#51 California Football 2016 Preview

California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #51
#9 Pac-12
California got off to a hot start last season, winning their first five games before suffering a four game losing streak. The Golden Bears did manage to reach eight wins and win their first bowl game since 2008, so there was plenty to be happy about regarding the 2015 campaign. The 2016 season will be a bit tougher though without quarterback Jarred Goff and most of his top receiving targets.
2015 Record: 8-5, 4-5
2015 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Air Force (W 55-36)
Coach: Sonny Dykes (14-23 at California, 36-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jake Spavital
Defensive Coordinator: Art Kaufman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Khalfani Muhammad, RB, 586 yards
Passing: Chase Forrest, QB, 162 yards
Receiving: Chad Hansen, WR, 249 yards
Tackles: Damarlay Drew, S, 71
Sacks: Cameron Walker, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: Damarlay Drew, S, 2; Devante Downs, LB, 2; Luke Rubenzer, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Vic Enwere, RB Tre Watson, K Matt Anderson
Key Losses: QB Jared Goff, WR Bryce Treggs, WR Trevor Davis, WR Kenny Lawler, LB Hardy Nickerson, DE Kyle Kragen, LB Jalen Jefferson, CB Darius White, S Stefan McClure
Despite losing Goff, this is still a Sonny Dykes offense that will put up some big numbers. Replacing Goff seemed like it was going to be the story of the season, but Davis Webb transferred in from Texas Tech and is immediately eligible to pick up where Goff left off. The Bear Raid offense will be in good hands. Finding reliable receivers will be the bigger issue. The top six receivers are gone, all of whom had at least 40 receptions for 474 yards. Chad Hansen, who caught 19 passes for 249 yards, is the top returning target, but Coach Dykes has a wide variety of potential replacements. A few of them should pan out. The running game is often overlooked at Cal, but Khalfani Muhammad, Vic Enwere and Tre Watson are all back after combining to rush for 1,595 yards and a dozen scores last season. With four starters back on the line, the ground game will be effective and the passing game will not take too much of a step back. 
Cal’s defense keeps slowly improving. Last year the unit ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense, which was a step in the right direction. This year they will be looking for a bigger jump. With more depth across the board, that is possible, but experience is an issue. The front four has a couple solid contributors in tackle James Looney and end DeVante Wilson. Wilson will need to get more consistent pressure in the backfield though. The group of linebackers took a big hit when Hardy Nickerson opted to transfer to Illinois, where his father is the new defensive coordinator. Nickerson easily led the Golden Bears in tackles last season with 112. Junior Devante Downs will be charged with picking up the slack and emerging as a leader in the middle of the defense. The secondary has some big holes to fill as well. Most notable is at the cornerback spot opposite of Darius Allensworth. There are options, but replacing Darius White in the pass happy Pac-12 will not be an easy task.
The Bottom Line:
The Cal defense should at least be about the same as they were a year ago, but the bigger question is on offense. It seems unlikely that the offense will be as explosive without Goff and all of those receivers. Picking up Webb was a huge deal, but he still needs some targets and some time to get comfortable in Berkeley. The Golden Bears will flirt with bowl eligibility, but the schedule is a bit tricky. A trip to San Diego State and a home date with Texas will not be easy. And the Pac-12 is pretty tough this year too. The Golden Bears do not get to play Arizona or Colorado and that will make it tough for this team to win six games.
Projected Bowl: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 152.8 (91st in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 376.3 (3, 2)
Total Offense: 529.2 (8, 2)
Scoring Offense: 37.9 (17, 2)
Rushing Defense: 209.8 (105, 11)
Pass Defense: 243.9 (91, 6)
Total Defense: 453.7 (108, 8)
Scoring Defense: 30.7 (89, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (39, 5)
Sacks: 2.15 (60, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (63, 5)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#14 Demetris Robertson