The Great Hype Machine: Cal Bears Shouldn't Think About Being Ranked
Tony brought up an interesting point yesterday about Cal football players drinking the Kool-Aid. More so than in any other sport, fans of the best college football teams swing dramatically based on their team's performance week-to-week.
While we haven’t had outright stinkers in huge games our team's expected to win, the Golden Bears usually earn the maximum effort from their opponents while they struggle with their mental focus. Result: Painful loss that causes fan to drink heavily until blacked out.
The Washington State rout was their big “hype package” this year; rolling a sterile Cougar team by 63 points seemed to indicate they were a great team, that they were capable of going undefeated and rolling to a BCS bowl.
Obviously, that rosy scenario hasn’t played out exactly as planned. And considering how Wazzu has performed since that obliteration, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that this might not rank among its top five most embarrassing losses.
This brings me to yesterday’s carnage, specifically Missouri-Oklahoma State. See how Heisman frontrunner Chase Daniel and Missouri struggled to get on the same page the whole day? A combination of Oklahoma State getting angry about not getting any respect and mistakes by Missouri, and the Tigers' national title hopes were put on life support.
They bought into the hype and they paid for it. Ditto Oklahoma for being hyped up as the best team in the country, and then getting outscored, 25-7, to blow a rivalry game that it usually owns.
The Missouri-Oklahoma State game reminds me a lot of the one forthcoming this week—a fairly confident Cal team travelling into the desert to meet with a unknown commodity.
I would be a thousand times more worried about the Arizona game if the Bears were 5-0 rather than 4-1, because Cal hasn’t really done anything to show me it's much better than it is. The Wildcats, still fairly peripheral to the national spotlight, would definitely be looking for a prime reason to knock off the Bears to assert themselves in the conference.
Nevertheless, we have a less attractive version of that scenario emerging this week. Arizona gets thoroughly dominated at the line of scrimmage last week by the resurgent 'Furd. Cal is 4-1, and despite not looking sharp on offense at all, has to be pretty confident about cruising past a stumbling Arizona State team.
It’d be easy for the Bears to look ahead, but hopefully with only minimal hype and a fairly quiet No. 25 ranking, they won’t buy into it quite yet.
So for all those people griping about California not getting any respect—shhhh. It’s the best thing that can possibly happen to us. In college football, the best teams are only as good as next week’s performance.
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