California Golden Bears
Head Coach: Sonny Dykes
2015 record: 8-5 overall, 4-5 Pac 12 North
2015 Postseason results: Beat Air Force 55-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl
2016 returning starters: 4 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 750/1
Odds to win 2016 Pac 12 Championship Game: 60/1
Odds to Win 2016 Pac 12 North Division: 33/2
Regular season wins: under 5 1/2 -360 / over 5 1/2 +270
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The California Golden Bears went 8-5 last year and returned to a Bowl for the first time since 2011 with a 55-36 rout of Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. They began the season 5-0 but then lost four straight games. The Golden Bears would win three of their last four games.
This could be a rebuilding year though as they only get ten starters back. Coach Sonny Dykes must also replace quarterback Jared Goff who was the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
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California averaged 529 yards per game including 376 passing yards per game and 38 points. The Bears were in the top 17 nationally in all three categories. Four starters are back for coordinator Jake Spavital. He was hired from Texas A&M for the same position. Tony Franklin left Cal to become the OC at Middle Tennessee.
Goff threw for over 4,700 yards with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year. That kind of production will be nearly impossible to replace. Five guys entered the spring competing to replace him. The Bears got their quarterback though in May when graduate transfer Davis Webb from Texas Tech decided to come to California. He had originally enrolled at Colorado but changed his mind. Webb ran the Air Raid offense at Texas Tech. He threw for over 2,500 yards in 2013 and 2014 despite splitting time at quarterback with the Red Raiders. Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers are the quarterbacks of the future but for now will sit behind Webb.
Running back Khalfani Muhammad rushed for 586 yards and a touchdown, and had 17 catches with 2 touchdowns. Vic Enwere (505 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Tre Watson (504 yards and 3 touchdowns) are also back. All three will continue to split the carries. Daniel Lasco was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. Although he only rushed for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns last year, but he rushed for over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
The top six receivers from last year recorded 265 catches for over 3,800 yards and 38 touchdowns. All are gone in 2016. The Golden Bears are still deep at receiver though but they don’t have a lot of experience. Chad Hansen, Patrick Worstell, Melquise Stovall and Raymond Hudson are penciled in to start at receiver but none had more than 19 catches last year.
Four starters are back on the offensive line for the Golden Bears. The line should be a strength.
California gave up a ton of yards and points last year. The Golden Bears allowed 454 yards and 31 points per game. Cal allowed 244 passing yards and 210 rushing yards per game. California was #89 or worse in all four categories. Coordinator Art Kaufman gets six starters back. While the defense isn’t great it has gradually improved in the three years since Kaufman took over.
The line will be anchored by end DeVante Wilson and tackle Travis Looney. Tony Mekari will also start at tackle and Noah Westerfield will start at end.
Hardy Nickerson was supposed to be the heart and soul of the linebackers but he transferred to Illinois where his famous father is now the defensive coordinator. He had 112 tackles last year. As it is, Aisea Tongilava will start on the strong side, Devante Downs will man the middle and Raymond Davison will start on the weak side.
The secondary also took a hit when it was announced safety Damariay Drew would miss the entire season after undergoing knee surgery. Darius Allensworth and Antoine Albert will start at the corners. Khari Vanderbilt and Evan Rambo will start at safety.
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Kicker Matt Anderson made 18 of 21 field goals last year. Dylan Klumph will take over as the new punter. Vic Wharton will return punts and Muhammad will return kicks. The return game was not very good last year.
Outlook and Schedule
California opens against Hawaii in Sydney, Australia. They then travel to San Diego State and host Texas. In conference, Cal travels to Arizona State, Oregon State, USC, and Washington State. The Golden Bears host Utah, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and UCLA.
The loss of Nickerson and Drew on defense could be devastating for a unit that wasn’t going to be that great in the first place. The schedule is very tough and five wins would be a stretch for this team.
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