UCLA football is set to take on the California Golden Bears this Saturday, and because we’re all about putting things into perspective, we talked to our friends at Bears with Fangs, a California Bears blog. We asked some questions, slapped each other around, and came to some conclusions.
Go Joe Bruin: Zach Maynard has been iffy all season, but part of that’s due to the abuse he’s taken. How effective do you think he’ll be if his offensive line can stop UCLA’s aggressive front seven?
Bears With Fangs: Abuse is putting it lightly. Maynard’s been flat out crushed by opposing pass rushers this season getting sacked a whopping 25 in just 5 games. For all of Maynard’s limitations, he’s shown he can be an effective QB when he gets decent protection. Even against Ohio State (when he was sacked 6 times), Maynard still completed over 70% of his passes for nearly 300 yards. At this point I don’t have a whole lot of hope that Cal’s offensive line can slow down any team’s pass rush, but the coaching staff can really help Maynard’s chances if they go back to an offensive gameplan that works for him, namely short to mid-range passes and an emphasis on establishing the running game.
GJB: Jim Mora’s wife really likes Cal’s D. The Bears also held USC down for most of the game and were 17-9 late in the third. What’s the maximum amount of points you think California will let up against a UCLA team that has scored more on average this year than $C has?
BWF: 1,000? For as bad as Cal’s defense looks right now statistically, they’ve actually shown a lot of promise. The defense hasn’t been helped by poor field position and a Bears offense that hasn’t given the defense much rest with their constant 3 and outs. What has been shocking though has been Cal’s run defense and inability to get off the field on third down, two categories they had previously done very well in during the last two years. Cal’s defensive success will depend largely on their ability to swarm to UCLA’s backs, and contain Brett Hundley. The Bears have done better in these areas in their last two games against zone read offenses with mobile QBs (OSU and ASU).
GJB: Cal’s front defensive seven or their secondary: Which is better?
Cal’s CB Steve Williams has played very well this year. Still, you’ve got to go with Cal’s front seven. Cal’s defensive line is stacked talent and size, but have really struggled to dominate in the trenches the way we’ve expected from the unit the past few seasons. As for Cal’s linebackers, they’re just really lacking in experience at this point. The entire starting linebacking corps last week consisted of freshmen and sophomores. They’re still incredibly talented and are likely a year away from doing very special things. Keep an eye out for sophomore OLB Brennan Scarlett who already has an NFL frame and is showing fantastic instincts in his first year as a starter.
GJB: People lament about Jeff Tedford’s playcalling a lot, and some think that’s why Maynard takes so much abuse. What do you take away from the way he calls games?
People are always going to lament playcalling when it isn’t working. A lot of it has to do with a lack of execution. No play stands a chance when your receivers are missing blocks or defenders are running unimpeded at the quarterback. With that said, the offensive gameplan the past few weeks simply haven’t taken advantage of Maynard’s strengths, and have asked him to do things that he simply hasn’t shown an ability to do consistently, namely complete passes downfield. Fans are irked at the coaching staff’s inability to adapt and find ways to get their playmakers the ball knowing full well their offensive line and quarterback’s deficiencies.
UCLA has a really shoddy secondary and is prone to get lit up by the right guys. Is Zach Maynard the right guy to do this, and will Keenan Allen be healthy enough to exploit either Sheldon Price or Aaron Hester (both of whom have been mediocre)?
Again, it starts with protection and execution. This question is a bit difficult to answer because we haven’t really seen what the Bears offense can do with decent blocking up front. But we do know that Maynard can be efficient if he has time, and all of Cal’s starting wide receivers (Keenan Allen, Chris Harper, and Bryce Treggs) have the ability to hurt defenses if he has time.
Is Zach Maynard the ugliest QB in the Pac-12?
I’m confident enough in my own manhood to answer this question. At first I thought, “Naw man, he ain’t that bad, he just makes questionable facial hair and hairstyle choices.” Then the more I thought about, I couldn’t come up with another contender. Last year I thought Andrew Luck had this dubious honor, but for now I can only say it’s up for debate.
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