California Betting Odds Preview
The Bears now know what the bottom looks like. Cal wasn't going to make a bowl last year, in its first season under new head coach Sonny Dykes, but nobody figured it would get as bad as it did.
However, combining a new coach with new systems with just a smattering of returning talent and then a wave of injuries can lead to disaster, and that's what happened, as the Bears won just one game, none against FBS competition. But that's all in the past; Cal goes forward this year with a bunch of returning starters, and a little better idea of who it is. However, that still might not result in too many victories, at least in the immediate short term of this season.
Cal began the first year of the Coach Dykes era with just 10 starters back from a team that went 3-9 in 2012. The Bears opened last year with a tough loss to Northwestern, then picked up what would turn out to be their only win of the season, over FCS Portland State. But it all fell apart from there, as Cal lost its last 10 games, several in blowout fashion. The Bears fell to Oregon by 39 points, to Washington State by 22, to UCLA by 27, and on, and on, later giving up 62 points to USC and 63 to Stanford. In the end Cal had gone 1-11 SU, a dismal 2-10 ATS, 0-9 SU and 2-7 ATS in conference play, and just 1-5 ATS as home dogs.
This year the Bears return 15 starters, third-most in the conference. Nine starters are back on offense, led by QB Jared Goff, who completed 60 percent of 531 throws last year as a true freshman, last year's top rusher and top two receivers and four along the offensive line. And six starters are back on defense, although that defense will need to step it up, after getting shredded to the tune of 46 points and 530 yards per game last season.
The Bears will go against what Phil Steele ranks as the ninth-toughest schedule in the nation this season, thanks you very much. They open at Northwestern, and later play at Arizona, Oregon State and USC, host Washington, UCLA, Stanford and BYU and take on Oregon at the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara. On the whole there might only be two or three winnable games on this year's slate.
The Bears have lost 16 games in a row to FBS teams. The first order of business should be to end that streak. Then maybe they can work on becoming bowl-eligible.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Arizona State 12/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
After a promising start the Jeff Tedford era at Cal came to a whimpering end last year. The Bears fell to 3-9, then finally made a change, bringing in Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech to take over.
The son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes will implement his up-tempo offensive attack that put up big numbers the last couple of years in the WAC, but how that style will play in the Pac-12 is up for debate.
Cal had a dozen starters back last year and was fully expected to at least get back to a bowl. Instead the Bears stumbled through their worst season in a decade, which cost coach Tedford his job. Cal started off by getting upset by Nevada, lost a tough one at eventually undefeated Ohio State, then got beat at USC and at home by Arizona State.
The Bears then showed a little life in topping UCLA and Washington, but the bottom then fell out, and they lost their last five games, the last two in particularly ugly fashion, giving up 59 points to Oregon and 62 points to Oregon State. So Cal finished 3-9 overall, 2-7 in Pac-12 play, and a pocket-picking 3-9 ATS.
This year new head coach Dykes inherits a squad that returns just 11 starters, fewest in the Pac-12. Five starters are back on offense, as the Bears will have to replace their starting QB, last year's top two rushers, their leading receiver, and three along the offensive line. And while six starters return on defense, including future NFL NT DeAndre Coleman, they'll have to replace three of last year's top four tacklers and three starters in the secondary. Also, while Dykes is something of an offensive guru, his defense at Louisiana Tech last year ranked dead last in all FBS by allowing 526 YPG. This year's schedule includes eight games against teams that made bowls last year, and one against a team that went 12-0, which is a tough row to hoe for any team, not to mention one under a new coaching regime.
The Bears start off with a quarter of a Big Ten schedule, hosting Northwestern and Ohio State in the first three weeks, then open Pac-12 play with a road game at Oregon. And things don't get a whole lot easier after that, with visits to UCLA and Stanford and home dates with Oregon State, Arizona, and USC. From afar it seems Cal might only have about three winnable games on its slate.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 11
Oregon State +1050
Arizona State +1100
Washington State +6000