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Like so many teams in the Pac-12, the Bears had an abbreviated season playing only 4 games and winning only one albeit it was against the conference champion Oregon Ducks. They are returning 16 starters including 10 seniors that were given an extra year of eligibility. Coach Justin Wilcox has done a good job at Cal going 21-21 in his four years. If the breaks fall their way maybe they can get to a bowl game.
Offense: California ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in nearly every offensive category and that has got to change. QB Chase Garbers returns for his senior season with 23 career starts under his belt. He has had injury problems and has been inconsistent at times and that has to be shored up. At running back Christopher Brown Jr. is back and looks healthy after carrying the ball only 21 times in 2020. He rushed for 914 yards in 2019 and a return to those numbers would be a huge boost. The offensive line returns seven guys with a combined total of 98 starts and it might be the best unit the Bears have has in years. The receiving unit is relatively young and unproven but there is some talent there. A deep threat needs to emerge as the Cal averaged only 9 yards a catch last year.
Defense: As bad as the offense was last year, the defense was just as good and has been for a few years now. There is reason to believe that trend will continue in 2021. The linebacking tandem of Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng have amassed a bunch of tackles while at Berkeley. The secondary lost 4th-round draft pick Camryn Bynum but there is experience at safety in senior Elijah Hicks and sixth-year man Josh Drayden is back at corner. The major concern, and it’s a big one, is the depth of the defensive line especially with the loss of Brett Johnson due to car accident in April. He will miss the entire season after hip surgery.
9/11 at TCU
9/18 Sacramento State
This is a tough non-con schedule beginning with the opener against a Nevada team that was 7-2 in 2020. That game is winnable but will be a toughie. The trip to TCU is probably a loss and Sacramento State is a must win. A record of 2-1 is essential for the Bears’ bowl game hopes.
9/25 at Washington
10/2 Washington State
10/15 at Oregon
10/30 Oregon State
11/6 at Arizona
11/20 at Stanford
11/27 at UCLA
The conference schedule is not easy but there are a few games that are winnable. The road games include a big game at Arizona that could be a key for a winning season if they can win it. Another winnable game is the season finale at UCLA. The other three games at Washington, Oregon, and Stanford are probably losses although the Stanford game is a big rivalry and strange things happen in those contests. Home games against Washington State and Oregon State are must wins, Colorado is a toss-up, and USC is probably a loss.
Summary: If the offense improves and carries their weight, the Bears could become bowl eligible. They need to beat the teams they should and win a couple of toss-up games to get there. That is the big question mark.
Predicted Finish: 4th in the Pac-12 North
Overall Record: 6-6
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