By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com
The California Golden Bears haven’t tasted the postseason since 2011, back when the shifty, albeit inconsistent Zach Maynard was at the helm in Berkeley. That year CAL made the Holiday Bowl, only to fall to the Longhorns of Texas 21-10. The Bears have all but fallen apart since then, but fortunately rock bottom was struck a couple years back and the rebuilding process appears be firmly on the up and up. Thankfully, Sonny Dykes and co. were able to shake off a 1-11 freshman campaign and turn in a respectable 5-7 mark this past season with some impressive wins.
Now Dykes is entering his third year as the Bears’ head man, and for the third straight season, he will have the talented Jared Goff calling the signals for him. The calm, cool and collected Goff, who played his prep pigskin at Marin Catholic High, has already proven he is a record setting passer. The 2015 season figures to be an NFL audition of sorts for Goff, as he is already trending on many a draft big boards and is expected to be a first round pick following his Junior year in Berkeley.
Goff and Dykes seem to be a match made in heaven when you consider how fond Dykes is of throwing the ball in his patented “Bear Raid” offense. For some perspective, Oregon’s Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota only attempted 445 passes in comparison to Goff’s 509 pass attempts last season. Goff also beat Mariota last year in the pass completed category (316) and ranked second in the PAC-12 last year in touchdowns with 35. As of now, Goff already holds 16 school records at California, and technically, he has two years left to go in Strawberry Canyon.
Of course, Goff will need someone to throw all those passes to in 2015, and thankfully he will be flush with weapons all around him. Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs figure to be Goff’s most popular receiving targets, not to mention Stephen Anderson who is listed as a tight end, but plays like a receiver. The main man out of the backfield will be Daniel Lasco who should have a big year if he can continue to build on 2014’s impressive output.
The real question for the Bears remains on the defensive side of the ball, as always seems to be the case. Veteran defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will be back for his second year in Berkeley, and it will be up to him and his staff to devise a plan to put a respectable defense out on the field to support CAL’s high-powered offensive outfit. It will certainly be a challenge to change the Bears’ offense-first minded culture and it will be doubly hard when you factor in the talent level of PAC-12 offenses, but something must be done. As the old saying goes, CAL will only go as far as their defense will take them. If they can hold offenses like Oregon and USC in check, the Bears could really get rolling.
This coming year, CAL will again square off with Texas, but this time in a rare road game at a traditional Big-12 power. The September 19th showdown in Austin will be the first game for CAL away from home in the 2015 season and it marks the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a tough road schedule that includes trips to Washington, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford.
Prognosticators who are long on the Bears believe there is hope they could accomplish an 8-4 season and head to a quasi-prestigious bowl. So long as the defense finds a way to step up, the idea that CAL can win eight games sounds totally possible.
Things kick off for the Bears over Labor Day Weekend when they host Grambling State, followed by another home game versus San Diego State. Then comes Texas, which CAL could absolutely beat, when you consider the Longhorns are far removed from their glory years involving Ricky Williams and Vince Young. If the Bears can go into Austin and steal the bacon from Texas, all eyes will be on Berkeley and the Bear Raid.