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College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears

College Football News logo College Football News 5/31/2020 Pete Fiutak
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College Football News Preview 2020: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Cal Golden Bears season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction

Schedule Analysis

– Cal Previews 20192018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2019 Record: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Pac-12

Head Coach: Justin Wilcox, 4th year, 20-18

2019 CFN Final Opinion Ranking: 38

2019 CFN Final Season Formula Ranking: 61

2019 CFN Preview Ranking: 45

No one knows what’s going to happen to the 2020 college football season. We’ll take a general look at where each team stands – doing it without spring ball to go by – while crossing our fingers that we’ll all have some well-deserved fun this fall. Hoping you and yours are safe and healthy.

5. College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Offense 3 Things To Know

The Cal offense is a far cry from where it was just a few years ago, struggling to get to a whole lot going – it only scored 30 or more twice – and finished the season last in the Pac-12 in both scoring and total offense, averaging 329 yards and 21.2 points per game.

However, part of the problem was its quarterback issues – starter Chase Garbers missed four times in the middle of the season, and wasn’t 100% for another two games with a shoulder injury. Cal lost five of those six games.

He’s back and healthy – Cal was 8-0 when he played a full game – and former UCLA transfer Devon Modster is back as the No. 2 man. Now the passing game has to be sharper after finishing last in the Pac-12 in efficiency and yards.

CFN in 60 Video: Cal Golden Bears Preview

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The receiving corps needs to get more work. Leading target Nikko Remigio is back, but he only caught 38 passes for 513 yards and three scores. Second-leading receiver Jordan Duncan is gone, but ten of the top 11 wideouts and tight ends are back. 6-5, 230-pound junior TE Jake Tonges returns after averaging over 20 yards per grab.

The O line was very young, and now the growing pains should pay off with all five starters expected back for a line that struggled to keep defenses out of the backfield and was the worst in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed. It’s not a massive line, but it can move. Now it has to do more for a running game that averaged a pedestrian 132 yards per game.

230-pound thumper Christopher Brown returns after leading the way with 914 yards and eight scored, but he’s not alone. Backups Marcel Dancy and DeShawn Collins return, but they all need more work and room to move.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Defense 3 Things To Know

4. College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Defense 3 Things To Know

There is no replacing Evan Weaver. He was the heart-and-soul tackler he hit everything the moved, coming up with a whopping 182 stops. However, the star linebacker isn’t the only loss with nine of the top 15 tacklers gone.

On the plus side, this is an elite defensive coaching staff, starting with head coach Justin Wilcox to go along with co-coordinators Tim DeRuyter and Peter Sirmon. The Bears finished fourth in the Pac-12 in total and scoring defense.

Along with losing Weaver, Ben Hawk Schrider is gone from the linebacking corps. However, Kuony Deng is a big-hitting 245-pounder who should be in for All-Pac-12 honors on the inside, and 6-3, 235-pound senior Cameron Goode is back on the outside after leading the team with 14 tackles for loss. There are other big options for what should be a huge, tough group behind a rebuilt line.

The starting front three is done, but 6-5, 285-pound sophomore Brett Johnson got in enough work to own the nose. There’s size across the line, but there will be an adjustment, with the depth needing to be build up and the ends needing to find steady producers.

The line might be an early concern, but the pass defense and the secondary should be better. Camryn Bynum is back somewhere in the secondary – he can work at any spot – after finishing third on the team with 63 tackles, and senior Elijah Hicks is a solid, veteran corner. However, the defensive backs have to come up with more picks – there were only eight last year and most of the producers are gone.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Top Cal Golden Bears Players

College Football News Preview 2020: Top Cal Golden Bears Players

Best Cal Golden Bears Offensive Player

QB Chase Garbers, Jr.

Who knew he’d be that good and that valuable? Always seemingly in a battle for the job, the 6-2, 215-pound junior started out his career with 14 touchdown passes and ten picks, but he was relatively accurate and ran for 420 yards and two scores. Last year he won the gig, but he was banged up in the middle of the season and the Cal season was paused.

He finished the season completing 61% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and three picks, and he ran for 223 yards and three scores. Most importantly, he won led the way to a bowl win, and the team was unbeaten when he got through a full game.

2. OT Jake Curhan, Sr.

3. RB Christopher Brown, Jr.

4. WR Nikko Remigio, Jr.

5. C Michael Saffell, Sr.

Best Cal Golden Bears Defensive Player

CB Camryn Bynum, Sr.

You want him at corner or safety or anywhere else in the secondary? The 6-0, 200-pounder earned All-Pac12 honors with 63 tackles with nine broken up passes and a pick.

He’s got good size, can hit – he made 48 stops with ten broken up passes and two interceptions as a sophomore – and he’s going to be one of the leaders on a defense that should grow into one of the Pac-12’s best.

2. LB Cameron Goode, Sr.

3. LB Kuony Deng, Sr.

4. CB/S Elijah Hicks, Sr.

5. LB/DE Tevin Paul, Sr.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Keys To The Season

College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Keys To The Season

Biggest Key To The Cal Golden Bears Offense

The offensive line has to give everyone more time and room to work. The Cal ground game wasn’t anything amazing, but the team was 6-0 when it managed to run for just 139 yards or more. Get to 160 yards, and the program is 8-1 over the last two seasons.

The O line that was 124th in the nation in sacks allowed and 108th in tackles for loss given up has to do everything to keep QB Chase Garbers upright and in one piece. He was hurt running, but he also took a whole lot of shots.

With everyone returning to the offensive front around all-star tackle Jake Curhan, it needs to grow into a strength.

Biggest Key To The Cal Golden Bears Defense

The defensive front three has to come up with a great rotation right away. There’s size, and there are options, but there’s not a whole lot of experience. The front three will rely on underclassmen and a few untested parts to crank up the rotation.

There’s more than enough bulk on the nose – the Bears can get really large if they want to – and that matters for a run defense that can’t get hammered on. Arizona State, Oregon, and Utah all ran for 190 yards or more against the Bears, who lost all three games.

Under Justin Wilcox, Cal beat North Carolina in his debut in 2017 despite allowing 219 rushing yards. The team is 0-10 since then when giving up 190 or more.

Key Cal Golden Bears Player To A Successful Season

WR Nikko Remigio, Jr.

The defensive line will come together quickly. The rest of the defense is fine, the offensive line is experienced enough to come together, and the backfield will quietly become one of the Pac-12’s best.

Now the receivers have to be more dangerous.

The 5-10, 210-pound Remigio led the team with 38 grabs for 513 yards and three touchdowns, and served as a dangerous punt returner. That was all fine, but he only had one 100-yard day, and he wasn’t necessarily a go-to-volume catcher. If it’s not him, then someone has to grow into an all-star caliber playmaker for what was the Pac-12’s worst passing game.

Key Game To The Cal Golden Bears Season

Utah, Sept. 26

How much better is the program than it was in the middle of last year? The Bears didn’t have QB Chase Garbers, but that didn’t matter that much in a 35-0 loss in Salt Lake City.

It’s Cal’s Pac-12 opener before going on the road for three of its next four games, and hosting Oregon in the midst of that. Lose to the Utes, and there’s reason to be concerned for what might be a rough conference start.

Cal Golden Bears Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2019 Cal Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 46 for 274 yards – Cal 36 for 228 yards

– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 17-of-29 (59%) – Cal 6-ff-16 (38%)

– Fumbles: Opponents 21 (lost 8) – Cal 11 (lost 4)

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Win Total Prediction, What Will Happen

1. College Football News Preview 2020: Cal Golden Bears Win Total Prediction, What Will Happen

CFN in 60 Video: Cal Golden Bears Preview

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This is going to be a good Cal team, but don’t get caught up in the possible hype as this as possible Pac-12 sleeper team.

The offense has too much returning to be that mediocre again. There’s enough skill talent, and enough experience up front to be better than the worst O in the Pac-12 – which it was last year.

The kicking game has to come up with a reliable placekicker, but the defense will keep every game in range. Throw in one of the nation’s best coaching staffs, and it should be a third straight bowl appearance under Justin Wilcox.

Set The Cal Golden Bears Regular Season Win Total At … 7

Bet at BetMGM Win Total Line: 8.5

Here’s the problem. The rest of the Pac-12 will have too many landmines to sidestep.

Missing Arizona and Colorado from the South is disastrous – those are two of the league’s relative layups this year.

TCU is better – that’s early on the non-conference slate.

Stanford and Oregon State will be better. Washington and Oregon are home games, but road dates at USC and Arizona State are going to be a problem.

It’ll be a winning season with a bowl appearance, but it’ll be more of a fight than the early oddsmakers think. It’ll take a good finishing kick to get past six wins.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

Schedule Analysis

MORE:

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College Football News Preview 2020: North Carolina Tar Heels

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