A Guide to College & Pro Football in Northern California
For college and pro football fans, the Bay Area is almost heaven these days. There are almost always two, three or even four great games to follow every weekend in Fall. Lately, there have been great games in the Winter, too. As any fan knows, that means that the Bay Area doesn’t just have a lot of local teams, it means that we have quality programs here, too.
San Francisco 49ers
For fans of the San Francisco 49ers, the quality football that has been AWOL for the last decade came roaring back last season. Their appearance in the NFC Championship game capped a season of expectations exceeded and dominating smash mouth football. It was old school style ball: great defense and special teams, smart coaching, solid execution, a steady offense and 60 full minutes of heads up play in every game. Thousands of bay area windows brought back the red and gold team displays after a long hibernation in the basement.
For the 2012 season, fans are hoping for the 49ers to go all the way to the Super Bowl. Expectations are high that second year coach Jim Harbaugh can top his performance in 2011. While they focused on keeping their league best defense intact, they upgraded their offense in the draft and have signed several high profile free agent wide receivers. There is no lockout this year to keep the offense from practicing, so everyone will be watching to see how much upside is left in Alex Smith when given a deeper receiving corps and a complete playbook to work with.
Across the bay in Oakland, some big changes are underway. Team founder and unofficial coach/general manager Al Davis passed away last year. He guided the Raiders to great success in the 70’s and 80’s and deserves much of the credit but the team had been floundering recently. With what seemed like a new coach every year, erratic drafts, questionable personnel choices, and locker room issues that saw many players who were good on other teams having sub par years as long as they played in Oakland, many fans felt that Davis had lost his touch. It will be fascinating to see how the team evolves with a new hand on every wheel.
Consistency is the goal for Oakland this year. There are a lot of unknowns still for the Raiders, so we’ll all be looking to see how they are managing their changes. Many will be looking to see if they can improve their overall team discipline, keep the penalties from breaking crucial drives, show better execution from the quarterback position, and not have players taking plays off. That will also be one of the best way to evaluate whether they are heading in the right direction after the passing of their much loved and rightly admired owner, Al Davis.
Bay Area college programs are on a roll, too. The PAC 12 just signed a $3 billion TV contract and there are 4 new big name coaches in the conference to show it. The PAC 12 had an fantastic recruiting class to go with the their new high profile, so expect some outstanding ball games. UCLA, USC, and Oregon bring their explosive game to the Berkeley and Palo Alto campuses every year.
Stanford came within a single, last minute missed gimme field goal kick in the Fiesta Bowl to having a legitimate claim at the number 2 overall rank in the BCS. No surprise, there are a few thousand more Cardinal stickers decorating Palo Alto window replacements out there this year. Stanford’s starting QB, Andrew Luck, was chosen number one the NFL draft and is off to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes in Indianapolis now, but if there was ever a kid who could do it, it’s Luck. They have a top notch program at Stanford, so there is every chance they will field a championship calibre team this year even after losing a once in a generation talent like Andrew Luck.
California Golden Bears
Cal has had 2 middling seasons, after a rise to national prominence following several decades and general mediocrity. Some speculate that longtime coach Jeff Tedford is on the hot seat. Cal is finishing their brand new stadium for this fall, will they get a brand new coach to match it next year? This is a make or break moment with nothing but pressure: new stadium, new TV contract and the highest demands on the team and the coach. So much for laid back Berkeley, eh?
San Jose Spartans
Not to be forgotten, the San Jose Spartans represent the South Bay and compete in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). Largely overlooked by fans who are more familiar with Cal and Stanford, the SJSU Spartans have a proud football history dating back to 1893. Fun fact: The Spartans boast two alumni who went on to become Super Bowl winning head coaches: The late great Bill Walsh, and Dick Vermeil.
2012-2013 S.F. 49ers Projected Season 12-4
When you look at the 2012-2013 Season Projection for the San Francisco 49ers, people are going to question whether they can go undefeated this season. After playing the Packers and winning on the road in Green Bay, then coming home against the Detroit Lions in San Francisco, do the 49ers have a shot of winning it all? In order to make it to the Superbowl the 49ers face stiff competition in the NFC.
Here is a projection of the 2012-2013 season for the 49ers:
Green Bay Packers - Away: Lambeau Field
No need to predict this one we all know the outcome! WIN
Week 02: Detroit Lions: - HOME: Candlestick Park
No need to predict this one we all know the outcome! WIN
Week 03: Minnesota Vikings - Away: Mall of America Field
This will be an easy win for the 49ers. They will take care of business against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. As long as they are able to take care of the ball like they have all season, I don't see them having too much trouble with this match-up. WIN
Week 04: New York Jets - Away: MetLife Stadium
The Jets had a great start in week one and looked like they knew what they were doing. With Darell Revis injured in week two they looked like a whole different team. He should be back in week 4 when the 49ers travel to MetLife stadium. Although this game is going to be closer then people think, the 49ers will squeak by with a win. WIN
Week 05: Buffalo Bills - HOME: Candlestick Park
This is going to be one of the easier games for the 49ers. Coming back home will be a great feeling for the fans and the Bills seem to struggle against good defenses. This should be one of the easier win of the season. WIN
Week 06: New York Giants - HOME: Candlestick Park
Time for revenge? The 49ers are 5-0 at this point and they can smell the Giants rolling into town. If the N.Y. Giants get it together this could be a loss for the 49ers. This will be a tough matchup and I don't see the 49ers being undefeated and this will be a LOSS.
Week 07: Seattle Seahawks - HOME: Candlestick Park
Division match-up and the Seahawks look GOOD this season. They beat Dallas in week two with an impressive win and playing at home against the 49ers is difficult. After a loss in week 06 the 49ers will get back on track and come out of this with a WIN.
Week 08: Arizona Cardinals - Away: University of Phoenix Stadium
Another Division match-up against the Arizona Cardinals who have surprised a few teams in the first two weeks. They are off to a tremendous start and whats scary is that Larry Fitzgerald hasn't really done anything. He is a big part of that offense and if the 49ers can shut him down this should be a favorable match-up for the 49ers. WIN
Week 09: Bye
Week 10: St. Louis Rams - HOME: Candlestick Park
This won't be too hard for the 49ers. Maybe the easiest match-up of the season and is going to be a blow out. WIN
Week 11: Chicago Bears - HOME: Candlestick Park
DA BEARS are coming into town on Monday Night Football. This is going to a tough match-up and everyone is going to be pumped for this. I believe this will be a similar game to the Detroit Lions and the outcome will be the same. WIN
Week 12: New Orleans Saints - Away: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
The Saints are going to struggle without their coach all season. They take on a tough team in the 49ers and I don't see them beating a team of this caliber. WIN
Week 13: St. Louis Rams - Away: Edward Jones Dome
This won't be too hard for the 49ers. Maybe a bit harder then in week 10 but should be an easy win. WIN
Week 14: Miami Dolphins - HOME: Candlestick
This won't be too hard for the 49ers. Maybe one of the easiest match-up of the season and is going to an easy win. WIN
Week 15: New England Patriots - Away: Gillette Stadium
This comes down to who needs this game more. I believe the Patriots will be fighting for a playoff spot and will need this win. LOSS
Week 16: Seattle Seahawks - Away: CenturyLink Field
This comes down to who needs this game more. I believe the Seahawks will be fighting for a playoff spot and they'll be at home in the toughest place to play. The Seahawks will need this win. LOSS
Week 17: Arizona Cardinals - HOME: Candlestick Park
This comes down to who needs this game more. I believe the Cardinals will be fighting for a playoff spot and they'll be at home. The Cardinals will need this win and the 49ers might be sitting there starters at this point. LOSS
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Notable Bay Area Football Greats
Who's Your Favorite Northern California Football Team
Jahvid Best Running Wild
The Autumn Wind is a Raider
Northern California Football Region
Stanford vs Cal
Bay Area College Football Season Outlook
As College Football is coming around I wanted to take a look at the college football teams here in the Bay Area. The two most popular teams would obviously be Stanford and Cal. Lets start first by looking at the challenges heading into the upcoming season for Stanford.
Last season, Stanford finished with an 11-2 record with losses coming to Oregon and the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Tostitos Fiesta bowl. Andrew Luck proved that he is the number one QB in College Football and led the Cardinals to tough wins over opponents such as USC and Cal. In 2012 Stanford lost a number of players such as Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, and Coby Fleener. Although there is no question that losing players of their caliber is going to hurt the Cardinals, they do have 13 starters returning from last season, including seven on the defensive side of the ball. The 2012 Schedule is listed below:
Sept. 1 San Jose State
Sept. 8 Duke
Sept. 15 USC
Sept. 22 Bye Week
Sept. 27 at Washington
Oct. 6 Arizona
Oct. 13 at Notre Dame
Oct. 20 at Cal
Oct. 27 Washington State
Nov. 3 at Colorado
Nov. 10 Oregon State
Nov. 17 at Oregon
Nov. 24 at UCLA
Looking at the schedule the Cardinals have tough games with USC, at Washington, Arizona, at Cal, at Oregon, and at UCLA. This upcoming season isn't going to be as good as last season but with Stepfan Taylor (RB) leading the ground attack, the Cardinals could surprise a few of these teams.
Cal Golden Bears:
The Bears had a disappointing season finishing 7-6 with a loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl. The Bears didn't lose as much as Stanford did in this upcoming draft but they did lose a premier offensive lineman in Mitchell Schwartz and Mychal Kendricks (LB). I believe the Bears could surprise a few people in the upcoming season. The Bears 2012 schedule:
Sept. 1 Nevada
Sept. 8 Southern Utah
Sept. 15 at Ohio State
Sept. 22 at USC
Sept. 29 Arizona State
Oct. 6 UCLA
Oct. 13 at Washington State
Oct. 20 Stanford
Oct. 27 at Utah
Nov. 2 Washington (Fri.)
Nov. 10 Oregon
Nov. 17 at Oregon State
Nov. 24 Bye Week
Early home games against Nevada, Southern Utah, Arizona State and UCLA should have the Bears undefeated at home before their Big Game against Stanford in Berkeley. I believe the Bears will have a better season then last year and might even surprise a few people.