These Bears ended week 7 battered, and coming off of their most lop sided loss of the entire season but Dykes and his team have impressed many this season, although they face a number of issues moving forward.
I think most people would agree that the Bears 4-2 record feels appropriate after losing one game on a Hail Mary and winning another on a missed chip shot field goal. Cal has already gotten revenge over growing rival Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern which earned Sonny his first win against an FBS opponent as a head coach in Berkeley. The team has already matched their win total (4) and conference win total (2) combined from 2012 and 2013 just six games into this year.
The second year of Tony Franklin's 'Bear Raid' offense has seen the Bears turn into one of the most prolific scoring threats in the nation averaging about 42 points a game. One of the most noticeable improvements has been the increase in balance, producing a solid rushing attack to pair with generally outstanding quarterback play. Outside of last Saturday's debacle against Washington, Jared Goff, Daniel Lasco and the offense have been generally unstoppable, and have been able to #drop50 in three victories this year.
Alongside the positives, this team still has a long way to go in terms of developing in all three phases of the game and becoming a legitimate contender in the Pac-12.
The defense, which had looked like it had made significant strides leading up to the season and in the first two games, has been exposed badly at times, particularly through the air. In their three game stretch against Colorado, Arizona, and Washington State Cal allowed all three opposing quarterbacks/offenses to have career days, culminated by Connor Halliday's FBS record setting 734 yard performance in a Cal win up in Pullman.
The defense, and now particularly the secondary have been victimized by a lack of depth. That problem seems to be getting worse, Cal is missing a number of its top defensive players to injury at this point in the season. Safeties Steph McClure and Michael Lowe were both held out of the UW game alongside top edge rusher DE Brennan Scarlett, S Avery Sebastian hasn't been 100% all year, and it was just confirmed earlier this week by Dykes that leading tackler S Griffin Piatt tore his ACL on Saturday and is done for the remainder of the season.
Every safety on the Cal two deep depth chart have now missed time due to injury this season.
Moving forward, health will be the biggest factor for the defense for the rest of the year and leading up to a huge, possibly season defining game against UCLA at Memorial Stadium.
In addition to the problems on the defense, the offensive line had a bad outing against a very good Washington defensive front. Jared Goff was subject to constant pressure all day, was sacked four times, and couldn't seem to hang on to the ball, fumbling it all over the field.
Daniel Lasco had a decent showing, but outside of him the offensive performance was pedestrian at best. Goff managed to pass for over 300 yards, but he wasn't the efficient version of himself that we had become accustomed to seeing in 2014, taking 51 pass attempts gain those yards. The offense couldn't get off the ground and as a result the rest of the team sank with them.
Washington showed the recipe, albeit aided by a number of Cal mistakes, for shutting down the 'Bear Raid', which no other team had been able to do this season.
Dykes mentioned in his weekly press conference that there would be no changes along the offensive front but that he expected more out of his lineman.
Cal faces will face its toughest tests of the season, respectively, coming down the stretch of the final six games starting with a very angry aforementioned UCLA team, that it is coming off of consecutive losses in the conference, including a blowout vs. Oregon last week.
The Bruins historically do not play well in Berkeley and have severely underwhelmed to this point but this game should not be taken lightly in any sense. Brett Hundley is still one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and will end up playing on Sundays, and UCLA still has a very talented and physical defense.
I still feel that Cal still has the ability, given they play lights out on offense and generate a consistent pass rush, and slow down Paul Perkins, will have a chance at victory on Saturday. That's a lot of things to go right but like I've stated before, if the Bears were to pull an upset coming down the stretch that this would have to be the one.
The Bears will be underdogs in four, possibly five of their match ups over the last half of their season. Despite this bowl eligibility at this point still feels like tangible goal and anything else at this point would be a major letdown for the team and their supporters.
If you told a Cal fan before this year that the Bears would be sitting 4-2 through six weeks of the season they would be ecstatic, in fact they might've called you crazy. But the attitude has changed, this team has inspired hope and confidence among the players as well as the supporters and I think that is the biggest thing that has happened for the program all year.