Cal almost did something

What a victory it could have been for Cal yesterday as a 10 point underdog at home to USC, the conference-killers in the flesh for what could be the last time this series is played. (Just a tradition that goes back to 1885, no big deal.) With the USC defense in shreds, Cal was able to get a great stop leading 43-36 with 7 minutes left and forced USC to punt from their own 27. Unfortunately they fumbled the return and USC turned that punt into 60 yard gain. They scored a touchdown on the ensuing series, then a bunch of fumbles and another USC score. Cal did come down the field on a great drive to get within one and had a two-point attempt for the win… but it didn’t go. I offer this mini-recap as a public service since it was on the Pac-12 network and no one watched it.

Too ugly and too bittersweet to be an instant classic although that 50-49 score is going to inspire some double takes in the 200th anniversary MCC holobook.

A California Golden Bear wears team colors and is dejected.
1000 yard stare for a 100 yard bear (midjourney image)

For our Mythical California Cup purposes this would have unlocked a truly delicious corner of the permutations tree, one where USC was crippled and Cal (last title 2003) was still alive. As it stands now we are in familiar straitened circumstances:

$ python3 ./ -v
San José State 28 at USC 56 on Aug 26, 2023
UCLA 35 at San Diego State 10 on Sep 09, 2023
Stanford 10 at USC 56 on Sep 09, 2023
UCLA 42 at Stanford 7 on Oct 21, 2023
USC 50 at California 49 on Oct 28, 2023
Fresno State at San José State on Nov 11, 2023
California at Stanford on Nov 17, 2023
UCLA at USC on Nov 17, 2023
San Diego State at San José State on Nov 18, 2023
Fresno State at San Diego State on Nov 24, 2023
California at UCLA on Nov 24, 2023

Full Enumeration Simulation:
USC 32 [50%]
UCLA 28 [44%]
Fresno State 4 [6%]

Monte Carlo [Sampled Home Margin Predictor] Simulation:
USC 5450 [54%]
UCLA 4114 [41%]
Fresno State 436 [4%]

Monte Carlo [Elo Predictor] Simulation:
USC 6218 [62%]
UCLA 3285 [33%]
Fresno State 497 [5%]

USC                     3-0
UCLA                    2-0
California              0-1
San Diego State         0-1
San José State          0-1
Stanford                0-2
2023, 11, ,

So it’s UCLA that our hopes rest with. They actually look pretty tough. The UCLA/USC game on November 17 will effectively decide the cup and the way things are trending it will be very close to even money. This is a good time to check in on the Sagarin rankings for all our teams.

18  Southern California  A  =  82.40
21  UCLA                 A  =  81.14
58  California           A  =  71.98
59  Fresno State         A  =  71.90
70  San Jose State       A  =  69.38
100  Stanford             A  =  63.08 
104  San Diego State      A  =  61.67 

That would translate to a probable spread of USC -3.5 if the game were held this week. Seeing as Fresno State and USC have won the last two cups it would definitely be nice to have UCLA take home their first of the century before they leave California football behind forever. Or would it? UCLA was a co-conspirator on the murder of the Pac-12. Should we just root for a Fresno State sweep and Cal to play spoiler? (The 4 permutations where Fresno State wins are just variations of the one that matters: UCLA over USC, Cal over UCLA, Fresno State wins out. There are four leafs with that result because the results of Stanford/Cal and SJSU/SDSU don’t matter.)

Will there even be a Mythical California Cup next year with the qualifying rules that we’ve set up? As we discussed before it seems like there is just enough for a skeleton 2024 thanks to some previously scheduled non-conference games. However tomorrow might get us total clarity:

Right now we have nothing on the calendar for Stanford or Cal. It’s hard to imagine we get any surprise California matchup but the one to watch is making sure Cal/SDSU doesn’t get taken away.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had MidJourney make a picture of a sad Cal Bear. MJ has gotten a lot better; Cal has not.

Categorized as results