SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|California Golden Bears (Pac-12 #11; North #6)|
|AP NR USA NR||Strength:#96 Success:#116 Overall:#97|
|Record: 1-11||Bowl: None|
|Picks: AP NR | USA NR | Lindy's #82 | Athlon #76 | Steele #61|
|Record: 4-8||Bowl odds: 10% Playoff odds: <1%|
The Bears should be better on both offense and defense. The former, due to how many people they return, and the latter because injuries made them look far worse than they really were.
8 ret. starters
|2013 Scoring Offense: #100 (raw) #61 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2014 Projected Scoring Offense: #34 (adjusted)
The second year of Sonny Dykes' Air Raid should run a lot smoother.
|2013 Passing Rank: #11 (raw) #11 (adjusted)||2013 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #70|
|2014 Projected Passing Rank: #3 (adjusted)
||2014 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #50|
As bad as Cal was last year, they had one boasting point and that was the passing game. Jared Goff (3,508 yards, 18 TDs, 10 int) led one of the more productive passing games around as a freshman. Back at receiver are Chris Harper (852 yards), Bryce Treggs (751) and five of eight others who topped 100 yards; Richard Rodgers (608) departs as does backup QB Zach Kline (443, 3:4). The O-line allowed 35 sacks, but there were a lot of attempts and things should be better on the protection front this year. The passing game rated just outside the top 10 but this year it should shoot for the top five.
|Rushing||2013 Rushing Rank: #109 (raw) #77 (adjusted)||2014 Projected Rushing Rank: #66 (adj.)
The Bear ground game wasn't much but they faced very tough rushing defenses and this year it should be respectable. Three of the top five rushers are back including sophomore Khalfani Muhammad (445 yards) and the offensive line essentially loses just one starter. Senior Alejandro Crosthwaite, junior Jordan Rigsbee, and sophomore Steven Moore all basically started full-time and a few others part-time. The rushing attack should improve.
|2013 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #39 Pass Defense per-game: #124 Per-attempt: #113|
5 ret. starters
|'13 Scoring Defense: #127 (raw) #112 (adjusted)||'13 sacks: #86||'13 picks: #119|
|'14 Projected Scoring Defense: #88 (adjusted)
||'14 sacks: #76||'14 picks: #113|
The Cal defense loses a lot, but the top 5 tacklers are back from 2013; add in some key 2012 returnees and the D should be much more competent. Last year's rushing defense was pretty sound, but due to heavy losses on the defensive line that may not last. They do get the return of 2012 starter Brennan Scarlett, who redshirted last year due to injury. Two starting linebackers return to the fold, and the secondary boasts not only top tackler Michael Lowe but also gets 2012 starter Avery Sebastian back from a torn Achilles. Cal won't suffer the same injury rate they did last year, either.
- Kicking Game: Punter Cole Leininger (42.9 average) is back while kicker Vincenzo D'Amato (17 of 20 FG) departs.
- Return Game: Bryce Treggs (2.1 average on punts) and RB Muhammad (21.9 on kickoffs) are both back.
- Turnovers projection: QB Goff was less pick-prone than backup QB Kline (4 int in 82 attempts) so as a sophomore Goff should cut down on the duo's combined 14 interceptions. Also the defense should improve on its 5 picks.
- Injury correction: The offense had its injuries, but nothing like the defense, which suffered more injuries to starters than any other in the country. It's a huge reason why the defense was so bad, and with better luck and health they'll be much better off.
Coaching/Recruiting 2014 Recruiting Rank: #66 2013 Recruiting Rank: #24
The bottom four teams in Pac-12 recruiting are far separated from the top 8, and Cal is among the lower group this year. Strangely Sonny Dykes had his good class in the transition year and the worse one now. But it's hard to recruit during and after a 1-11 season.
Cal lost to Northwestern, 44-30, in the opener but showed that they were going to air it out and score. They edged Portland State 37-30 and fell to Ohio State 52-34. But Oregon beat them 55-16 the losses kept coming until they were 0-9 in the Pac-12 and 1-11 overall.
Last year's prediction: We ranked Cal #84 and projected that they'd repeat at 3-9. In the game-by-game chart we showed them favored over Portland State and narrowly over Colorado; the 2nd win didn't happen.
California 2014 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 2-10 Cume: 4-8 Bowl eligible: 10%
Sonny Dykes made a smart move: falling to 1-11 last year. Now pretty much anything looks like "up" and if the Bears only win the games we favor them in, "up" will be 2-10.
Sacramento State is close to a gimme, and the Bears get Colorado at home this year and should win that one. Beyond that there is Northwestern, BYU, and then the rest of the Pac-12.
Neither Northwestern in the opener nor BYU at home in the closer looks like a win, but they look comparable to most of the Golden Bears' Pac-12 schedule in terms of toughness. Arizona, Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, and Stanford look like solid favorites but not impossible upsets. Only UCLA, Oregon, and USC rise to that level.
Cal should find a couple more wins among the seven games we mentioned and finish 4-8 this year, which looks really good compared to 1-11. In his third year Dykes will probably have to make it to a bowl game, and figuring out how to do that in the Pac-12 is harder than improving from 1-11.
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SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128