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Football: Cal QB Jared Goff expected to turn pro, but not everyone thinks he should leave early

Steve Bartkowski, the only Cal quarterback to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, remembers the first time he saw Jared Goff play.

“He looked like a skinny, kind of gangly kid as a freshman,” Bartkowski recalled.

That’s not how the former two-time Pro Bowl selection now describes the junior quarterback, who will lead Cal against Air Force in Tuesday’s Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas.

“He’s got a great future,” said Bartkowski, 63, who played 12 NFL seasons. “He’s got a big enough arm to make all the throws, which is the No. 1 prerequisite for playing the pro game. I really like what I see.”

So does pretty much everyone else, leading to a nearly unanimous assumption from the mock draft crowd that Goff is about to play his final game for Cal and will submit paperwork by the Jan. 18 deadline to enter the NFL draft.

Goff, whose 11,733 career passing yards are the most over three seasons in Pac-12 history, has consistently declined to address his NFL future. “I don’t know where they’re getting their information from,” he said after a recent practice, “but I’ve not made a decision yet.”

Cal coach Sonny Dykes wouldn’t give up anything Goff has said in their discussions, but understands the prevailing sentiment. “What they assume is if you’re going to be one of the top two or three quarterbacks, you’re coming out,” he said. “It’s usually a right assumption.”

Goff and Memphis junior Paxton Lynch are the consensus top-rated quarterback prospects in college football. ESPN draft specialist Todd McShay believes Michigan State senior Connor Cook may be the most NFL-ready right now, but says Goff and Lynch have greater upside.

Still, McShay cautions against any junior quarterback entering the draft, and uses recent history as his guide.

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Football: Half-dozen Cal players returning to Texas

Cal’s six current players from the Lone Star state:

— Nate Broussard (Plano): A fifth-year senior linebacker, Broussard finally was able to stay healthy this season after missing all of 2013 and 2014 after suffering separate fall camp knee injuries. He has played in all 12 games this season, accumulating 15 tackles and a forced fumble.

— Vic Enwere (Missouri City): The sophomore is Cal’s power back, checking in at 6-1, 230 pounds. In a balanced Cal running back, he is No. 2 with 486 yards, a 5.0 per-carry average and seven touchdown runs.

— Daniel Lasco (The Woodlands): The senior running back rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall, but has been seriously limited this season by injuries to his hip and ankle. Just the fourth-leading ground gainer on the team, Lasco’s status for the Armed Forces Bowl remains questionable.

— Billy McCrary III (Austin): A high school quarterback who totaled 5,642 yards of offense and was responsible for 72 touchdowns, McCrary is a safety for the Bears. He played in one game this season as a true freshman.

— Carlos Strickland (Dallas): Cal’s highest-rated recruit a year ago, the 6-4, 200-pound wide receiver caught 27 touchdown passes in his prep career. Redshirted this season because Cal is so deep at the position, he is expected to play a big role next fall.

— Noah Westerfield (Frisco): A sophomore defensive end, Westerfield made five starts as a true freshman in 2014 but has not played this season since the third game of the year. The Bears have high hopes for Westerfield going forward.

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Football: Texas visit can have recruiting dividends

Texas native Vic Enwere was having a little fun with Cal teammate James Looney, who grew up in Florida.

“I’m always going to say Texas high school football is better,” said Enwere, the Bears’ sophomore running back.

“Florida has the best high school football by far,” countered Looney, a sophomore defensive tackle.

Enwere got the last word: “You rank Texas first, California, Wyoming . . . then Florida.”

For the Bears, Texas sits behind only California as a key recruiting ground. Cal has six Texans on its roster and three commitments from the state who intend to sign in February.

As a result, Texas is where the Bears want to be this week. Fort Worth – site of the Bears’ Dec. 29 date with Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl – is their ideal postseason landing spot.

“This is a big deal,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said of playing a bowl game in his home state of Texas.

Assistant head coach Mark Tommerdahl, one of six members of the Cal staff who recruits in Texas, said the value of heading to the Lone Star state is “immeasurable.”

“This is a great place for us to go and spend five days,” Tommerdahl said.

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Basketball: Virginia game gives Cal chance to end drought

With Cal set to play at No. 5 Virginia this evening (6 p.m., ESPN2), we wondered when was the last time the Bears beat a top-10 nonconference opponent on the road?

Right – it’s never happened.

Of course, there have been relatively few chances. Cal has played plenty of high-profile neutral-court games in pre-conference, but rarely on a top-level opponent’s home floor.

The Bears couldn’t even get it done as the No. 6 in the country and Jason Kidd at point guard, losing at No. 9 Kansas in 1993.

The closest they’ve come: A 90-89 victory at No. 11 San Francisco on Dec. 22, 1977.

Check out the gantlet they ran in December of 1957 – three road games against top-10 teams in a span of nine days. Whew!

Here are the Bears’ nonconference road games against top-10 foes:

Lost at No. 1 Kansas, 84-69, on Dec. 22, 2009
Lost at No. 4 North Carolina, 71-47, on Nov. 22, 1997
Lost at No. 9 Kansas, 76-56, on Nov. 19, 1993
Lost at No. 7 Indiana, 94-58, on Dec. 12, 1980
Lost at No. 2 Kansas, 58-52, on Dec. 21, 1957
Lost at No. 3 Kansas State, 58-44, on Dec. 20, 1957
Lost at No. 6 USF, 66-54, on Dec. 13, 1957

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Football: 10 reasons why Cal’s bowl game is vital

It wasn’t until the 10th game of the regular season that Cal finally shook a four-year drought and achieved eligibility to play in its first bowl game since 2011.

Now that the Golden Bears (7-5) are set to face Air Force (8-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 29, what is the payoff?

Here are 10 reasons why playing in a bowl game is important to Cal:

• Eighty teams will play in 40 bowl games this season, suggesting that any program left out of the equation can’t be taken seriously — by ticket-buyers, donors, media and recruits. Over the previous three seasons, 10 Pac-12 schools combined to play in 26 postseason games. The exceptions: Cal and Colorado. The Bears are happy to leave behind that distinction.

• Perhaps one last chance to watch Jared Goff play. The junior quarterback from Marin has broken virtually every Cal passing record and could be playing in the NFL next season. Old Blues should enjoy what is likely his farewell to college football.

• Yes, this is Cal’s 2015 season finale, but it’s also the start of a new era of sorts. Coach Sonny Dykes has signed a contract extension through 2019, and he wants a victory to create momentum headed toward signing day and the 2016 season. With a bowl victory, Dykes said, “you feel like you had more of a successful year. It’s a confidence boost, a sense of accomplishment.”

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Basketball: Bears rout Coppin State

Five players scored in double digits and Cal broke open the game midway through the first half on the way to an 84-51 win over Coppin State on Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.

Cal (9-2) plays next at No. 8 Virginia (9-1) on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers prepped for the showdown with an 86-75 win over No. 12 Villanova.

Freshman Ivan Rabb had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Bears and Jordan Mathews also scored 13. Tyrone Wallace had 12 points and freshman Jaylen Brown contributed 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Another strong effort off the bench by Jabari Bird, who had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Transfer Nick Kerr — son of Warriors coach Steve Kerr — scored for the first time for the Bears, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes.

Coppin State (2-10) was playing its second game in 24 hours after losing Friday night in overtime at USF.

The score was 12-12 after 6 minutes, but Cal outscored the visitors from Baltimore 31-10 the rest of the half to forge a 43-22 lead at the break.

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Football notebook: Tre Watson making most of his chance

All Tre Watson needed was a chance to show what he could do running the football for Cal.

On the heels of three games where he totaled 289 rushing yards, the 5-foot-10 sophomore has high expectations for himself when the Bears take on Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas.

“Big players make big plays in big games. That’s my goal – to go out there on Dec. 29 and put on a show,” Watson said.

Watson carried the ball just 37 times for 145 yards through Cal’s first nine games. But injuries, including to senior Daniel Lasco, created opportunity.

“A big part of that was he kept getting better and being fresh helped him,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said after a rainy Friday practice. “That’s why it’s so important to have four or five backs. They’re going to get beat up. Guys like this emerge late because they haven’t taken that many hits.”

Watson, who rushed for 5,244 yards and 72 touchdowns at Centennial High in Corona, broke loose for 110 yards in Cal’s win over Oregon State, and hasn’t taken his foot off the gas.

“It’s starting to feel like high school. I’m excited, getting better every day,” he said.

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Football: Cal LB Michael Barton announces he will graduate in spring, play final season elsewhere

Cal junior linebacker Michael Barton announced via Twitter on Wednesday night that he will graduate in the spring and use his final season of football eligibility to play at a different school.

Here’s what he told his Twitter followers:

“Announcement!

“receiving my degree from UC Berkeley next Spring, but will be attending Grad school elsewhere for my final year of eligibility. I would like to thank all my coaches, the staff, the trainers, the fans, the alumni, but most importantly my teammates and brothers who I’ve been with through an amazing college experience. Cal will always be my home and I’m thankful that I will receive my degree from a great institution!

“God Bless…”

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement that he wishes Barton success going forward.

“We support Michael and are proud of the hard work and dedication he has put in at Cal both on the field and in the classroom in order to be on track to graduate from Cal next May. We wish him the best of luck and look forward to watching him continue his academic and athletic career.”

Barton, a De La Salle High graduate, is an American Studies major, according to the official Cal athletics website.

The 6-foot, 240-pounder, played in nine games this season and totaled 25 tackles and one interception.

He started 13 of 23 games he played during the 2013 and ’14 seasons, after redshirting as a true freshman in 2012, and has 169 career tackles.

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Football: Cal signs 4 JC players to arrive next month

Cal has signed four junior college football players who will enroll in January and participate in spring ball.

The Bears landed defensive end Rusty Becker (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) from Minnesota State Community and Technical College, cornerback Marloshawn Franklin (6-0, 180) of Mesa (Arizona) Community College, wide receiver Jordan Veasy (6-3, 215) of Golden West College and offensive lineman Dwayne Wallace (6-5, 240) of Riverside City College.

All four players are ranked among the top 11 JC players at their position, according to various ratings services.

“The student-athletes we have signed today will help us to continue developing more depth in our program,” coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “The good thing is that they don’t necessarily have to be immediate fixes, but they have the ability to do that and getting them here for spring football gives them a huge opportunity to get on the field and contribute from day one.”

Along with four high school prospects who previously signed scholarship papers, the Bears now have eight players arriving on campus next month.

Here are thumbnail bios on the four JC signees:

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Football: ESPN’s Todd McShay projects Jared Goff to 49ers

ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, in his latest mock draft, said Wednesday that he expects Cal junior quarterback Jared Goff to be taken next spring with the No. 5 overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers.

“This is assuming the 49ers move on from Colin Kaepernick in the offseason. I think Goff would benefit from returning to school for his senior season to get bigger and stronger, but I get the sense that’s not going to happen,” McShay wrote.

“He got into some bad habits with his mechanics behind an O-line that did not protect well, but when his feet are right, he can be deadly accurate. With a high football IQ and great work ethic, I have faith he will put in the time to get better.”

McShay predicts Ohio State linebacker Joey Bosa will go No. 1, followed by quarterback Paxton Lynch of Memphis, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss and Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey.