Cal preview: Will Bears be able to stop anyone?

Shaw, Dykes, and Caragher preview upcoming college football season

Cal preview: Will Bears be able to stop anyone?
August 28, 2013, 9:15 pm
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In 2012, Sonny Dyke's Louisiana Tech squad averaged 51.5 ppg, the fifth-highest per-game scoring average in FBS history. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

2012 record: 3-9 (2-7 Pac-12, 5th in North)

Top returners: RB Brendan Bigelow, Jr.; WR Chris Harper, So.; LB Chris McCain, Jr.; K Vince D'Amato, Sr.; LT Freddie Tagaloa, So.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Key Losses: WR Keenan Allen; CB Josh Hill; RB C.J. Anderson, RB Isi Sofele

Games to watch: The so-called Bear Raid offense is unveiled Saturday at Memorial Stadium against No. 22 Northwestern -- one of seven scheduled teams in the preseason AP Top-25.  Have to miss it? No. 2 Ohio State comes to town two weeks later (Sept. 14). The Bears have tough road games at Pac-12 favorites No. 3 Oregon (Sept. 28) and No. 4 Stanford (Nov. 23)

Reason for optimism: 51.5 ppg. That’s what Louisiana Tech, under new coach Sonny Dykes, averaged last year as it led the nation in scoring. Led by current San Francisco 49ers WR Quinton Patton, the Bulldogs recorded the fifth-highest per-game scoring average in FBS history. With Dykes’ system in place, expectations start with a significantly improved offense over last year’s unit, which ranked No. 91 in the country at 23.0 ppg.

Reason for concern: At this time last year, starting quarterback Jared Goff was playing high school football in Marin County. And while he did lead Marin Catholic to the Division III state championship bowl game, having a true freshman at quarterback is never reason for optimism. Goff is set to become the first true freshman quarterback in school history to start a season opener and doesn’t have the luxury of an easy early schedule.

Forecast: Dykes can’t be expected to turn the program around in one year, especially not with a young team and a difficult schedule. The fair measure for the Bears will be in-season growth as they try to build momentum into next season.

While Goff may be young, he is talented and won’t be lacking receiving options as three of the team’s top four pass catchers (Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs, Richard Rodgers) are back from last season. The trio combined to catch 82 passes for 948 and four touchdowns behind leader Keenan Allen (61 catches, 737 yards, 6 TD), who went to San Diego in the third round of the NFL Draft.

“We throw the ball a lot and we let our playmakers make plays,” Treggs said. “And we have a lot of players, so that’s why I think we’re going to have a successful offense last year.”

Treggs stopped short of calling Patton the blueprint for what he can be, but watching his Louisiana Tech film left a good impression. “He’s an example of what you can do in this offense if you buy into everything,” Treggs said. Harper will line up at “Z” (wide out, right side), where Patton was last year at LaTech.

The team has bowl-game aspirations, but playing beyond the Big Game would be widely considered a remarkable season. If that were to happen, defensive coordinator Andy Buh would deserve a lot of credit. It’s assumed the Bears will score -- the real question is: Will they stop anyone?

Buh spent 2000-2001 as a defensive administrative assistant at Cal and most recently coached linebackers at Wisconsin. Before that, he coordinated the defense at Nevada for two years and was the co-defensive coordinator at Stanford for two years before that.

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