#53 California Football 2015 Preview

California Golden Bears

Overall Rank: #53
#9 Pac-12

California Team Page#53 California Football 2015 PreviewBuy California Football Tickets

California was so close to reaching a bowl game last year. They started off the season 4-1, which for a team that won just nine games the previous three seasons, was a very good start. But the Golden Bears struggled down the stretch, winning just one of their final seven games. However, it was not like Coach Sonny Dykes’ team fell apart. They nearly beat UCLA, played a great game against Oregon before losing 59-41 and lost by a single touchdown to both USC and BYU. A few plays here or there and Cal could have been 7-5 or better.

2014 Record: 5-7, 3-6
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Sonny Dykes (6-18 at Cal, 28-33 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Franklin
Defensive Coordinator: Art Kaufman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Daniel Lasco, RB, 1,151 yards
Passing: Jared Goff, QB, 3,973 yards
Receiving: Kenny Lawler, WR, 701 yards
Tackles: Michael Barton, LB, 80
Sacks: Devante Downs, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Griffin Piatt, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Bryce Treggs, WR Trevor Davis, TE Stephen Anderson, OL Chris Borrayo, LB Hardy Nickerson, LB Jalen Jefferson, S Cameron Walker, CB Cedric Dozier

Key Losses: WR Chris Harper, S Michael Lowe

Cal ranked 13th in the country in total offense and tenth in scoring offense in 2014 and they could be even better in 2015. Jared Goff will once again pull the strings in Cal’s fast-paced offense. Just a junior, the quarterback will almost certainly break some school passing records this year. As a sophomore, he threw for 3,973 yards and 35 touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively is Goff threw just seven interceptions. He broke Cal’s single-season record for consecutive passes without an interception with 185. Goff will have most of his favorite targets back too. Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson and Bryce Treggs all caught at least 46 passes last year. Those three combined to catch 21 touchdowns. While this looks like a pass happy team, which it definitely has been, Coach Dykes wants to get Daniel Lasco more touches. He still rushed for 1,115 yards and a dozen touchdowns on 210 carries. However, Cal has had much more success when they establish a ground game with Lasco.

Even if the offense scores more points than they did last season, it will not guarantee success. The defense ranked near the bottom of the country in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. They allowed 39.8 points per game and the numbers got worse as the season progressed. The good news is that they were better than they were in 2013 and nine starters are back. Linebackers Michael Barton, Devante Downs, Jalen Jefferson and Hardy Nickerson will lead the way. But the secondary was awful last season and allowed more yards per game through the air than any other team in the FBS. The secondary has a lot of work to do, but it would be helpful if Cal got a consistent pass rush. Defensive end Todd Barr is the most likely candidate to turn into a consistent pass rushing threat.

The Bottom Line:
This season seems like it could go either way for Cal. If the defense improves, Cal is not that far off from being a very dangerous team. The schedule has four winnable home games against Grambling, San Diego State, Washington State and USC. The other home games are against USC and Arizona State, which are probably the two games which will tilt Cal’s season one way or the other. All of the road games are pretty tricky, but six home wins is good enough for the Golden Bears to reach their first bowl game since 2011.

Projected Bowl: Cactus Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 149.2 (84th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 346.0 (6, 2)
Total Offense: 495.2 (13, 3)
Scoring Offense: 38.3 (10, 2)
Rushing Defense: 144.6 (38, 4)
Pass Defense: 367.2 (125, 12)
Total Defense: 511.8 (121, 12)
Scoring Defense: 39.8 (120, 12)
Turnover Margin: -0.25 (85, 9)
Sacks: 1.33 (110, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (82, 5)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#33 Jared Goff

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#160 Carlos Strickland


See All College Sports Madness Top 104 Football Previews