Q&A: Talking Aztecs-Cal and more with California Golden Blogs

As Aztecs fans, I think we’re all feeling pretty confident about Saturday’s game against Cal (hyperventilates into paper bag). But how are our frenemies at the University of California at Berkeley feeling about this? For answers we turned to Nick Kranz and Berkelium97 from California Golden Blogs to get their take on the game, SDSU’s chances of Pac-12 membership (SPOILER: NOT GOOD) and who has better burritos.

AKH: Since you’re a Cal blogger talking to an State School audience, can you start this off by saying something really condescending, thus reinforcing our preconceived notions of you?

Nick Kranz: Cruelty right off the bat? Sure, why not? The best San Diego State can ever hope for is an occasional, fleeting win over a Pac-12 team before they have to return to meaningless, mostly ignored games against teams from a conference that is a shell of its former self. The reward for ignored excellence? A bowl game against an also-ran from the AAC or the Pac-12 in an unenviable time slot. Also, Steve Fisher is a cheating cheater who cheats (Editor’s note: FUCK YOOUUU).

Berkelium97: That’s three 10+ letter words in one sentence – good job!

Thanks! So San Diego State is actually favored in this game (-7), which has sent most Aztecs fans into fits of panic-induced vomiting. How do Cal fans see this? Is being an underdog to us an indignity?

Nick Kranz: There are certainly Cal fans who think the line is erroneous (mostly based on how last year’s game went), but for me it’s an accurate reflection of San Diego State at a peak in terms of talent/experience and Cal at a low ebb after the departure of a core group of players that revived the program. Cal is just three years removed from going 1-11 with an average margin of defeat of -23 points, so it’s not like we’re some sort of blue blood that can pretend to be inevitably better than the majority of FBS programs.

Berkelium97: You get the panic vomits too? If you find a cure, could you share it with your good friends at Cal? After several seasons of watching the team under perform when ranked and/or favored, many Cal fans would rather be underdogs and have the spotlight off us.

Davis Webb, your new Jared Goff, put up some incredible numbers against Hawai’i. What did he show you, and are you excited to see what he can do against an actual Division I opponent?

Nick Kranz: He showed a solid level of control over the offense and the accuracy required to keep teams honest against offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s particular version of the Air Raid. Cal didn’t test Hawai’i much deep or over the middle – they were content to run a bunch of WR screens and sideline routes. The assumption at this point is that they kept everything simple and vanilla to help get new players comfortable and to avoid putting stuff on film. It’s obvious that Cal will have to have more variety to beat a defense like San Diego State. Webb passed his first test, but it was an easy one. Quite frankly, between SDSU’s defensive experience/track record, and how the Pac-12 showed in week 1, the Aztecs might have one of the best defenses Cal will face this year, so it’s a meaningful test.

Berkelium97: He showed that he can make throws all over the field: short, intermediate, and long. It took a few series for him to get in a groove and start moving the ball with authority, but it was impressive to see a performance of that caliber from a new member of the team. Before Goff we had several years where we couldn’t even accurately complete screen passes, so this is still an exciting novelty for us. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though. We were spoiled by Goff and it made some minor errors from Webb stand out. He doesn’t get rid of the ball quite as quickly as Goff did and he missed a few opportunities to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. Still, it looks like the Bear Raid will be running at close to peak efficiency this season.

The Bears’ defense looked a little leaky against the Rainbows in Australia. Real concern or were your defenders just distracted by the water in their hotel rooms draining counter-clockwise?

Nick Kranz: A very real concern. We probably don’t need to tell you how awful the Hawai’i offense was last year, and they went right back to being awful against Michigan. What was disturbing was a combination of physical and mental mistakes. Cal’s front seven couldn’t physically overmatch Hawai’i, and that issue was exacerbated by linebackers and safeties taking bad/wrong angles and missing run fits. Cal simply doesn’t have the sheer athleticism to make up for mental errors or bad tackling, but they exhibited plenty against Hawai’i.

Berkelium97: We had the toilet issue solved so it wouldn’t be a distraction. Instead, our problems stemmed from a good old fashioned lack of depth and experience in the front seven. It’s been ages since we’ve reliably been able to put pressure on the opposing QB and this season doesn’t look to be any different. It’s a shame because our young DBs showed some promising potential with some good coverage and pass break ups. It’s too bad the front seven will make their lives so difficult this year.

Fill in the blank: If the Bears struggle to ______ on Saturday, they’re in real trouble.

Nick Kranz: Keep Davis Webb on his feet. Give most decent Air Raid QBs time in the pocket and points are just about inevitable.

Berkelium97: Complete short and intermediate passes. Like a traditional Air Raid offense, Cal uses short passes as an extension of the run game. Success there tends to open up the running lanes for our ground game. And once the run game and passing game are chugging, it’s going to be tough to stop the offense’s momentum. SDSU may have some success with press coverage to test the timing between the new QB and WRs. Or it may backfire spectacularly. It’s tough to tell, since we have so many new faces in the passing game.

Fill in the blank: If the Bears succeed at  ______ on Saturday, the Aztecs are in real trouble.

Nick Kranz: Forcing SDSU into frequent, obvious passing downs – not necessarily because Cal has a brilliant pass rush (we don’t) or a great coverage secondary (ehh) but because I don’t think it’s what SDSU wants to do or excels at offensively.

Berkelium97: Forcing turnovers. Our defense has ranged from bad to historically abysmal over the past few seasons, but we’ve had some success forcing turnovers over the past year. The defense was serviceable over the first half of last season thanks to a knack for forcing turnovers. Best of all, that hands the ball to the offense with a short field. That’s a recipe for disaster against an offense like this.

What’s it like reaping the benefits of a Power Five television contract? I imagine your athletic department hosts wild bacchanals where people dress up like Oski and have consequence-free sexytimes atop gold doubloons and pillows of medical marijuana. Is it like that? Please tell me it’s like that.

Nick Kranz: Sadly, no. Cal has used their Power Five money to do two main things: a) Renovate Memorial Stadium so we all don’t die in an earthquake and 2) Run an insanely large athletic program with some 30-odd sports. Before the Pac-12 Network, Cal got perilously close to cutting five programs and still required donor assistance to save them. Most other schools are using TV money to buy increasingly absurd sports facilities or increasingly overpaid coaches. Cal has used the money to simply keep our heads above water because we have so many sports and because the Bay Area is so damned expensive.

Berkelium97: Quite the opposite, unfortunately. In fact, to help pay off our renovation of Memorial Stadium we’ve been looking into alternative ways of generating money, such as renting space in Memorial Stadium for such Oski-dressing sexytimes. Compared to the rest of the college football landscape, it’s looking more and more like Larry Scott got a lousy deal for the Pac-12’s television contract. Speaking of which, it’s been over four years and we still don’t have the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV.

For the past few years, SDSU fans have pinned hopes on Big 12 expansion as our deliverance from our garbage heap of a conference. Well … the thing about that is … (tugs at collar). So anyway, do you see any plausible scenario in which the Pac-12 would ever consider us for expansion?

Nick Kranz: If the Pac-12 decided that they wanted to expand (they don’t) and decided that geographic fit mattered more than adding new TV markets (it doesn’t), and they decided that performance in major sports was a primary concern (it probably isn’t), then SDSU would make all kinds of sense.

Berkelium97: Actually, we’re hoping to poach Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State from the Big 12 to create the Pac-16 super conference. It may be farfetched, but one can dream.

When I think of San Diego State, I think of ____.

Nick Kranz: Marshall Faulk, in a very Pavlovian way.

Berkelium97: A party school for people who didn’t get into UCSB (there’s that condescending answer you were looking for!). Also Qualcomm Stadium, which has been a house of horrors for Cal for the past few decades.

Describe a typical Stanford alum.

Nick Kranz: Significantly more concerned with disrupting the mobile chewing gum industry than paying the least bit of attention to their disturbingly successful football program.

Berkelium97: Is ‘Brock Turner‘ too dark of an answer?

Who would win a superhero battle between Marshawn Lynch and Marshall Faulk?

Nick Kranz: Asking me to pick anybody but Beast Mode is like asking Popeye to go with Kale.

Berkelium97: Both are great football players, no doubt. But Marshawn has some special abilities that transcend the gridiron. Did you know he briefly worked as a paramedic? Or that he can generate earthquakes? I’d pick Marshawn 375 days a week.

Between you and me, Mission Style burritos are trash, right?

Nick Kranz: I love many, many things about living in Sacramento, but this question still made me very sad.

Berkelium97: I live 2,500 miles from the Bay now, so I haven’t had a good burrito in ages. This question is very depressing.

Was the SAT II hard?

Nick Kranz: Trying to answer this question may reveal how long it’s been since I was in school. Now I’m sad again!

Berkelium97: I barely remember the SAT II. I took a bunch of ’em and must have done well enough. I can hardly think of a finer way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon as a junior/senior in high school.

Big thanks to Nick and Berkelium for the insight into their alma mater’s collegiate football program. Good luck, and may your next burritos taste of bitter loss and heartbreak.

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Author: Aztecs Killing Him

Former proprietor of AztecsKillingHim dot com, a long-dead SDSU sports blog that was possibly dumber even than this one. On Twitter at @akh_blog.

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