The football season is getting closer, and while our Bruins are getting ready for the 2015 season, so is the rest of the Pac-12. So we're taking a quick look around the conference to see how the other 11 teams are stacking up. We posed the same 4 questions to each of our Pac-12 conference mates so we can get to know their team and expectations a bit better, and added a 5th question geared for each school individually. We add some notes on the teams key losses and returns after the Q&A, as well.
Our Pac-12 preseason continue with our UC brethren up north, the California Bears. Our friend Leland Wong, the Managing Editor of Cal's one of a kind SBN site California Golden Blogs offered his time to some insights with us at BN. Check out his thoughts in the Q&A below, and for the best inside look at Cal anywhere, head on over to California Golden Blogs and join in the conversation there.
BN: Who are the players on offense we don’t know about, but should?
Leland: This one is kind of tricky because all of the superstars of the Bear Raid are becoming well-known names to Pac-12 fans. I've gotta go with Stephen Anderson or Maurice Harris, who are two pass-catching targets for QB Jared Goff. Anderson had a breakout year in 2014 as an inside receiver/tight end when he became a reliable option for converting third downs, so he's had some considerable play time and has become a fan favorite, but isn't quite as prominent as receivers like Bryce Treggs or Kenny Lawler. Harris, on the other hand, has gained some fame for highlight-reel catches, but has kind of played second fiddle to the other receivers I mentioned. With Chris Harper leaving the team to pursue his NFL dreams, this is Harris's time to show he can be a superstar when the spotlight's on him.
BN: Who are the players on defense we don’t know about, but should?
Leland: For all the well-deserved flak that the Cal secondary has received, there's one safety in particular who's really impressed me. Once a walk-on wide receiver, Griffin Piatt exploded onto the scene in 2014 as a bonafide ballhawk with some critical interceptions in the beginning of the season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. At the time of his injury, he led the team in interceptions, tackles, and passes defended. Despite only playing six games, Piatt's mark of three interceptions still led the team at the end of the season. This pick is a little risky because we're not sure how Piatt will recover from his injury, but he showed so much promise in 2014 that I can't justify any other choice.
BN: What game has the biggest circle on the calendar and why?
Leland: The answer to this question is the Big Game. Always. Especially this year with the Cardinal looking to have a down year and the Bears hoping to have a big year. Especially this year with who should have been a fifth-year captain transferring to our archrival as a grad student. Especially this year with Cal being on the wrong end of a bad losing streak. This is a bit of a cop-out answer, but I don't think you'll find many Golden Bears who will disagree. The Axe must come home.
BN: What is your prediction for your season record?
Leland: The Bears will kick off the schedule with a shot at being 4-1--maybe even 5-0--before they hit the tough stretch of their schedule. I think Cal can pick up maybe 3 wins against those teams, leaving us at 7-5 or 8-4 to end the regular season.
BN: Sonny Dykes starts his 3rd year at the helm of a team with a legit Heisman candidate at QB and an offense that was as good as anyone in the conference last year, but finished just one win short of bowl eligibility. What does Cal need on the defensive side of the ball to get the team into the post season in 2015?
Leland: The defense should perform at a level around "bad" to "middling". With most talent returning on the offense, the Bear Raid should be able to score even more points than it did in 2014. The defense is finally starting to enjoy some depth and coaching continuity, so I think they'll be able to deliver enough stops to get the Bears back bowling.
Head Coach: Sonny Dykes 3rd year
2014 season: 5-7, 3-6 conf, 4th place in Pac-12 North
2014 Bowl: none
Key returnees: QB Jared Goff (Jr), WR Kenny Lawler (Jr), WR Bryce Treggs (Sr), RB Daniel Lasco (Sr), LB Hardy Nickerson (Jr), LB Jalen Jefferson (Sr)
Key losses: WR Chris Harper, S Michael Lowe, DB Avery Sebastian, DL Brennan Scarlett, DL Austin Clark, C Chris Adcock
For a position by position look at the Bears depth chart, check out CGB's coverage here.
AP Preseaon Rank: NR
Matchup with UCLA: v Cal, Thursday Oct 22, kickoff time tba