Lots to like about the Bears’ 2013 schedule, starting with a bye between the nonconference and Pac-12 games, which the 2012 team did not get.
And, of course, the Big Game will end the regular season on Nov. 23, returning to its traditional spot on the schedule. Everyone should like that a year after Cal hosted Stanford on Oct. 20 and suffered a 21-3 loss that triggered a five-game, season-ending skid that left the Bears 3-9 and led to coach Jeff Tedford’s firing.
But . . .
New coach Sonny Dykes won’t have it easy.
First of all, as previously announced, the Bears open Aug. 31 at home against a Northwestern team that was 10-3 last season and won the Gator Bowl. Cal has scheduled the Wildcats during what one day may be regarded as the golden era of Northwestern football. A tough opener.
OK, then a win over an FCS Portland State squad that was 3-8 and lost to Washington 52-13.
Then a third straight home game, against Ohio State, 12-0 a year ago, now free of NCAA sanctions and 6-1 all-time vs. Cal. The Bears’ most recent win over the Buckeyes: 28-0 in the Jan. 1, 1921 Rose Bowl.
Cal jumps right into the deep end of the Pac-12 schedule with a Sept. 28 game at Oregon. The Bears also face challenging road conference matchups against UCLA, Washington and Stanford.
The only Pac-12 road game that appears favorable for the Bears is a Nov. 16 game at Colorado and new coach Mike MacIntyre. And Cal struggled to a 36-33 overtime win at CU when the teams last played in 2011.
So, five conference road games — four of them very difficult.
The conference home schedule is not particularly sexy, with games against WSU, OSU and Arizona before USC visits on Nov. 9. The Bears lost to the Beavers and Trojans last fall and did not face the Wildcats.
It’s the dawn of a new era at Berkeley with Dykes running the show. But the Bears will be challenged in 2013.