Cal coach Sonny Dykes is rooting for Oregon and expects the Ducks to beat Ohio State in Monday’s first College Football Playoff championship game.
But he is intrigued by underdog Buckeyes.
“It’s hard to look at Ohio State’s year and not think they’re a little bit of a team of destiny,” Dykes said. “Just because they’re on their third quarterback and they’ve kind of figured it out.”
Quarterback Cardale Jones will make just his third career start against Oregon, but has passed for 500 yards and four touchdowns in his first two and, at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, has shown himself to be a powerful run threat.
“I wish we had third-team quarterbacks like that guy,” Dykes said of Jones, who began fall camp behind two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting this season after Miller was injured.
Still, Dykes will go with Oregon and its Heisman-winning quarterback.
“I think Marcus Mariota is the best player in college football. I’ve said that since before the season started,” Dykes said. “He’s such a difference-maker.”
Dykes, whose Bears have faced both Oregon and Ohio State over the past two seasons, said his allegiance is with the Pac-12.
“I’m definitely rooting for Oregon,” he said. “I think we’re the best conference in the country. The bowl games have proved that, and I think ultimately the national championship will prove that as well.
“I have to pick Oregon, but I do think there’s some kind of magic with this Ohio State team.”
Dykes grew up in Texas, but said he’s cheering for the Green Bay Packers and former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff game.
Dykes is confident that a slightly torn calf muscle will not derail Rodgers.
“This time of year you always want everyone to be healthy,” Dykes said. “But if there’s anyone who can play a little nicked up, it’s Aaron Rodgers. He’s a tough guy, for sure.”
Dykes said he already has identified “a strong pool of candidates” for two vacancies on his coaching staff. He is scheduling interviews to be held at the American Football Coaches Association convention, beginning Sunday in Louisville, and intends to fill both spots before letter-of-intent signing day on Feb. 4.
“Before then, ideally,” he said.
The jobs opened this week when assistant head coach/receivers coach Rob Likens and offensive line coach Zach Yenser accepted positions at Kansas.
Offensive tackle Steven Moore and wide receiver Maurice Harris both underwent shoulder surgeries since the end of the season, Dykes confirmed. “Nothing too significant,” he said of both.
Dykes anticipates both Moore and Harris will be available at some point and at some level during spring practice, tentatively scheduled to begin the second week of March.
Dykes said he is unaware of any other Cal underclassmen who plan to enter the NFL draft after junior wideout Chris Harper made the announcement to do so this week.
“I’m really proud of Chris because I think he’s really matured. I think his best football is ahead of him. I anticipate him doing well,” Dykes said.