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Football: Bears complete final practice; Harper, Sebastian expected to start vs. Northwestern

Sonny Dykes talks about decision to keep 2014 Big Game in Berkeley.

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Receiver Chris Harper (shoulder) and strong safety Avery Sebastian (head) both practiced Thursday and coach Sonny Dykes expects both to start on Saturday night against Northwestern.

Defensive end Brennan Scarlett (hand) will dress for the game, Dykes said. Beyond that, no promises.

Asked if Scarlett has been cleared medically, Dykes said, “Not yet . . . there’s always tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Don’t count on it.

The Bears had what Dykes described as a clean and energetic practice Thursday. “We had a good vibe today around the whole program,” he said. “I think our guys are excited to play. They put the work in, now it’s time to go play.”

The coaches looked forward to spending Thursday night at home with their families. The Bears then will stay together at an Emeryville hotel on Friday night.

Dykes said he’s excited about his Berkeley debut, which figures to draw a near-capacity crowd to Memorial Stadium, along with an ESPN2 national audience.

“It’s going to be a new experience for me just as it is for our young players,” he said. “I know the game-day atmosphere here is fantastic, the crowd is great, the student section especially. We’re excited to take it all in.

“Most importantly, we’re excited for an opportunity to play against a good football team.”

Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who came to Cal with Dykes from Louisiana Tech, said Saturday night promises to be educational.

“It’s always interesting the first game, because honestly when you come to a new place, you have no idea,” he said. “You play against each other and you think you know something. You really don’t know anything until you play. I’ll be surprised if they don’t play well.”

Likewise, Franklin expects freshman quarterback Jared Goff to perform. He also understands he will be nervous.

“I’m nervous and I’m 56,” he said. “As a player I never remember playing a game where I didn’t have butterflies. And he’s obviously a much better player than I was. I would think he would be (nervous). That’d be normal.”

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The players sang “Happy Birthday” to Franklin after practice, prompting him to playfully suggest, “They need to keep their day jobs.”

Jeff Faraudo