Wed Jun 03 01:05pm EDT
Hey, everybody, it's people trying to tackle Jahvid Best:
Unfortunately, as the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner pointed out Tuesday, the folks trying to set expectations for California the last five years have been playing to the same tune:
Here’s a look at their preseason/final rankings in the AP poll for the past five years.
2004: 13/9 ([Aaron] Rodgers)
Granted, there is very little difference between No. 9 and 14 … or No. 19 and 25 … a five-spot drop from beginning to end doesn’t indicate a disappointing season.
Much more noteworthy is the lack of an upside surprise, especially when you compare Cal to the other top programs in the Pac-10.
Sure, the Bears’ sometimes-lofty preseason ranking can limit the opportunity for an upside — like in ‘06, when they were No. 9 in the preseason.
But at the same time, 0-for-4 is 0-for-4. You’d think that just once in that window, Cal would either handle the pressure (2007, anyone?) or exceed expectations. And yet it has repeatedly failed at both.
That's not a comforting trend for Bear partisans this fall: Previews from Athlon, Lindy's and Phil Steele all rank Cal in the top-12 nationally, second in the Pac-10, an overwhelming tribute to Best and his staggering, NCAA-best eight yards per carry last year. Anyone who watched Best shred Miami for 229 total yards in last year's finale -- his fourth straight game over 200 all-purpose -- might be inclined to agree.
But eye-popping stats are nothing new for Cal running backs under Jeff Tedford: Since 2004, J.J Arrington, Marshawn Lynch (twice), Justin Forsett and Best have all topped 1,600 all-purpose yards in consecutive seasons, for teams that have lost as a decided favorite to, respectively, Oregon State, Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon State again, UCLA, Washington, Arizona again, Maryland and Arizona again (again). The most obvious common thread in those games:
The running game only fares a little better by the same meaure, and the disparity on the ground between wins and losses was greater in '08 than in any other season: The Bears were held to 65 yards per game on 2.5 per carry in four losses, including a vomit-inducing 25-yard effort by Best against Maryland and a more predictable 30-yard clunker at USC.
But it doesn't approach the gap when it comes to throwing and catching: Clearly the inconsistency in the passing game has been the greatest culprit in the Bears' persistent underachievement. Best also went over 100 in the losses to Arizona and Oregon State, echoing consistency in defeat by his predecessors -- between them, Forsett and Lynch went over 75 yards on at least five per carry in 10 of the Bears' 13 losses from 2005-07. Based on his own performance and that of other Cal backs under Tedford, Best is a safe bet for Heisman-type numbers. But that won't take Cal where the pundits apparently expect it to go without a significant leap in consistency by Kevin Riley -- who was absolutely dreadful in the losses to Arizona, USC and Oregon State as a sophomore -- or whomever takes the reins under the once-vaunted QB guru.