California Golden Bears
The 3-9, 2-7 California Golden Bears are possibly gearing up for a move to the Big Ten Conference at least that’s what their non-conference slate suggests. Northwestern, Portland State and Ohio State come to Berkeley the first three weeks of the season. Cal would love to be 2-0 heading into the game with the Buckeyes. The Bears were quite competitive with unbeaten OSU last year in Columbus falling 35-28. California however ended the season on a five-game skid losing four of them by more than eight points. Only one of their first four defeats came by more than 10, 27-9 at Southern California a week after battling the Bucks.
Dismiss Jeff Tedford. Enter Sonny Dykes. Too bad the difference between winning and losing isn’t as simple as revolving head coaches around. The Golden Bears recently completed their first year at a new Memorial Stadium and unfortunately the squad wasn’t inspired by it the least bit, especially the final month of the season. The best news for Cal is quarterback Zack Maynard has graduated. No more throwing games away, at least from Maynard’s hand. Now it’s possibly redshirt QB Zack Kline’s turn to play hot potato. The Bears might have asked Maynard to do too much so it’ll be important that Kline isn’t requested to constantly create plays or a reclining position will be a recurring theme. Junior running back Brendan Bigelow could be the key ingredient in whether the offense will improve, stay pat or retard this year.
Usually a reliable area for California the defense wasn’t up to par in 2012 allowing 10 more points than the Golden Bears could score. Sure Cal’s defense wasn’t 33.1 points per game bad as the statistics tell, but they were far from strong. When Southern Utah puts up 31 points you know you’ve got issues. Utah to end October put up 49 and the Oregon schools 59 and 62 to further hurt Bears faithful. Again however I mention the defense wasn’t the entire problem. See offense above (six times scored 17 points or fewer in a game). Going to 4-3 defense has California hopeful to encounter better success at stopping teams this season senior linebacker Dan Camporeale, junior LB Chris McCain and junior defensive end Brennan Scarlett anchor the new scheme.
Facing nine opponents this year to make a bowl last season is going to be difficult to amount wins. The Golden Bears often found themselves behind, getting outscored 107-34 in the first quarter last season, so needless to say any help the special teams can provide will be much appreciated. I’m not saying senior place kicker Vincenzo D’Amato has to start nailing 50-yard field goals and freshman wide receiver Bryce Treggs has to take one back to the house on a regular basis, but a couple of each would not hurt. D’Amato made 16-of-23 FGS and 30-of-33 extra points in 2012. On Oct. 13 in Pullman D’Amato hit a 52-yarder.
Cal is likely going win more than three games and with the Bears playing Ohio State (D’Amato was 0-of-3 on FGs) and going to Oregon during September California could match that total by mid-October with Washington State and at UCLA kicking off the Halloween month. Northwestern and Portland State are both winnable at home. If the Golden Bears can beat one of Arizona, Oregon State or USC in Berkeley finishing the regular season .500 is a possibility. Ultimately though Cal might only be able to win at Colorado. At UCLA and Washington are no gimme losses, but if the Bears do indeed fall in Pasadena and Seattle four or five victories seems to be a certainty during Dykes’ first year.