Maybe Best being gone isn't that serious. His replacement, Shane Vereen, has been rather respectable himself. Of course the Cal season was a rather serious disappointment. Also, they were run over by the same Oregon Ducks that barely beat Utah the week before. The Golden Bears ended their season with a disappointing loss to the University of Washington. Cal coach, Jeff Tedford, has always impressed me and I've enjoyed what he's done up there for the Golden Bears. The question is, will it be enough?
Seeing BYU's drubbing of Oregon State last night gave me some serious pause about how good the Pac-10 really is. The Beavers barely lost the Civil War, yet were completely run over by the Cougars. Now maybe there are some pretty reasonable explanations to this. The wind obviously just did not work out at all for the Beavers, versus the Cougars learned to work around it. But that is part of the game and at the end of the day, the Cougars adapted better so they got the W. As I've stated, Utah really gave the Ducks a run for their money. Utah coach, Kyle Whittingham, does a really good job of getting his guys fired up for big games. There always seems to be a better intensity out of the Utes than I see out of the Cougars and I hate Whit for it. (Random side note: that's a pretty lousy picture of Coach Whit on his Wikipedia entry, but of course it's still not quite as embarrassing as this) Also, Whittingham seems to develop great game plans for situations like this and takes exactly the right risks to make everything work out for his team in these kinds of situations. Undeniably Utah has some pretty gifted athletes on offense and they still play a very intense brand of defence even after losing so many starters from last year.
Yet again, before yesterday I was all set. I was determined to pick Cal. But after reconsidering this game a bit more heavily from talking to some friends and seeing just how unimpressive the Pac-10 can be, I have to go with Utah. I think the Utes will win by a touchdown, but I hope their game looks more like the BYU game and they play the part of OSU.
I predict Utah to win 24-17.
ESPN expects this to be a close one as well, but gives a slight edge to Cal.