Bay Area Buzz 11/23: Cal Struggles To Graduate Athletes; Stanford’s Big Game Edge; Offense As Rocket Science

 

Cal Athletes Failing To Graduate Leads To Question: Why?

UCLA admits nearly three times more academically underqualified student athletes each year than UC Berkeley, yet its football and men’s basketball players have done a far better job earning degrees than Cal’s have.

Stanford University, Cal’s rival not only in Saturday’s Big Game but in academic rankings, also bests UC Berkeley in graduation rates for football and men’s basketball.

So does the University of Michigan, another public university known for its academic prowess.

The question is: Why?

Cal ranks last in graduation rates for those two sports among the nation’s 72 major intercollegiate athletics programs, according to the NCAA.

A look at some of Cal’s closest public and private competitors – Stanford, UCLA and the University of Michigan – reveals how the culture and practices at those universities support student athletes’ academic achievement

No one claims there’s a single easy explanation for the huge graduation gaps.

–Nanette Asimov and Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle

 

Nov 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney (25) celebrates with receiver Michael Rector (3) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney (25) celebrates with receiver Michael Rector (3) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford Has Big (Game) Edge

Lining up against the Stanford football team is an arduous task for any squad. Taking on the Cardinal one week after a season-shattering loss to Southern Cal — good luck.

This is the task that Cal (1-10, 0-8 Pac-12 Conference) faces Saturday when it confronts No. 10 Stanford (8-2, 6-2) in the 116th Big Game at Stanford Stadium.

“Coming off a loss, our guys can’t wait to get back on the field,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said. “There’s going to be energy and there’s going to be fire because it is the Big Game.”

The Bears are heading into this year’s Big Game as, quite possibly, the biggest underdog in the rivalry’s 116-year history.

Cal is carrying a 14-game conference losing streak, an average margin of defeat of 23.5 points and it is missing seven starters from its season-opening depth chart, including center Chris Adcock, cornerback Stefan McClure and safety Avery Sebastian.

The Bears are currently 123rd out of 125 teams in the nation in scoring defense (44.4 points per game), 122nd in total defense (522.9 yards per game) and 125th in passing defense (334.1 yards per game).

But Shaw said the Bears’ record is misleading, referencing the fight they put up in the first half of a 62-28 loss to No. 23 USC on Nov. 9.

–Paul Gackle, San Francisco Examiner

49er Offense A Victim Of Its Own Compexity?

Since Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011, the 49ers have ranked among the NFL leaders in one unofficial category: offensive creativity.

They have completed passes to their left tackle and to a 330-pound nose guard who, at the time, was moonlighting at fullback. They’ve run old-school plays – most notably, the fly sweep – and have also been on the cutting edge: They were out in front of the read-option craze that swept the NFL last year.

Their myriad personnel packages have included super-jumbo formations with seven offensive linemen, and their diverse running game has included double sweeps and two-back traps.

Last year, St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher, then in his 18th year as an NFL head coach, tipped his cap to the 49ers and their staff: “I can’t remember having to prepare for an offense that was so well-coached and so diversified in the run game and so talented,” Fisher said.

A year later, however, the conversation has changed. In back-to-back losses to the Panthers (10-9) and Saints (23-20), that creative offense has created next to nothing: no completions longer than 17 yards, no touchdown drives longer than 22 yards and no 200-yard performances.

Instead of bamboozling defenses, it appears the past two opponents have given the 49ers a taste of life on the other side. Queried about the recent offensive malaise, Jim Harbaugh noted that Carolina and New Orleans attacked his offense with diverse schemes.

–Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle

Topics: Cal Bears, College Football, NFL, San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinal

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