Countdown to the 2014 Season – No. 10 – California

Note … This is the third in a series of previews for the 2014 season, ranking CU’s opponents from the easiest to most difficult. Previews already posted: No. 12 – Massachusetts; No. 11 Hawai’i


Sonny Dykes was hired away from Louisiana Tech by Cal after the end of the 2012 season. Dykes brought with him to Berkeley an up-tempo offensive attack. The match seemed like a very good fit, with Dykes’ “Air Raid” offensive philosophy well-suited for the fast-paced Pac-12.

The team Dykes took over had finished 3-9 in 2012. True, the final two games of the Jeff Tedford era had been embarrassing losses to No. 3 Oregon (59-17) and No. 16 Oregon State (62-14). But there was also hope for the future, as the 2012 Bears had also posted a big 43-17 win over No. 25 UCLA and had close losses to No. 12 Ohio State, Washington and No. 20 Stanford.

Cal fans understood that there would be a learning curve in 2013, with a new quarterback and many young players in the skill positions.

Cal fans understood that the Bears would not be competing for a title in Year One of the Sonny Dykes era.

But what they didn’t expected was a team which regressed into a program which was one of the worst in the nation.

2013 Season

All Buff fans need to know about the Cal Bears in 2013 is that they looked a great deal like the CU Buffs of 2012.

Yes … they were that bad.

Cal went 1-11 last season, the 11 losses being the most in school history. The one victory came over Portland State from the Big Sky Conference, and even that was a 37-30 struggle. Every team the Bears went up against scored at least 30 points, with five teams (including Colorado with 41) posting their highest or second-highest point total of the season. Every team except Portland State posted at least 448 yards of total offense (CU had 485), with seven opponents going for over 500 and three over 600 total yards.

More numbers? Cal allowed 7.08 yards per play, last amongst major-college programs (CU surrendered 7.11 in 2012, but dropped to 6.08 in 2013). The defense gave up 6,355 in total yards (CU gave up 5,862 in 2012). In the last eight games of the 2013 season, opposing quarterbacks completed 68% of their pass attempts against Cal, with 24 touchdowns to only two interceptions.

And one last stat … opposing teams had 61 fourth quarter pass attempts – all season.

In the 2013 season finale, in the Big Game against rival Stanford, the Bears were embarrassed, 63-13.

Yes … they were that bad.


The careers of Cal quarterback Jared Goff and Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau will be subject to numerous comparisons over the next three seasons. Both were thrown to the wolves as true freshmen, and both are expected to lead their teams to bowl games – hopefully sooner rather than later.

Goff threw for 3,503 yards last season, completing 60% of his passes. Goff had 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, but was sacked 32 times (Liufau’s numbers, in four fewer games: 1,779 yards passing, 59% completion rate, 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions, sacked ten times).

Goff, who finished third in the Pac-12 in passing yards and sixth in total offense, is not the problem for the Cal offense.

The problem is the offensive line.

The Cal offensive line had its share of injuries last season, but even when healthy, the line failed to produce. Bear fans are hoping that the return of potential All-conference center Chris Adcock will help solidify the line, but Adcock has played only four games the past two seasons due to injuries. The remaining names along the line do not strike fear amongst Pac-12 defensive coordinators, though most do at least have a year of experience in the new system behind them.

If Cal can figure out a way to patch together a decent offensive line, the Bears do have weapons at the skill positions for Goff to exploit. Three of the top five receivers from last season return, including juniors Bryce Treggs (77 catches for 751 yards and one touchdown) and Chris Harper (70 catches, 852 yards, five touchdowns). Cal’s leading rusher from last season, Khalfani Muhammad (445 yards, four touchdowns) also returns.


California might be able to score more points in 2014 than in 2013, but the Bears will need to in order to try and offset what remains a porous defense.

Last season’s defensive coordinator, Andy Buh, has been replaced by Art Kaufman, who most recently turned the Cincinnati Bearcat defense into one of the top ten units in the nation. Kaufman might turn the Bears into a top defensive unit, but probably not this season.

The defensive line is a patchwork, with two starters lost to graduation and little proven talent ready to take their place. As with the offensive line, the Bears are hoping that a player who was lost all of last season to injury – in this case defensive end Brennan Scott – will be a panacea. Cal coaches are hoping that Trevor Kelly, a junior college transfer (who had an offer from Colorado) will be able to make an immediate impact.

The linebackers at Cal are young and inexperienced, with sophomore Hardy Nickerson (65 tackles in ten games as a freshman) perhaps the best of the lot.

The story of the defensive secondary mirrors that of Colorado the past few seasons … plenty of young talent thrown to the wolves to early in their careers. Most of the starters return from last season, but that could be interpreted as either good news or bad news by Bears fans, as Cal’s last line of defense was anything but that last year. The unit produced only five interceptions all season, while giving up 32 passing touchdowns.


The last thing a team coming off of the worst season in program history needs is a tough schedule, but that is exactly what Cal faces this season.

Nine of Cal’s opponents this fall played in bowl games last year (CU faces eight), with seven teams having posted eight or more wins (CU also faces seven). In non-conference play, Cal faces a road game against Northwestern to open the season before taking on Sacramento State (a team with which Buff fans are all too familiar).

After facing Northwestern and Sacramento State, the Bears then get a quick start to Pac-12 play, playing two conference games before the end of September (the Bears close out the season in November with a game against BYU). Cal takes to the road to face Arizona before returning home to play Colorado on September 27th.

Cal, like Colorado, needs to get off to a fast start if there are to be any hopes for a successful season. All three of Cal’s non-bowl opponents from last year come in September, with the game against the Buffs the last of the 2014 campaign against a non-bowl team all season.


Like last season, the Colorado game against Cal may turn out to be for 11th place in the Pac-12 conference. Last season, both teams brought to the November game long losing streaks in both FBS games and Pac-12 conference games. Colorado came away with a 41-24 home victory, leaving Cal to carry on the stigmas of long losing streaks.

Cal enters the 2014 season on a ten game losing streak overall, with 16 losses in a row to FBS opponents and 14 losses in a row to Pac-12 opponents. By the time Colorado gets to Berkeley to close out the month September, Cal should have ended the overall losing streak with a win over Sacramento State, but having had extended losing streaks to FBS opponents to 18 and to Pac-12 opponents to 15.

Colorado’s struggles on the road have been well documented, but the Buffs should come to the Bay Area with a road win (over UMass) already on the books. Plus, there is the odd fact that, of CU’s four conference victories as a member of the Pac-12, half have come on the road (at Utah in 2011; at Washington State in 2012).

It’s difficult to ever predict a CU road victory, but the Buffs head into the 2014 season a half step ahead of the Bears in the climb back to mediocrity.

It won’t be easy, but the Buffs prevail in a mistake-filled game.


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