Quarterback Zach Maynard, a former transfer from Buffalo, has been inconsistent but has also had moments of prowess guiding the Golden Bear offense. On the season, Maynard has totaled 2,565 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a starter in all 11 games. On the ground, Maynard has added 107 rushing yards and three scores, though in all actuality the expectation was that he would add more of a running presence in his first year as Cal's starter.
The focal points of the Golden Bear offense are the two high-octane wide receivers in Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones as well as running back Isi Sofele, the most recent member of Cal's long-standing 1,000-yard rushing list.
On the season, Allen has emerged into one of the nation's most dynamic wideouts, totaling 84 catches for 1,200 yards and six scores in only his true sophomore year. Jones, a consistent senior, has caught 49 passes for 704 yards and three scores, while Sofele has collected 1,121 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
In the run game, former junior college transfer C.J. Anderson is Sofele's primary backup, logging 303 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Tight end Michael Calvin (21 catches, 244 yards, three TDs) and wide receiver Michael Calvin (19 catches, 260 yards, one TD) complement Allen and Jones in the pass game.
Cal Offense in a Nutshell
The Golden Bears have multiple options to exploit on offense—headed by Sofele on the ground and Allen and Jones through the air—creating a definite need for ASU to be mindful of the potential threats Cal presents.
In Cal's most troublesome offensive games, Maynard has been rattled into multiple turnovers, a feat ASU hopes to create Friday.
Led by former Arizona Cardinals assistant Clancy Pendergast, Cal's defense is a strong one, as the Golden Bears have allowed 10 or fewer points in its three wins amid the past five games.
Statistically, linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been the menace he has been during his entire collegiate career, leading Cal with 99 tackles and 11.0 TFLs. Fellow starting linebacker D.J. Holt ranks second on the squad with 79 tackles, with safety Sean Cattouse behind him with 67 stops and a tie for the team high with two interceptions.
D.J. Campbell ranks fourth on the team in tackles (58) and stars opposite Cattouse at safety, with cornerback Josh Hill (43 tackles) behind him and defensive lineman Trevor Guyton (39 tackles, 10.0 TFLs) sixth on the squad in tackles.
Up front, Aaron Tipoti (21 tackles) starts at nose guard with Ernest Owusu (26 tackles) opposite Guyton at defensive end. Freshmen David Wilkerson (17 tackles) and Chris McCain (26 tackles) occupy the outside linebacker spots in Cal's 3-4 defense with Holt and Kendricks inside.
Cal Defense in a Nutshell
Cal's defense is surely no joke, as the Golden Bears top the Pac-12 in total defense (326.9 ypg.) and pass defense (204.1 ypg.) and rate third in scoring defense (23.2 ppg.). The Sun Devils clearly have their work cut out for them to impose their offensive will, and if the team comes out rattled by their three consecutive losses, Cal has every skill necessary to quickly exploit ASU.
Special Teams Preview
Brendan Bigelow (20.8 avg.) and Coleman Edmond (19.6 avg.) are Cal's top kickoff returners, with Marvin Jones (6.6 avg.) as the primary punt returner.
After a 5-2 standing at the bye week, no fan on the planet would have thought ASU would be in the predicament it is on Thanksgiving weekend. The team has lost three straight, the coaching staff appears on its way out, and a fan base that was increasingly enthusiastic in September and October is now checked out on the 2011 season.
Crazily, the Devils can still work their way into the Pac-12 Championship game with a win against Cal and assistance from USC and Utah. If the Sun Devil offense can play efficiently and the defense (finally) play to its ability, the Devils could end the regular season on a high note. Unfortunately, in each of the past three games ASU has had the luxury of owning its own destiny and has flat out failed, so it would honestly be a surprise to see a different outcome occur Friday.
Keys to a Sun Devil Victory
Hello? Hello? Pride? Are you there?
After the past three weeks, ASU has taken a shot on the chin, in the gut and point blank in the nose. Amazingly, the Devils can still play for the Pac-12 Championship, but an impending coach change appears inevitable. Friday, regardless the postseason implications, ASU can show that the team has not given up and that there is a tangible measurement of pride remaining in Sun Devil football.
If ASU can get back to its ways of earlier in the season of forcing turnovers at mass, the Devils have a great shot in this game. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard has had multiple moments of inconsistency, so the offer may be on the table for ASU to force takeaways from him.
As Sun Devil fans painfully know, turnovers were the dagger last week against Arizona. Facing a solid defense such as Cal's, ASU can ill-afford to hand the ball to the Golden Bears, making efficiency on offense a must.