December 27, 2006

Ask the expert: BearTerritory.net's Ken Crawford

No. 21 Texas A&M will play in its first bowl game since 2004 when it faces No. 20 California Thursday at the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego, televised nationally on ESPN.


The last time A&M headed to the Holiday Bowl, the Aggies pummeled a highly-ranked BYU team with Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.


The 2006 version isn't expected to be a blowout in either direction, especially with A&M's knack for chewing up clock and keeping games close, but with these two offenses the expectations for fireworks are high.


To help us learn more about the Golden Bears we talked with BearTerritory.net lead football writer Ken Crawford.







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Aggie Websider:A&M has arguably the best rushing game Cal has seen, and they quietly have a solid passing game as well, making a very balanced offense. How will Cal's defense be able to handle them or is Cal hoping to just be able to outscore the Aggies?
Ken Crawford:We fully expect Cal to force the Aggies to try and beat them via the pass.

When you run as much as Texas A&M has done this season (62 percent of the time) with the success that the Aggies have had (7th in the country in yards per game, with an average of 5.03 yards per carry), most knowledgeable defensive coordinators are going to make stopping the run their first priority.

The Bears have faced numerous solid rushing teams over the past two seasons, including the USC Trojans, and performed very well. Earlier in 2006, Cal faced the spread Oregon offense, which ranked No. 15 in rushing yards per game and a nearly identical yards per carry (5.01) amount as A&M. The Bears completely grounded the Ducks that day, allowing just 70 yards on 29 carries.

What may be slightly deceiving about the Bears rush defense is that stopping the run has not always been the top priority. The Pac-10 is known as an offensively loaded conference, especially in wide receivers and quarterbacks. As an example, against then ranked Arizona State, Cal gave up 228 rushing yards. But for those who watched the game, it was clear that the team's goal was to shutdown the passing game of he Sun Devils, which they did very effectively. On the other hand, Cal was committed to stopping the run game of both Oregon and Minnesota, and promptly did so.

Therefore, we see Cal being a much bigger defensive challenge than has been reported. The Bears have excellent defensive speed - fast at nearly every position - so we don't feel that spreading out the Bears will be imposing. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Cal will be tackling 275-pound running back Jorvorskie Lane, a beast of a rusher that led the Big 12 in points with 19 touchdowns. Lane runs a lot like former USC tailback LenDale White.