The California Golden Bears continued their uphill climb under head coach Sonny Dykes. After going just 1-11 in his first season on the job in 2013, the Golden Bears improved to 5-7 in his second year. This past season Cal went 8-5, which included a 55-36 beatdown of Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Cal opened 5-0 with wins over San Diego State, Texas, Washington and Washington State. They reached as high as No. 23 in the country, but things took a turn for the worse after the strong start. The Golden Bears went just 2-5 over their final 7 regular season games.
Their record inside the Pac-12 was just 4-5, only good enough for a 4th place tie in the North. On the bright side, it was more conference wins than they had the previous two years combined (3-15).
Now that Dykes and Cal have experienced success, they goal now is to maintain it. It may be easier said than done, as the Golden Bears lose a lot from last year’s team.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/10||@ San Diego State|
|9/24||@ Arizona State|
|10/8||@ Oregon State|
|11/12||@ Washington State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
Cal was able to overcome a brutal schedule last year and will have to do the same in 2016. The Golden Bears open the season against Hawaii in Sydney, Australia.
While Cal will be a heavy favorite against the Warriors, opening the season overseas is not ideal. They do get a bye week right away to help with the jetlag and are going to need it. Their first game back in the states will be on the road against San Diego State. The Aztecs will be out for revenge and likely riding an 11-game winning streak.
They then have to host Texas, who looks to be much improved and also out for revenge against the Golden Bears.
While Cal gets 5 of their 9 conference games at home, all 5 are against top level teams in the Pac-12. Utah, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and UCLA will all travel to Berkley.
The road schedule isn’t a whole lot easier. They draw both Arizona State and USC out of the South, plus have to go to Washington State and Oregon State.
The first thing that people will talk about with Cal is the loss of star quarterback Jared Goff, who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Goff left Berkley as the school’s all-time leading passer with 12,200 yards. That’s 4,074 more yards than the previous record holder in Troy Taylor.
Losing a quarterback like Goff is a big blow to any program, but he’s just one of several key pieces that departed. Cal only has 9 starters back from last year. A significant drop-off from the 17 starters they returned in 2015.
The good news is they believe they have a capable replacement for Goff at quarterback. they added Texas Tech graduate transfer Davis Webb, who started 14 games in 3 years with the Red Raiders. Webb figures to be one of the more talented quarterbacks in the conference, but has little to work with.
The Golden Bears lost their top 6 options in the passing game. Cal does have some talent on the roster, including true freshman Melquise Stovall. The problem is they are greatly inexperienced.
The good news is that 3 of the 5 starters are back along the offensive line. They also add in juco transfer Jeremiah Stuckey, who first signed with Texas AM.
Also back are their top three rushers in Khalfani Muhammad, Vic Enwere and Tre Watson. These three combined for 1,595 and 12 touchdowns. Look for Cal to lean a little more on the running game early while Webb and the new receivers build up some chemistry.
Adding in a talented quarterback like Webb may keep the offense going in the right direction. Unfortunately things don’t look as promising on defense, where only 5 starters return. Not to mention they lose 5 of their top 6 tacklers.
While the offense got all the attention, Cal’s defense made big strides last year. After giving up 39.8 ppg and 512 ypg in 2014, they allowed just 30.7 ppg and 454 ypg in 2015.
The Golden Bears strength defensively has been the defensive line. That figures to be the case again in 2016. Cal returns 3 starters in the trenches. The big question is how they replace the production of defensive end Kyle Kragen. He was second on the team in tackles (73) and led the team in sacks (7).
The Golden Bears would be in much better shape if star linebacker Hardy Nickerson didn’t transfer to Illinois. Nickerson led the team last year with 112 tackles.
He wasn’t the only loss Cal suffered in the offseason. Starting strong safety Damariay Drew tore his ACL and is out for the year. The secondary does get back starters Cameron Walker and Darius Allensworth. Plus add in another talented juco transfer in corner Marloshawn Franklin.
Regular Season Win Total
Pac-12 North Odds
Pac-12 Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
I think it’s only a matter of time until Dykes has this program competing for a Pac-12 title, but it won’t be in 2016. Even with the addition of Webb to replace Goff, this looks like a major rebuilding season for Cal.
It’s not just the lack of experience on both sides that has me down on Cal this year. I believe the schedule will simply prove to be too much to overcome.
Even a road game at Oregon State is no sure thing for the Golden Bears. The biggest determinate for me is the home schedule. Cal could very easily go 0-6 at home, though I do think they win at least one.
When it’s all said and done, I have the Golden Bears going just 4-8 with a mere 2-7 record in the Pac-12. With their win total sitting at 6, I highly recommend a play on the UNDER.
Win Total Prediction