Editor’s note: This is the latest in a six-week series where we will take an early look at each of Arizona’s 12 opponents this season. Today, we look at Cal. Up next: Oregon on Monday.
Before the 2013 season, Cal sunk $321 million into renovating its Memorial Stadium, which officially seats 63,186 fans.
Unofficially, more than half of those seats were unoccupied when Arizona traveled to Berkeley last season for an early November game. That’s life these days for the Golden Bears.
Former Arizona assistant Sonny Dykes limped out to a 1-11 start in his Cal coaching career last season and saw his team give up at least 30 points in each game. The team’s closest loss all season came in a 33-28 setback to the Wildcats.
Predictably, Dykes had to shake up his coaching staff in the offseason to try to stay off the hot seat after just one year. This season should be different, but not much. Dykes is still trying to build a program that has a lot of growing to do.
Here’s a closer look at the Golden Bears:
When: Saturday, Sept. 20
Where: Arizona Stadium
Last year’s record: 1-11
Projections: The Golden Bears will be better, but still not very good. That’s Cal’s preseason forecast according to most. The Sporting News said Cal “will be better, but that won’t likely translate into wins.” Lindy’s offered a similar take: “The Bears, who went without a victory over an FBS opponent last season, should be improved simply because they are deeper and more experienced. How much that progress shows in the win-loss column remains in question.” Lindy’s ranked Cal 82nd in the nation. USA Today thought less of Dykes’ team and ranked it No. 116.
Three names to know
Quarterback Jared Goff: As a true freshman last season, Goff broke the Cal single-season records for passing yards (3,508), total offense (3,446), passes completed (320) and passes attempted (531). Even with the big numbers, Goff’s inexperience showed a lot last season with crucial mistakes. He should be better this year with more seasoning.
Wide receiver Chris Harper: The Northridge, California, native led Cal with 852 yards last season and tied for the team lead with five touchdowns. He had four catches for 25 yards against Arizona last season.
Linebacker Michael Barton: Barton registered 62 tackles last season as a redshirt freshman, including eight for a loss, which was second-most on the team. The 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker started three games in 2013 and should move into a full-time position this year.
Three numbers to know
- 123: One UA quarterback will be making his first-ever Pac-12 start against a defense that ranked 123rd nationally last season, giving up 341 passing yards per game.
- 104: Cal’s offense should continue to improve with the Bears returning 18 players from last season that combined for 104 starts over 12 games.
- 181-51: Cal was outscored 181-51 in the first quarter last season, forcing a young team to play from behind the majority of the time.
How they’re different from last time
We’ll let you know if they are. The Bears should be deeper and a little more talented when they come to Tucson in September, but this team still has a lot of significant concerns. A lot of them start on defense. If new coordinator Art Kaufman can help turn around a unit that gave up 529.6 yards per game last season, Cal can win a few games this season. If he can’t and it’s more of the same from 2013, Dykes will feel even more pressure than what he’s feeling entering this year.