CAL AT NORTHWESTERN
KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois.
2013 RECORDS: Cal 1-11, 0-9 in Pac-12; Northwestern 5-7, 1-7 in Big Ten.
SERIES HISTORY: Northwestern leads 2-0, including a 44-30 win at Berkeley in 2013. The Wildcats also beat Cal 20-14 on Jan. 1, 1948 in the Rose Bowl.
STORYLINES: Both teams are eager to demonstrate they are much improved after disappointing performances a year ago. Sonny Dykes suffered through the worst debut season of any Cal coach in history, but the Wildcats were only marginally better. They lost their first seven conference games and their five wins came over teams who scored a total of 11 wins over FBS teams last season. They averaged 40.2 points in the wins, 16.0 in their defeats. … For Cal, improvement is expected everywhere, but especially with a defense that allowed 45.9 points per game and on offense in the red-zone, where the Bears converted just 21 of 43 chances for touchdowns.
INJURY UPDATE: Cal: MLB Nathan Broussard (knee), Saf Quentin Tartabull (knee) and RB Jeffrey Coprich (foot) are out; CB Darius White (shoulder) and Saf Avery Sebastian (quad) are questionable; Northwestern: WR Christian Jones (knee) and DT Sean McEvilly (foot) are out.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s offensive line vs. Northwestern’s defensive front. The Bears have been working and talking about running the ball since last season ended. Now we find out if it clicks. The Bears believe they have gotten tougher and stronger. That will be tested against a front four that averages better than 6-foot-4, 289 pounds per man. The Bears netted just 93 rushing yards vs. NU last year, forcing them to throw a school-record 64 passes.
STATS THAT MATTER: Cal’s 14-game losing streak to FBS opponents is twice as long as the next-worst drought in school history. … The Wildcats boast a 16-game home win streak vs. nonconference opponents. … NU is 8-0 in opening games under coach Pat Fitzgerald. … Cal gave up 551 points last season, more than the Bears allowed in 97 games over 10 seasons under coach Andy Smith (1916-25). … Cal has just three starters returning on defense from this game a year ago.