Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. A brief timeline
December 12, 2001: California hires Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to replace Tom Holmoe, who had won just 16 games in five season in charge of the Golden Bears. His 2001 team was, according to Sports-Reference's SRS ratings system, the worst Cal team of all-time.
The 2001 Golden Bears did score 201 points (not very good, but not oh-my-god-awful) but allowed 431. They lost to 6-6 USC by 41 points and to 7-4 UCLA by 39, and they took on four 10-win teams and lost by an average score of 47-15. Under Bruce Snyder and Keith Gilbertson, Cal had a short run of success -- three winning seasons in four years from 1990-93, including a Citrus Bowl win and Top 8 finish in 1991 -- but removing those four years from the equation, the Golden Bears have attended just three bowls since 1951 and have finished with a winning record just twice in 20 seasons, never better than 7-4.
The 40-year old Tedford says he will "target players with speed, regardless of position, and being an effort to 'saturate the Bay Area' and include 'the western United States.'"
October 9, 2004. Tedford's No. 7 Golden Bears head to USC to face the No. 1 Trojans, looking for their second straight upset of Pete Carroll's squad. (They are the only team to have beaten USC in two years.) With a lineup that includes speedy, scary athletes like J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch, along with a pretty good quarterback, Cal has risen to its highest point in the polls since 1991, and by the end of the year it will finish higher in the polls than it has since 1952. According to SRS, this is Cal's second-best team ever (behind Pappy Waldorf's 1949 squad).
Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers completes 29 of 34 passes for 267 yards, but USC recovers four of the game's five fumbles, and in six trips inside USC's 40, Cal scores only three times; the Bears lose a fumble, miss a 36-yard field goal wide right, and turn the ball over on downs at the USC 14 with 1:16 remaining. Cal loses, 23-17. USC will defeat its other 12 opponents by an average margin of 27 points; but the Trojans needed a little luck to get past the Golden Bears.
This will be California's only loss of the 2004 regular season. Cal will finish the regular season 10-1, ruing the fact that this single unlucky loss to USC has kept them out of the BCS title game. The Golden Bears are also somehow overlooked for a BCS bowl bid, instead getting relegated to the Holiday Bowl and losing in an uninspired performance versus Texas Tech.
November 17, 2012. The Tedford era ends with another uninspired loss: 62-14 at the hands of Oregon State. Once again, the Bears recover only one of five fumbles in the game; but luck doesn't matter in this one. Cal's defense, which ranked 14th in Def. F/+ in 2008 and was still holding onto 31st in 2011, has fallen to 67th. The offense, dominant in the mid-'00s, ranks 81st in Off. F/+ and has only once finished in the top 50 since 2008. Cal's quarterback play has ceased its dominance, and the team has followed suit. Recruiting remains in the top 25, on average, but results have not: The last time Cal ranked in the overall F/+ top 25 was 2008.
After a 3-9 season, Tedford is relieved of his duties. On December 5, Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes is hired as his replacement. Dykes is in some ways Tedford 2.0, a career offensive coach who loves speed and whose system is heavily reliant on its quarterback's decision-making and skill level. Dykes has three more years of head coaching experience than Tedford did when he was hired; but the biggest difference between them is the program they inherited. Tedford has left behind a roster infinitely more talented and athletic than the one he found, and he has created a Cal program with infinitely higher expectations.
Tedford's Cal tenure is somewhat tragic in the ways that sports feel tragic but really aren't. He built a program capable of elite play but rarely managed to pull it off himself; and the one time all the pieces came together, his team was done in by bad bounces, and a blue-blood program that took its national title. College football's blue bloods get a lot of shots at titles; maybe they eventually reel one in. But the second-tier programs maybe get one shot every few decades. It hurts extra when a bad break or two prevents you from completing the rare journey to the top. (I know of what I speak; I am a Missouri fan, after all.)
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 7-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 77|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Nevada||24-31||L||21.1 - 22.8||L|
|8-Sep||Southern Utah||50-31||W||39.1 - 29.2||W|
|15-Sep||at Ohio State||28-35||L||39.4 - 26.5||W|
|22-Sep||at USC||9-27||L||15.4 - 32.3||L|
|29-Sep||Arizona State||17-27||L||22.8 - 18.2||W|
|6-Oct||UCLA||43-17||W||40.7 - 20.0||W|
|13-Oct||at Washington State||31-17||W||38.6 - 29.2||W|
|20-Oct||Stanford||3-21||L||15.6 - 30.3||L|
|27-Oct||at Utah||27-49||L||41.9 - 34.7||W|
|2-Nov||Washington||13-21||L||30.6 - 34.5||L|
|10-Nov||Oregon||17-59||L||35.9 - 31.5||W|
|17-Nov||at Oregon State||14-62||L||27.3 - 42.7||L|
|Points Per Game||23.0||93||33.1||98|
|Adj. Points Per Game||30.7||50||29.3||75|
2. Teetering, then falling
California last finished in the AP Top 25 in 2006, but Tedford's Golden Bears had continued to produce at least reasonably decent results. They finished 5-7 in 2010, but they had still won at least seven games in nine of 10 seasons under Tedford -- great, considering most of Cal's last half-century -- and had managed to rank as high as second in the polls in 2007 and sixth in 2009 before fading.
But then 2012 happened.
Cal wasn't actually any worse last year than it was in 2010, but a) 2010 used Tedford's get-out-of-jail-free-card, and b) some bad luck conspired against the Bears in 2012. Tedford probably wasn't going to survive even another 5-7 season, but 3-9 definitely did him in.
It didn't start altogether poorly, however. The Golden Bears recovered two of nine fumbles in a seven-point loss to Nevada, and they damn near beat Ohio State in Columbus. The results weren't very good because the schedule was rough, but the quality of the team was above average. Hell, the win over UCLA was downright fantastic.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 7 games): California 31.0, Opponent 25.5 (plus-5.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): Opponent 34.7, California 30.3 (minus-4.4)
The defense completely fell apart over the last five games, and that turned Cal into a pretty bad team. The schedule continued to challenge, but Cal also lost to less impressive teams like Utah and Washington as well. Things just fell apart like they often do when the writing is on the wall for the head coach.
|Q1 Rk||61||1st Down Rk||33|
|Q2 Rk||44||2nd Down Rk||21|
|Q3 Rk||42||3rd Down Rk||60|
3. Air Raid compatibility grade: B+
California just wasn't a very good passing team in 2012, nor was it in 2011. Despite the presence of star receiver Keenan Allen, quarterback play just wasn't up to par. Zach Maynard showed interesting potential at times, but he took too many sacks, wasn't good enough with his legs to make up the difference, and was painfully inaccurate at times. He belonged to the "Makes the tough passes, bombs the easy ones" club that so many quarterbacks join.
Allen is gone, as are the top two quarterbacks (Maynard and Allan Bridgford) and the top two running backs (Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson). So why the B+? Because I love where this receiving corps could be either this year or next. While Allen, Sofele, and Anderson were all pretty exciting players, so is running back Brendan Bigelow, and so are the fivesome of sophomore receivers that saw quite a bit of playing time last year: Chris Harper, big Richard Rodgers, Bryce Treggs, Maurice Harris, and Darius Powe. Four of the five had either catch rates of 63 percent or better or averaged better than 14 yards per catch.
Dykes is in no way Leachian in his approach. Last year, Louisiana Tech ran the ball 52 percent of the time on standard downs and 27 percent of the time on passing downs; both of those figures were six to eight percent below the national average but still much higher than what Leach was attempting at Washington State. He does skew more toward the pass than Tedford (lord knows offensive coordinator Tony Franklin's career suggests that he does, too), so it is just a happy coincidence that Tedford is leaving him with such a young, interesting, and deep set of receivers. And when you throw in Bigelow, you've got a situation where the new starting quarterback, no matter how young (freshman Jared Goff finished the spring first on the depth chart), will have interesting weapons around him on all sides.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Austin Hinder||6'4, 200||Jr.||*** (5.7)|
|Kyle Boehm||6'3, 215||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Zach Kline||6'2, 210||RSFr.||**** (6.0)|
|Jared Goff||6'4, 185||Fr.||**** (5.9)|
|Brendan Bigelow||RB||5'10, 185||Jr.||**** (5.8)||44||431||9.8||11.5||3||+19.4|
|Daniel Lasco||RB||6'1, 200||So.||*** (5.7)||6||109||18.2||21.2||1||+7.2|
|Darren Ervin||RB||5'10, 195||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Lucas Gingold||RB||6'0, 240||Jr.||NR|
|Khalfani Muhammad||RB||5'8, 174||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
4. No choice but to give the ball to Bigelow
Brendan Bigelow must either fumble the ball all the time in practice, or he must not block well at all. Those are the only legitimate reasons for why he didn't get more touches in 2012. The then-sophomore was a home run threat at all times, scoring on eight of just 51 rushes and receptions and averaging 10.1 yards per attempted touch (defined as carries and targets). He was dynamite with the ball in his hands. (For instance...) And with Sofele and Anderson gone, he's now No. 1 on the totem pole at running back. This is a great thing for college football fans, even if he really does struggle with fumbles, blocking, general brain cramps, or something else. We don't have to worry about those things if we're not Cal fans; we only have to enjoy the home runs.
|Chris Harper||WR-H||6'0, 165||So.||*** (5.7)||65||41||545||63.1%||8.4||19.8%||66.2%||8.3||72.9|
|Richard Rodgers||WR-Y||6'4, 275||So.||*** (5.7)||32||20||288||62.5%||9.0||9.7%||75.0%||9.0||38.5|
|Bryce Treggs||WR-X||5'11, 175||So.||**** (5.9)||29||21||217||72.4%||7.5||8.8%||55.2%||7.6||29.0|
|Maurice Harris||WR-Z||6'3, 205||So.||*** (5.7)||20||9||99||45.0%||5.0||6.1%||65.0%||4.8||13.2|
|Darius Powe||WR-H||6'3, 210||So.||**** (5.8)||19||12||134||63.2%||7.1||5.8%||78.9%||7.7||17.9|
|Jacob Wark||TE||6'4, 250||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12||7||74||58.3%||6.2||3.6%||41.7%||6.7||9.9|
|Brendan Bigelow||RB||5'10, 185||Jr.||**** (5.8)||8||7||92||87.5%||11.5||2.4%||50.0%||11.8||12.3|
|Jackson Bouza||WR-Y||6'0, 185||Sr.||NR||3||1||18||33.3%||6.0||0.9%||66.7%||5.4||2.4|
|Maximo Espitia||WR-H||6'2, 215||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Stephen Anderson||WR-Y||6'2, 210||So.||NR|
|Kenny Lawler||WR-Z||6'3, 185||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Drake Whitehurst||WR-X||6'6, 215||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Brian Schwenke||C||36 career starts; 2012 1st All-Pac-12|
|Matt Summers-Gavin||RT||32 career starts|
|Dominic Galas||RG||14 career starts|
|Tyler Rigsbee||LT||12 career starts|
|Jordan Rigsbee||LG||6'4, 325||So.||**** (5.8)||12 career starts|
|Chris Adcock||RG||6'3, 310||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12 career starts|
|Bill Tyndall||RT||6'4, 285||Sr.||NR||5 career starts|
|Matt Williams||LT||6'6, 310||Sr.||**** (5.8)|
|Mark Brazinski||C||6'3, 315||Sr.||**** (5.8)|
|Alejandro Crosthwaite||RG||6'4, 300||Jr.||**** (5.8)|
|Geoffrey Gibson||RG||6'3, 330||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Freddie Tagaloa||LT||6'8, 350||So.||**** (5.8)|
|Brian Farley||RT||6'7, 295||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Matt Cochran||C||6'2, 335||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Christian Okafor||RT||6'6, 320||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Steven Moore||LG||6'6, 280||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
5. Size? Check
Cal returns basically 2.5 starters from last year's line -- one that was perfectly solid in run blocking but struggled in pass blocking (and probably didn't get much help from its quarterback in that regard) -- and while we don't know how this personnel will handle what are generally wider splits in an Air Raid system, we do know this: There are some big guys in the mix. Of the 12 players listed above, five are at least 6'6, and eight are at least 310 pounds. (Five were once four-star recruits, too.) An adaptable, quality line is part of the Air Raid Compatibility checklist as well (it's part of every checklist, actually), and Cal's line has a lot of potential.
|Q1 Rk||40||1st Down Rk||38|
|Q2 Rk||43||2nd Down Rk||31|
|Q3 Rk||77||3rd Down Rk||118|
6. Cal couldn't rush the passer, and opponents knew it
Defense had not been the problem for Cal in recent years. The Golden Bears were in the Def. F/+ top 50 in 2010 and 2011 -- not great, but better than the offense -- and the strength in 2011 was a lovely pass defense that ranked 17th in Passing S&P+ and 19th in Adj. Sack Rate. But without ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu (combined: 10 sacks in 2011), not to mention aggressive inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt (combined: 25 tackles for loss in 2011), Cal just couldn't make enough big plays. The Golden Bears fell to 113th in Adj. Sack Rate, and while the run defense was solid, they got pushed around too much in short-yardage situations. Cal was strangely awful on third downs (strange because of the Top 40 ranking on first and second down); poor short-yardage defense and an awful pass rush tend to be a toxic combination on third downs, huh?
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh, Jim Harbaugh's defensive co-coordinator at Stanford in 2008-09 and Nevada's defensive coordinator in 2010-11, enjoys taking some risks and doesn't seem to mind trading some big plays in the passing game for high efficiency. His first front seven at Cal will feature quite a bit of experience and quite a few former four-star recruits. (And yes, most of those four-stars were on the field during last year's collapse, too). It will be interesting to see if he is able to press the right buttons. Obviously if Cal is seeing success on offense and moving as quickly as it wants to move, then the defense will be put in position to give up quite a few yards and points. But if the defense can make enough big plays of its own, that will be just fine.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Chris McCain||RUSH||6'6, 215||Jr.||**** (5.8)||11||39.5||5.4%||8.5||3.5||0||1||0||1|
|Deandre Coleman||NT||6'5, 320||Sr.||**** (5.9)||12||34.0||4.7%||8.5||3||0||1||0||1|
|Brennan Scarlett||DE||6'4, 265||Jr.||**** (5.8)||9||30.0||4.1%||6||2.5||0||2||2||0|
|Dan Camporeale||RUSH||6'3, 250||Sr.||NR||12||16.0||2.2%||1.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Todd Barr||DE||6'3, 260||So.||**** (5.8)||11||8.5||1.2%||4.5||2||0||0||1||0|
|Villiami Moala||NT||6'2, 340||Jr.||**** (5.8)||10||5.0||0.7%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|Mustafa Jalil||DT||6'2, 275||Jr.||**** (5.8)||7||4.0||0.6%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Gabe King||DL||6'5, 295||Jr.||**** (6.0)||7||2.5||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ted Agu||DL||6'1, 245||Jr.||** (5.1)||4||0.5||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sione Sina||DE||6'4, 265||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Kyle Kragen||RUSH||6'3, 250||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Marcus Manley||DT||6'2, 280||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Takkarist McKinley||DE||6'3, 240||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Nick Forbes||MLB||6'1, 235||Jr.||**** (5.9)||12||65.0||9.0%||4.5||1.5||1||3||1||3|
|Jalen Jefferson||SAM||6'2, 235||So.||*** (5.7)||8||35.0||4.8%||1.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
(2011 Penn State)
|WILL||6'2, 235||Jr.||**** (6.0)||13||21.5||3.0%||6||2.5||0||0||0||0|
|Nathan Broussard||WILL||6'3, 245||So.||*** (5.5)||11||13.0||1.8%||3.5||3||0||0||0||0|
|Lucas King||LB||6'3, 230||Jr.||** (5.2)||11||3.0||0.4%||1.5||1||0||0||0||0|
|David Wilkerson||WILL||6'2, 245||Jr.||**** (5.8)|
|Michael Barton||SAM||6'1, 230||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Hardy Nickerson||MIKE||6'0, 225||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
7. 4-3 compatibility grade: B-
Though more defenses seem to be moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4, Buh will engineer the opposite move in 2013. He explained why back in February.
"First of all, it's what I know -- that's probably the most significant reason. Any time you coordinate a defense, you want to be a master of it. […] It can defend all the different types of offenses we're going to face. I believe in the way football has become where the quarterback is such a threat, both run and pass, that four defensive linemen are almost critical in terms of keeping linemen off the linebackers, having good pass-rush lanes, squeezing and constricting gaps and not making it such a space game. Those are all the principles of the 4-3. We'll sit more on our technique and our fundamentals than our scheme."
Transitioning personnel in this direction can lead to undersized defensive ends (former outside linebackers) and both poor depth at tackle and not enough play-making ability from linemen recruited to occupy blockers more than defeat them. (Yes, that's a gross generalization.) But the transition could go at least alright in that regard. Chris McCain (currently suspended) is an awfully skinny rush end at 6'6, 215, but there is potentially reasonable depth at tackle (at least, as long as former star recruits like Viliami Moala can fill in at a backup level), and in players like Brennan Scarlett and Todd Barr, Buh will have some ends who meet both the size and athleticism requirements for a 4-3 end.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Michael Lowe||FS||5'11, 210||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12||54.0||7.4%||3||1||3||1||0||0|
|Avery Sebastian||SS||5'10, 190||Jr.||**** (5.8)||11||43.5||6.0%||1.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|Kameron Jackson||CB||5'9, 175||Jr.||*** (5.7)||12||23.0||3.2%||0||0||3||3||0||1|
|Alex Logan||FS||6'2, 200||Sr.||*** (5.7)||9||20.5||2.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Stefan McClure (2011)||CB||5'11, 200||So.||**** (5.8)||11||19.5||2.8%||1||0||1||2||0||1|
|Joel Willis||DB||5'10, 195||So.||*** (5.6)||12||6.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Adrian Lee||CB||5'11, 200||Jr.||*** (5.6)||7||1.0||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Isaac Lapite||CB||5'9, 185||Jr.||NR|
|Cedric Dozier||DB||5'11, 175||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Damariay Drew||SS||6'0, 205||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Darius Allensworth||DB||5'11, 175||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Cameron Walker||DB||5'10, 180||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
8. Tedford's recruiting will help
One never knows how a transition will go, from coach to coach and from system to system. But Dykes and company certainly inherit a roster with a lot of potential and athleticism. That's not always the case. And while recruiting rankings aren't perfectly predictive -- if they were, Cal wouldn't have ranked so low last year -- you'd rather inherit a roster of former four-stars than walk-ons.
|Cole Leininger||6'1, 200||So.||60||39.9||1||26||13||65.0%|
|Steffan Mos||6'0, 195||Jr.||2||37.5||0||0||1||50.0%|
|Vincenzo D'Amato||6'1, 200||Sr.||59||60.5||18||30.5%|
|Noah Beito||6'0, 180||RSFr.||1||64||0||0.0%|
|Vincenzo D'Amato||6'1, 200||Sr.||30-33||12-14||85.7%||4-9||44.4%|
|Brendan Bigelow||KR||5'10, 185||Jr.||35||23.0||0|
|Chris Harper||PR||6'0, 165||So.||4||1.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||76|
|Field Goal Pct||72|
|Kick Returns Avg||80|
|Punt Returns Avg||25|
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||55|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||24|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-7 / -1.9|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||10 (4, 6)|
9. Dykes on the Pac-12 vs. the SEC
This is neither here nor there, but when I interviewed Dykes for my book (now due out in late-July!), he dropped a tidbit I hadn't really considered when discussing the college football arms race.
"Cal has 29 sports, so any new money (from a playoff) is going to go to diving, or soccer, or any number of other sports. We're not going to build a new football facility, then build another one five years later just because we can. The day-to-day facilities race in the South -- they just don't offer that many sports, so it's got to go somewhere. An assistant to the assistant to the assistant. You're going to have 20+ coaches on a staff, not just the nine listed. At some point, the NCAA's going to have to put a stop to it."
Depending on your rooting interests, that quote is either cogent and enlightening or sour grapes. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
10. This shouldn't be the most painful transition
California unveiled a pretty, new version of its Memorial Stadium last year; now would be a good time for that stadium to develop one hell of a home field advantage. Cal hosts Northwestern, Portland State, Ohio State, Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona, and USC. Go 5-2 at home, and you just have to win at Colorado to become bowl eligible and generate momentum again. But that will most likely require an upset or two, and going just 4-3 at home will require a road upset, too.
Dykes inherits a football program with a high ceiling, thanks in part to Tedford's 11 years in charge. And thanks to his recruiting, Dykes has a chance to make some decent noise early in his tenure. How much noise will depend on the typical learning curve of transition, the ability of the defense to bounce back after a poor year, and the amount of noise Memorial Stadium can generate.