Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images
The California Golden Bears return to Memorial Stadium today. What can we expect from the new Cal against Nevada?
After a long year and a half sojourn, the Bears are coming back to Memorial Stadium. It figures to be an emotionally packed day as Cal completes their decade-long quest to modernize their football program. With a now modern college football stadium and a brand-spanking new athletic center, the Bears should be able to compete with the best of them to recruit the best college football players all over the country.
The big question is what to expect from the Cal football team this season.
The Bears lose two of their four linebackers, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks. They lose some valuable pieces on offense including offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Marvin Jones, and one of the best punter in the country in Bryan Anger is also out. There is going to be a lot of youth on this Bears squad with at least six new starters on defense and five new starters on offense, including three on the line.
That type of inexperience could be tested against a scheme that has given them trouble before in the Nevada Pistol. Nevada is a really underrated opponent, particularly considered they devastated Cal two years ago for 316 rushing yards and 497 yards overall for an incredible 7.77 yards per play average. Now, that Nevada team had Colin Kaepernick, but Cody Fajardo is no slouch, and he has shown he can handle the Pistol fairly well.
Cal does have a lot of talented guys returning like number one reciever Keenan Allen, the underrated scatback Isi Sofele, solid offensive tackle Matt Summers-Gavin. They are expecting much from youngsters like true freshman Bryce Treggs starting at wideout, sophomore tight end Richard Rodgers, and outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett, but it'll probably come down to how well the young offensive linemen perform up front and how well Zach Maynard performs.
So after the emotion settles down and kickoff gets going, what type of Cal team will we see? Jeff Tedford has a lot of pressure on him now; it'll be up for the Bears to deliver the performances that'll keep him where he is.
SB Nation Snippets
Cal fans have some worries about schedule and starters.
Difficult schedule, second worst in the conference next to UW: 12 games up, 12 games down. No bye week in perhaps the most balanced and competitive conference in the country, and there's a chance we miss out on the two worst teams in the Pac-12. Awesome. It's a good thing we're at home a lot!
Cal is heavy underdogs in at least two games: USC and Oregon. Cal will be decent underdogs against Ohio State, then have to play USC the week thereafter. Picking us to go 9-3 would mean Cal would probably have to win seven of its last eight games. They haven't pulled off a string like that in six years.
Cal will be underdogs at home in the Big Game, and on top of that has to deal with Mike Leach the week before and Utah's defense the week after. There are really no gimmees in the Pac-12 anymore, and this schedule is unforgiving.
I like our offense and I like our defense. I just don't love them. Replacing six starters on defense, five starters on offense, and your punter and kicker is a lot to ask for a team that needs experience and talent on every unit. It's not that I don't like the talent coming in, but I'm not sure the Bears have the talent or requisite pro-style experience quite yet in place.
This is no light opponent. Nevada is no slouch offensively...we know that first hand. /Pukes. Fajardo is a good quarterback who can run this offense effectively. Nevada's running backs are never an issue; this offense makes them good. They have a guy with the potential to be a very good wide receiver if he's fully back from injury. They have an enormous tight end that the quarterback will lean on. And their offensive line is big, experienced and for the most part battle-tested. This is an offense we've struggled with before.
But I'm feeling really optimistic. I think our defense will be very good this season, despite the great guys that we lost. We're big, athletic, fast, and deep (up front at least). We're also playing at home...to open the season...in our renovated stadium. That matters. A lot. I'd be far more concerned if this were a road game, as past experience has taught us. Our guys have had more time to focus and prepare for THIS offense. The same one that embarrassed us two years ago. If that still stings you, think how the guys who were on the team, and even Coach Penderagst, are feeling about it.That bodes well for us. This is a revenge game. If we implement and execute the right schemes, this is a side of the field we can really make a statement on.