Bear Notes, v11, #5

I give you Bear Notes, despite the death of my laptop hard drive on Tuesday. THE NOTES MUST GO ON!

Southern Mississippi vs. Cal at Memorial, 1pm, televised locally on KRON (ch. 4)

The first game on Memorial's new Mometum Turf, the first-ever meeting between the 2 schools.

Southern Miss. plays in Conference USA and was among OTR in the latest AP poll... the Golden Eagles were 7-6 last year and played in the Houston Bowl.

Bears are favored by 3.5.

Everything you wanted to know about Southern Miss: ************************************************************

From: "Peter Dudley" <>
Subject: Cal vs Southern Mississippi

The Golden Eagles will be an interesting opponent for Cal after KSU. They have a very strong defense but have serious holes to fill on offense. They expect to return to a bowl game and achieve national ranking by season's end.

On defense, the Golden Eagles were 4th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 10th in total pass defense, 15th in scoring defense, and 34th in total defense. The defense returns 8 starters, including All-American linebacker Rod Davis (semifinalist for Butkus Award) and All-American DB Etric Pruitt (semifinalist for Thorpe Award). Two other returning starters were all-Conference USA. It's quite probable that this defense is stronger than KSU's defense and will cause the Bears some difficulty with their speed and experience.

The Golden Eagles' big questions are on offense, though. Not only do they return only 5 starters, but they changed their coach and their offensive system as well. The biggest losses are on the offensive line, which lost three multiyear starters plus a three-year starter at TE. They also lost a good running back and a three-year starter at WR. Their WR corps as a whole is experienced, however, led by Chris Johnson, who leads returning receivers with 50 receptions for 673 yards last year, including two 100+ year receiving games. Marvin Young led the team with 6 receiving TDs and also had 41 catches on the season. The new offensive coach is looking for an offense that is unpredictable and focused on getting the big play. With such an inexperienced group on his hands, I would expect this will, in their first game, translate into a lot of offensive mistakes and third-and-long situations. The Bears, on the other hand, were prone to give up big plays in their first game, and if they can't overcome that this Saturday, then the game could prove very difficult indeed.

Last season, Southern Miss went 7-6 including a loss to Oklahoma State in the Houston Bowl, 33-23. In their six losses they averaged just under 13 points per game and gave up just over 26 points per game. Their average for wins was 29 points scored and 11.5 given up. Their wins were over Jackson State, Illinois, Memphis, Army, Cincinnati, UAB, and East Carolina (an average Sagarin rating of 85). Their losses were to Alabama, South Florida, TCU, Louisville, Tulane, and Oklahoma State (average Sagarin rating of 54). Not a tremendously impressive schedule, and I fail to be overwhelmed by their 7-6 record, bowl berth, and high defensive statistical ratings. Yet they're a decent team and not to be overlooked.

It's interesting that the Bears faced one of the nation's best offenses in their first game and one of the nation's best defenses in their second.

The Golden Eagles will focus on stopping the run and will rely on the experience and speed of their DBs to match up against receivers, hoping to pressure the QB and force mistakes and get sacks. I think this is actually a good matchup for the Bears because of the depth and experience at wide receiver and TE and because of Tedford's creativity in using short passing and screens to supplement the traditional running game and spread the field. He knows how to stretch the defense and keep them off balance. It will be a good test of Cal's runners (is Echemaandu healthy?) and quarterbacks. After what I saw last Saturday, I feel confident that the Bears have the solid foundation in the offensive line and the basic execution and poise to handle this solid defense.

The big question is how the Eagles offense will play. I have also long believed that the single biggest factor in a college team's offense is the experience of the offensive line, and the Eagles have not only a new scheme and coach but a mostly young, untested line. I hope the Bears throw some deception and a lot of blitzes at them because I don't believe they will handle it well. The fullback position is new, and the OL players are new, and the QBs are not outstanding (good, not outstanding). The critical question for their coach is how to get the ball into the hands of their receivers quickly, or how to hold off the rush to allow long passes. I will be very curious to see their game plan unfold or unravel, depending on how well the players have come to understand it.