This summer Zona Zealots will be previewing each of the Pac-12 football teams and where we think they will end up, starting in the basement and working our way up. In part I, we reviewed who we believe will be the worst team in the Pac-12 South: The Colorado Buffaloes. No shocker there. But who will join them as the worst team in the Pac-12 north?
Answer: The California Golden Bears
The scoop: The California Golden Bears underperformed last year, going 3-9 and losing their final five games. In fact, such inferior play cost head coach Jeff Tedford his job. Things will not get any better this season, as the Bears return roughly 11 starters from last year, which do not include last season’s starting quarterback (Zach Maynard), top two running backs (C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele) or top wide receiver (Keenan Allen). Add to the fact Cal has a new head coach with a new system to install and it is fair to say this is a rebuilding year.
But we know how effective new head coach Sonny Dykes can be. As the offensive coordinator at Arizona under Stoops, Dykes’ spread passing attack was one of the deadliest in the nation. We also know just because a school has a new coach does not mean–especially in this day of sports–it will automatically fail in the first season. With low expectations the first season as Arizona’s head coach, Rich Rodriguez led the Arizona Wildcats to an 8-5 record and a bowl game.
Nevertheless, Cal’s schedule this year spells disaster. The Bears will not beat Northwestern or Ohio State in their non-conference schedule and must take on three of the more difficult Pac-12 teams–Oregon, UCLA, Washington–on the road.
Players to watch: Cal has quite a bit of returning experience on defense, and it will be the only chance the Bears have of staying in some games. Keep an eye on defensive end Chris McCain, who last year brought in 50 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Predicted record: 4-8