Final Impressions: California in 2012

The idea that head coach Jeff Tedford would not have a reliable quarterback and consistent offense was unfathomable in 2004, but those two elements will limit California's potential in 2012.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Every perception I have of Jeff Tedford and California was shaped in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 9, 2004, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 23 consecutive passes only to be turned away at the goal line in a dramatic 23-17 loss to USC.

Save for the sliver of blue and gold in the end zone, the venerable stadium erupted when that final pass fell incomplete with the realization that the Trojans' quest for the undisputed championship the Bears and BCS had denied the year before would continue. But there was also an understanding that Tedford and Pete Carroll were now firmly established as the best two coaches in the conference, that the road to the Rose Bowl and beyond would be settled every time Cal and USC would meet going forward, that a new power had emerged.

Two years later, they would meet again with the greatest of stakes on the line, the winner guaranteed no less than a berth playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day. And again, the game would not be decided until the fourth quarter.

Though Cal again came up short, there were certain expectations that had been established in my mind. As long as Tedford was in charge, the program would always have a tremendous balanced offense with a quality quarterback working behind a dominant offensive line.

Yes, there had been the Joe Ayoob debacle in 2005, but that seeming a product of circumstances, Rodgers leaving early for the NFL and starter Nate Longshore breaking his leg in the season opener.

This was Tedford, who had worked wonders with Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Akili Smith, and Kyle Boller. Of course, he would have another star pupil.

Recent history has shattered that notion, leaving Cal with the hope that redshirt senior quarterback Zach Maynard's November progress late last season can be carried over into 2012, with freshman Zach Kline as the great hope for the future.

Maynard seemingly alternated between only two settings last season, a solid enough caretaker or turnover machine. But that was reflected in the entire offense, which was an unqualified disaster in all but two of its losses.

It can't be laid only at the feet of Maynard. The offensive line must show dramatic improvement against the elite defenses, as must running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, who were too often reduced to non-factors.

There are enough pieces in place this year for Tedford to construct a more-than-competent attack: an All-America-caliber receiver in Keenan Allen, two top rushers, options at the tight end spot. But will that be enough to keep pace with the elite offenses USC, Oregon, and Washington or much-improved UCLA, Utah, Oregon State and Washington State?

Short of borrowing the New York Giants defensive line, Dallas Cowboys linebackers, and New York Jets cornerbacks, those Pac-12 foes will score points against a solid Cal defense. Remember they did the job against USC and Texas, only to be let down by the impotent offense.

It is on Tedford to manipulate Maynard and his supporting crew into a unit to score enough points to put Cal in position to win games. This schedule is too difficult, with only one true walkover in Southern Utah, to hope that success can be achieved without consistency.

The offense is the question mark once again, a notion that seemed impossible. And because it is, the notion of Cal reestablishing itself among the elite, to the position it earned on that afternoon in the Coliseum, seems improbable.

Predicted 2012 Results

Sept. 1 – Nevada … Win
Sept. 8 – Southern Utah … Win
Sept. 15 – at Ohio State … Loss
Sept. 22 – at USC … Loss
Sept. 29 – Arizona State … Win
Oct. 6 – UCLA … Win
Oct. 13 – at Washington State … Win
Oct. 20 – Stanford … Win
Oct. 27 – at Utah … Loss
Nov. 2 – Washington … Loss
Nov. 10 – Oregon … Loss
Nov. 17 – at Oregon State … Win

Final Record – 7-5

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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