1. Jared Goff had a great debut as a true frosh. Are you sold on him being the starting quarterback or do you have doubts as to whether he can endure a full season?
Yup. I've been sold on Goff since Spring. Three reasons why:
1) He's the most accurate quarterback on the roster, something that was on display Saturday when Rivals' eighth-ranked QB in the 2013 class completed 60% of his passes on 63 attempts. That number is actually even higher if you break down every single pass and take into account drops, pass breakups, and tips, like we did here.
2) He clearly has the poise -- on national TV against a ranked B1G team, the true freshman had Cal tied with under 10 minutes to go in the game.
And 3) I said here before the game that "if Cal loses, Goff won't be the reason why." I still think that's true. Of his three INTs, only one can really be pinned on Goff, who I think exceeded a lot of peoples' expectations, maybe even mine. You knew this offense was going to be high-powered, what you didn't know is that it would only take the true freshman ONE GAME to set a new record for single-game passing yards in a non-OT game.
2. The Cal pass attack was resurrected with the Bear Raid. But do you have concerns about the run game?
Rivals staffer Marc Tausend's Portland State preview has a nice little nugget that I think pretty well sums up my thoughts on the run game:
"Louisiana Tech's offense only failed to break 100 yards rushing in a game once last season, and averaged 227 yards per game on the ground. This staff knows the importance of the run game."
The Bears had nine carries for 61 yards in the first quarter so we know they're capable of running the ball, but that was before the Wildcats started stacking the box and keying on Bigelow. They had just 50 the rest of the way (if you don't take into account Goff's -18 sack yards). The Bears not only need to be more balanced (they were 2:1 pass:run in Week 1), but they need to be more effective when they do get carries. I was honestly really surprised we didn't see more inside runs with the talent the Bears have, in particular on the left side with LT Freddie Tagaloa, LG Jordan Rigsbee, and Chris Adcock at center. Those three are all capable of opening big holes.
3. What are your thoughts on injuries being a potential foil for slowing down the up-tempo Sonny Dykes offense?
After seeing the national backlash Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern took, I'm not sure a lot of other coaches are going to want to be subjected to something similar.
That said, I wouldn't be upset if Sonny Dykes left a few copies of the NCAA rulebook passage on feigning injuries in the visitor's locker room...
"Feigning an injury for any reason is unethical. An injured player must be given full protection under the rules, but feigning injury is dishonest, unsportsmanlike, and contrary to the spirit of the rules. Such tactics cannot be tolerated among sportsmen of integrity."
4. The defense is a huge concern due to depth. What are the biggest weak spots you see for Andy Buh's squad?
Which aren't the biggest weak spots? Really, beyond maybe Jalen Jefferson, Avery Sebastian, Kameron Jackson, Vi Moala, Deandre Coleman, and probably Michael Lowe, there weren't a lot of bright spots. And those guys were at best maybe dimly lit spots. I think Avery Sebastian was probably the most impactful guy on the defensive side of the ball and he's now out for the rest of the season. Jalen Jefferson had a good game, and Jackson, Lowe, Moala, and Coleman were all solid. But after that, there are a lot of question marks. Stef McClure didn't look like the lockdown corner we saw in Fall Camp, none of the defensive ends generated ANY pressure -- the fact that Dan Camporeale, who's probably our best run stopper at DE had the lone sack on the day is terrifying -- and Nickerson and Barton were both spectacular one play and out of position the next.
Still if you look at pretty much every big play Cal gave up on Saturday, guys on the back-end of the two deep were almost always responsible -- from Isaac Lapite giving up Trevor Siemian's first passing TD (on a play that looked exactly like all the ones we saw Lapite get beat on during camp time and again), or Lucas King being out of position for the HUGE Treyvon Green run in the closing minutes that sealed the game. Why King was even in the game then I'm still not entirely sure.
All that said, Cal was playing without LB Nick Forbes and DT Mustafa Jalil, Sebastian tore his achilles with two minutes to go in the second half, and then there was the BS McCain ejection. Had they had all of those guys in the mix, that very well could've been a much stouter defensive effort.
If they are forced to go this season without Sebastian and possibly Forbes, I think this defense will need to be very opportunistic if Cal doesn't want to have to force the offense to have to score 50 a game.
5. Now that you've seen Cal on the field, have you revised your expectations for the season going forward?
Nope. Still think Cal finishes 7-5 and goes bowling. I think there was a lot to be encouraged about -- I think Sonny Dykes is the real deal, Goff is going to rewrite the record books if he stays healthy, and, assuming two more balls don't miraculously end up in the hands of slow white linebackers again this season, I think Cal will have a shot at winning virtually every game it plays this season.