Sonny Dykes and his Bear Raid attack have impressed cruising to a 2-0 start after taking victories at Northwestern and Sac State in their home opener. The Bears have looked about as solid as anybody could've hoped to this point and we've seen substantial improvement on the field but also from a confidence standpoint.
A bowl berth has crept up into the thoughts and hopes of many supporters. Cal faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but I think 6 wins are within the realm of reason for this season for the Bears. However a lot of things need to go right in order for the Golden Bears to make postseason play.
Take advantage of the early season schedule
Sitting with 2 wins already, Cal's next four games complete the easiest six game stretch of their daunting 2014 schedule. They will have a good chance to win each game on their slate in the next four weeks.
Arizona, Colorado, Washington St., Washington
Coming off of last week's bye week the Bears will be rested and ready to open conference play at Arizona in Tuscon in their third game of the year. This game will be an accurate assessment of where the Bears really stand this season. Arizona destroyed UNLV in week one but came out and looked shaky against an upstart UTSA program. They should provide a good test for Cal, a winnable game for both sides.
Cal then turns around to face Colorado in Memorial stadium. This is a must win game for the Bears, Colorado has not looked very good to this point and if Cal keeps what they've being doing up, they should be expected to win big.
The Bears head up to Pullman to face Mike Leach and his struggling Wazzu team. The cougars have stumbled out of the gates losing to Rutgers and Nevada finally earning their first victory of the year by beating up on Portland State. In the battle of Air Raid vs. Bear Raid 2014, I think Cal gets it done this year.
This stretch of games is capped off by Washington coming to town. Washington, at the beginning of the season, was not a team that I thought Cal would have a chance of knocking off. The Huskies have been largely unimpressive so far this year squeaking out wins against lowly Hawaii and in a shootout with FCS team Eastern Washington. Despite winning their first two games have fallen out of the top 25. Washington earned its first convincing win under Saturday, taking down Illinois, this is a very talented team and they might just be starting to get back on track. We'll know more about each team closer to this game, but this could be a very interesting matchup for Cal.
The next six games: Survive the Gauntlet
This is where it gets tough, Cal faces 5 ranked teams in their final six games. If they can steal a win or two and keep their spirits lifted in this stretch, their chances of postseason play increase exponentially.
It all starts when Cal gets UCLA at home. The Bruins historically don't play well in Memorial Stadium and they have yet to assert themselves as the national power that they are supposed to be this year. Though, all things considered, this should be a very difficult game for the Bears
After facing a very physical UCLA team, Cal gets Oregon on a short week at a neutral site, Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Mariota has the Ducks rolling this year and their national title chances look about as good as any in the country. The odds are obviously stacked against the Bears in this one.
The best chance for the Bears to snag a win in this stretch most likely comes in this week against Oregon State. The Beavers, like Washington, have struggled to win convincingly against weaker opponents so far this season. Oregon State is still to be respected and Sean Mannion is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference but if Cal is still searching for a six wins they will have a great chance to grab one here, especially coming in rested after a bye week.
USC, Stanford, BYU
The Bears travel to the Coliseum to face USC, a team who has looked excellent at times early in the season, but is coming off a week where they were dominated by Boston College. This is still an ultra talented squad and Sarkisian will likely have his team refocused by the time we get to this one.
Then there's Stanford. Cal would love to bring back the Axe and win Big Game for the first time since 2009, but it's hard to really see that happening this season. That's not saying they won't give Stanford a game, they get them at home and this is a much improved, very hungry Cal team looking to atone for last season's misfortune.
The Bears will face BYU at home to end the regular season, a very physical football team who will possibly be looking to cap off an undefeated record. It is tough to make assertions this far in advance, but this should be a tough test for the Bears, not really expecting a win here.
The Bears can get it done
It won't be easy at all, there is still a lot of work to be done, but a 6-6 regular record is within the realm of possibility. Writing that 4 weeks ago almost seems unthinkable, but seeing the improvements the bears have made and also seeing opponents struggle early in the season make it possible.
We get to watch a young football team not only play, but grow up before our eyes this season. Two games in, this team already seem more fun and more confident. Getting to 6 wins would be a huge boost to this program that has fallen on such hard times in recent seasons.