Scouting the Opposition

… Previews for Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado and Washington games can be found here … UCLA preview can be found here … Arizona preview can be found here … Oregon State preview can be found here … Washington State preview can be found here

Game Nine – California – October 28th – Boulder

The last time … September 27, 2014 – California 59, Colorado 56, 2OT … Sefo Liufau crushed his previous career bests with 449 yards passing and seven touchdowns, but it was not enough, as Colorado fell in two overtimes to California, 59-56. Liufau hit Nelson Spruce 19 times – re-writing a school record of 13 catches set only a week earlier – for 176 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for a team-best 79 yards.

The offensive fireworks, which led to CU leads of 14-0, 21-7, and 28-14, though, were not enough to stop the offensive onslaught from the Bears. The Colorado secondary surrendered touchdown passes of 92, 26, 10, five, 40, and 25 yards as Jared Goff duplicated Liufau’s 449 yards passing and seven touchdowns. Three missed field goals by Will Oliver figured into a game in which Colorado ran a school-record 110 offensive plays.

The loss left the 2-3 Buffs (0-2 in Pac-12 play) wondering what might have been … and what was still to come in the 2014 season.

… The 2014 CU/California game story, “Learning What it Takes“, can be found here …

2016 California results – 5-7 (3-6 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 4 … Returning starters, Defense: 6

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 22nd … 37.1 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 88th … 154.3 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 4th … 358.8 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 10th … 513.1 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 127th … 42.6 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 127th … 272.8 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 84th … 245.4 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 125th … 518.2 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)


How the Buffs fit into the Bears’ 2017 schedule

By the time Game Nine of the 2017 schedule rolls around, we will know whether Colorado is the real deal or just a pretender.

By the time Game Nine of the 2017 schedule rolls around, California may still be mathematically eligible for bowl consideration … but just barely.

The California non-conference schedule includes a road game at North Carolina and a home game against Ole Miss … two likely losses. The Pac-12 schedule (pre-CU) includes games against Pac-12 favorites USC and Washington, as well as games against Washington State, Arizona, and Oregon (with the game against the Ducks in Eugene). The road tilt against Boulder will the first leg of a four-game stretch to close out the season, with three of those games on the road.

Cal’s best chances at wins will come against Weber State, Ole Miss, and Arizona. That gives the Bears a 3-5 (1-4) record when they come to Boulder, needing three wins for bowl eligibility against a schedule of at Colorado; Oregon State; at Stanford; and at UCLA.

If the Bears are better than 3-5, it will take a win over Oregon on the road or over Washington State at home … I don’t see it. It is just as likely that the Bears will be 2-6 and on the brink of bowl elimination … and it will be up to the Buffs to put them out of their misery for 2017.


Street and Smith’s has Oregon State as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 North.

There were a lot of ways for new California coach Justin Wilcox to take the chilly temperature of the football program he took over last January.

Maybe he heard that Cal’s season ticket renewals fell off 33 percent after his predecessor, Sonny Dykes, went 5-7, a trend which is unacceptable to a cash-bleeding athletic program.

Maybe he saw a local headline that read, “Firing Sonny Dykes now is the latest episode of Cal comedy”.

Or maybe he picked up a student paper the day after he was introduced and noticed a story entitled, “Taco Bell Catina opens” was played prominently over news about his hire.

… Defense is where Wilcox is really needed to transform Cal football … Standout defensive linemen Cameron Saffle and James Looney will help right away, but it will take time to develop inside linebackers and edge rushers. That means the Bears may not be a big deal in the Pac-12 – or even on campus – for awhile.


Lindy’s has Oregon State as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 North (12th overall in the Pac-12), the No. 82 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … Cal has a deep stable of capable receivers and two proven running backs. Those assets should make life somewhat easier for a new quarterback – if the offensive line carries its weight. A change in coaching and scheme should inject some life into a maligned defense. The kicking game is very good.

Potential Problems … Pretty much the same as always in recent seasons – will the Bears be stout enough up front to function on either side of the ball? The O-line is young and lacks depth. The defensive line, with little infusion of new talent, much be dramatically better than last fall, which it allowed 272.8 yards per game.

Overview … New head coach Justin Wilcox, taking over Sonny Dykes, brings a background on defense and past experience as an assistant at Cal (2003 through ’05 under Jeff Tedford) that should help him navigate a sometimes tricky Berkeley landscape. There are questions throughout the roster, and a schedule that ranks among the toughest in the country. A seventh straight second-division finish in the Pac-12 North seems unavoidable.


Athlon has California as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 North, the No. 76 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall) … Projected Cal record: 3-9; 2-7

Their offensive coordinator (Beau Baldwin) is a good football coach who’s going to bring a system he’s developed and won a bunch of games with in FCS” – An opposing Pac-12 assistant coach

Final Analysis … Cal fans will see plenty of changes this season, but Wilcox isn’t resigned to starting from scratch. “We’re not here thinking we’re rebuilding,” he says. “We’ve got some good players. We’re going to win.” Achieving that in Year 1 may be ambitious. The schedule is tough, quarterback is unsettled, and there are big questions on both fronts.

Wilcox is taking a big-picture approach to the assignment. “It’s what you do every day and how you do it that’s the secret sauce”, he says.

For now, the Bears may find themselves thinly spreading whatever secret sauce they devise.



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