California Golden Bears
Head Coach: Sonny Dykes
2014 record: 5-7 overall, 3-6 Pac 12 North
2014 Postseason results: None
2015 returning starters: 8 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 500/1
Odds to win 2015 Pac 12 Championship Game: 40/1
Odds to Win 2015 Pac 12 North Division: 12/1
Regular season wins: under 5 -135 / over 5 +105
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Last season, the California Golden Bears finished 5-7 and were agonizingly close to qualifying for a bowl game. The Golden Bears had four losses decided by 8 points or less, all against bowl teams with 8 wins or more. Cal needed only one win in their last three games but lost them all.
Thirteen starters are back for the Golden Bears and coach Sonny Dykes, including 8 on offense. Cal looks to return to a bowl for the first time since 2011.
Cal averaged 495 yards including 346 passing yards and 38 points per game. The Golden Bears were in the top 13 nationally in all three categories. Eight starters are back for coordinator Tony Franklin.
Junior quarterback Jared Goff completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,973 yards with 35 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He will likely hold all the career passing records for California by midseason barring injury. Freshman Chase Forrest is the back-up.
Senior running back Daniel Lasco is back after he had 210 carries for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 33 catches for 356 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior Khalfani Muhammad is also back after rushing for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, and making 7 catches. Vic Enwere will also get a lot of carries in short yardage situations. He had 34 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns last year.
Seven of the top eight receivers are back for the Golden Bears with the exception of Chris Harper (52 catches, 634 yards and 6 touchdowns.) Harper is now with the New England Patriots. The rest of the returning receivers including Lasco had at least 20 catches last year. Kenny Lawler had 54 catches for 701 yards and 9 touchdowns. Stephen Anderson is listed as a tight end but lines up more as a receiver in Cal’s 4-wide sets. He had 46 catches for 661 yards and 5 touchdowns. Bryce Treggs had 52 catches for 583 yards and 6 touchdowns. Trevor Davis had 24 catches for 399 yards and 5 touchdowns. Darius Powe and Maurice Harris combined for 45 catches and 3 touchdowns last year.
Three starters are back on the offensive line, but Dykes has said creating depth is vitally important. The left side of the line is set with tackle Steven Moore and guard Chris Borrayo, both juniors. Jordan Rigsbee is back at right guard.
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You may be asking if Cal was so explosive on offense, how did they lose seven games? Well, that is because the defense was simply atrocious. The Bears gave up 512 yards a game including 367 passing yards and 40 points a game. They were #123 or worse in all three categories out of 128 FBS teams. Cal gave up 61 touchdowns including 42 passing touchdowns. The only bright spot was the rush defense was in the top 40 nationally. Honestly, though few teams even bothered to run against Cal because the pass defense was so awful. Five starters are back for coordinator Art Kaufman.
Only one starter is back on the defensive line, but Cal brought in six players either from junior colleges or high school recruits. Mustafa Jalil is the only returning starter at tackle. James Looney transferred from Wake Forest and will start at the other tackle. JUCO transfer DaVante Wilson began his career at USC and could start at one of the ends. Kyle Kragen returns at the other end after missing last season with mononucleosis.
The linebackers return 3 players with a combined 54 games of starting experience, Hardy Nickerson, Jalen Jefferson and Michael Barton. Like the defensive line the linebackers need a more consistent pass rush.
The secondary is biggest question mark after being torched repeatedly last year. Cornerback Cedric Dozier and safety Stefan McClure are back. The Golden Bears recruited 5 defensive backs. However, four safeties missed spring practice with various injuries. This unit will be a work in progress.
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Sophomore Matt Anderson takes over as the kicker. Punter Cole Leininger averaged just under 40 yards a punt with 16 inside the 20. Trevor Davis returned two kick returns for touchdowns in the Washington State game. He should return both kicks and punts in 2015.
California opens the season with home games against Grambling State and San Diego State. The Golden Bears close out the non-conference schedule with a trip to Texas. Cal opens conference play at Washington. In October, the Golden Bears host Washington State, travel to Utah and UCLA, before hosting USC. November brings road games at Oregon and Stanford and home games against Oregon State and Arizona State in the regular season finale.
The defense should show improvement, because honestly you can’t get much worse. However, they will still not be very good. I see Cal playing more Arena Football like shootouts in 2015. The road schedule is very difficult and I don’t see them winning any of those games apart from maybe Washington. That means they have to win all six home games and with games against USC and Arizona State, that will be difficult as well. I think the Bears come up just short of a bowl again in 2015.
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