effective rushing attack, like what Dykes had at Louisiana Tech. It would provide an opportunity for the young quarterback Goff to gain some confidence, as the running will open up the passing game for him.
3. Bottle up Paul Richardson:
The Colorado Buffaloes’ roster does not contain a lot of talent collectively, but they do have a superstar talent in speedy wide receiver Paul Richardson. The talented Richardson has 60 receptions, 1,061 yards, and nine touchdowns on the season. He has been a force for the Buffs, as he has five games over 100 yards receiving. He also has two games in which he broke 200 yards receiving. His 1,061 receiving yards is nearly more than the rest of the team has combined.
Richardson is the cog that drives the offense and taking him away is key for the Bears. The Cal secondary has been a liability throughout the season, as they are the worst pass defense in the nation. The Colorado quarterbacks are nothing special, but they try to get the ball into Richardson’s hands often and let him make plays.
The secondary is going to need a strong effort to slow down the one of the nation’s top receivers, but it would go a long way in keeping the Buffaloes’ offense at bay. Bracketing Richardson with a corner and a safety over the top should limit him from getting behind the secondary. Keeping Richardson from getting deep will limit the amount of impact he can have on the game. The Bears are going to play within their system and tackle on the perimeter and they should be able to slow down the Colorado playmaker.