2013 RECORD: 1-11, 0-8 Pac-12 (6th in North)
COACH: Sonny Dykes, 2nd season
BIG DATE: The Bears open at Northwestern, hoping to avenge a 44-30 loss in their debut a year ago and score their first win over an FBS opponent in the Dykes era. A victory could have a huge impact on the team’s confidence and alter the trajectory of their season.
KEY DEPARTURES: Two linebackers who could have impacted this team left early, with Nick Forbes taking a medical retirement and Khairi Fortt jumping to the NFL. Cornerback Kameron Jackson made an unexpected early leap to the pros at a position where Cal had few established replacements.
DIFFERENCE MAKERS: The receiving corps, led by Bryce Treggs (77 receptions last season) and Chris Harper (70 receptions), should be the strength of the team. Transfer Trevor Davis caught 45 passes in two seasons at Hawaii. QB Jared Goff had a productive freshman season and the offensive line is expected to be substantially improved.
FRESH FACES TO WATCH: Freshman Tre Watson and Vic Enwere both are expected to be part of the rotation at running back. Freshman linebacker Devante Downs and JC cornerback Darius White are batting for jobs.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: If the offensive line holds and the defense makes a leap forward under new coordinator Art Kaufman, the Bears will be markedly improved. But against a daunting Pac-12 schedule, how much will that improvement show? Earning four wins won’t be easy, but would have to be considered a major step in the right direction for what is still a young team.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The Bears have improved their depth, but still don’t have enough proven players at some spots – especially on defense — to overcome the kind of injury epidemic they faced a year ago. If attrition takes its toll or the Bears come out of the gate slowly, they could face another grim season.
BOTTOM LINE: This team will be much-improved over a year ago, but the arc of this season could be determined early. Success out of the gate could fuel confidence and momentum that Cal badly needs. The Bears must score some victories early because the schedule is relentlessly ferocious beginning in mid-October.
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