Cal confident it can beat another SEC school as Auburn comes to Berkeley

Bears have had some rough outings vs. Southeastern Conference in history, but have won 3 straight against schools from SEC

BERKELEY, CA — Jaydn Ott had to have known that Auburn’s players would be reading his remarks. The message, however, was intended for his teammates.

“There’s a lot of focus on the name Auburn,” Cal’s sophomore running back said this week, ahead of the Tigers’ Saturday night visit to Memorial Stadium. “And, you know, what I see on film pales in comparison to what their name is.”

“So I just want to get that in the heads of my guys, because the name doesn’t mean anything.” At the end of the day, they’re still people, and we have just as much of a chance as they do to win.”

In the first meeting between the programs, Auburn (1-0) is a 6.5-point favorite over the Bears (1-0). The game begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Ott, who rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns in Cal’s 58-21 victory over North Texas last week, added that it will be “very encouraging when we do get this win.”

When asked if he sounded confident that Cal would win, Ott replied, “Yeah, we are.”

The Bears have had some rough outings against SEC opponents over the years, the worst of which was a 66-0 loss at Alabama in 1973. However, Cal has won its last three games against SEC opponents, defeating Ole Miss at home and away in 2017 and 2019, and defeating Tennessee 45-31 at Berkeley in 2007.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox refused to say whether starting quarterback Sam Jackson V would be available this week. Jackson, who left the North Texas game in the second quarter with a non-throwing arm injury, said he would be a “game-time decision,” but added, “I’m expecting to play.”

This game pits two teams looking to get back on track after three difficult seasons. Cal was 10-18 from 2020 to ’22, while Auburn, which won the national championship 10 years ago, was 17-19 during the same time period.

In their first meeting, both teams dominated underdogs, with the Tigers defeating UMass 59-14. Cal gained 669 yards, 357 of which came on the ground.

“They’re terrifying on offense.” “That tailback is one of the best I’ve seen,” said Hugh Freeze, Auburn’s first-year coach, this week.

What makes Ott so special?

“Just hand it to him,” said Freeze. “It’s not like they have to invent some new field.” Simply run inside zone, outside zone, or counter with him, and he’s a handful if it’s semi-blocked.”

Cal’s challenge on Saturday night will be to “semi-block” a big and aggressive SEC defense. Former Baylor defensive coordinator Ron Roberts was hired by Freeze, and his blitzing schemes resulted in four sacks and six quarterback hurries last week.

While at Texas State, Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital faced Roberts’ Baylor defense the previous two years.

“One of the keys is to avoid those passing downs, third-and-longs.” That’s when he’s most dangerous,” Spavital explained. “Once you’re behind the chains, he’s very disruptive.” He has a flair for the exotic.”

To put it another way, the Bears must be able to run the ball. “This is a true test this weekend,” Spavital said. “It’s going to be a very physical, violent game.”

Ott has averaged 166 rushing yards (9.2 yards per carry) in games against UC Davis, Arizona, Stanford, and North Texas over the last two seasons — Cal’s lesser opponents. In his other nine games, he’s averaged only 47 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

It all comes down to the Cal offensive line, which has been a weakness in recent years, prompting new offensive line coach Mike Bloesch to challenge his players.

“We weren’t really satisfied with our performance last season,” junior Brian Driscoll said. “As soon as Bloesch arrived in the winter, he told us, ‘We want to be the unit that wins games for this team.'”

On Saturday night, they’ll have their chance.

NOTE: Originally, the Bears and Tigers were scheduled to play at Berkeley in 2020 and Auburn in 21. The plan was altered when Auburn was given the opportunity to play a home-and-home series against Penn State. Cal is scheduled to play at Auburn on September 7, pending any changes related to the Bears’ transition to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply