KICKOFF CENTRAL: Cal vs. Northwestern

Sonny Dykes leads the California football team into a new era as the Bears kick off the 2013 season at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday against No. 22 Northwestern.

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Comprehensive Multi-Sport Visitor List

KEY TO VICTORY: Breaking Down the Cal Defense
Talking Cal with PurpleWildcats
NOTEBOOK: Harper to Start, Bears Warble Away
BTTV: Dykes Talks Game Prep, Injuries, Plus Highlights
NOTEBOOK: Wednesday Practice
TUESDAY NOTEBOOK: Jefferson Deals Out Punishment
Q&A: What's Up With the Wildcats?
FEATURE: Offensive Line Ready to Roll

Head coach: Sonny Dykes
1st Year
4th year overall: 22-15
Returning Lettermen: Off. 22, Def. 22, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 24

A 3-9 season in 2012 cost head coach Jeff Tedford his job in Berkeley, after just one year in a newly-renovated California Memorial Stadium. In his stead, the high-octane staff from Louisiana Tech – the same staff that led the nation in points and yards per game – took over. New skipper Sonny Dykes brought offensive mastermind Tony Franklin and his high-tempo offense along with him to take advantage of a roster widely regarded as the most underachieving, in terms of talent available and results achieved, in the Pac-12.

[RELATED: OL: Let's Roll]

Dykes inherits a team that lost the majority of its starting offensive line, and its biggest playmaker in third-round NFL Draft pick Keenan Allen, and will hand the keys to the newly-christened Bear Raid offense to true freshman quarterback Jared Goff.

Big League Calm
The Decision
VIDEO ANALYSIS: Goff Earns the Nod
Goff Wins Starting Job

Defensive coordinator Andy Buh has had to re-make the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme, in order to resurrect what was the top defense in the conference two years running, but was one of the worst in 2012. With defensive end Brennan Scarlett still uncertain for the opener, the Bears not only have to replace him, but departed defensive linemen Trevor Guyton and Kendrick Payne, as well as top corners Steve Williams and Marc Anthony.

With Williams's departure, the secondary will be very, very thin. Behind starting corners Kameron Jackson and Stefan McClure, there isn't much playing experience. Adrian Lee and Isaac Lapite (the front-runner to play the nickel) have a combined 14 games and one start, while behind expected starting safeties Avery Sebastian and Alex Logan, backups Damariay Drew and Michael Lowe have a combined 12 games and no starts.

The linebacking corps will be more than stocked, with Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt, breakout sophomore Jalen Jefferson and heady redshirt freshman MIKE backer Hardy Nickerson, Jr., leading the charge. The loss of Nathan Broussard to season-ending ACL surgery, the uncertain health status of MIKE backer Nick Forbes (back) and the transfer of David Wilkerson to Arizona thins the group out a bit, but Buh is particularly taken with his two true freshmen – Chad Whitener and Johnny Ragin – and by capable backup Michael Barton.

Making matters worse is the fact that Cal's schedule isn't exactly conducive to the team perfecting the new offense and working out the kinks on defense, with three top-25 squads on the docket in the first five weeks of the season, opening with Northwestern, then playing Ohio State and Oregon in weeks three and four.

Also gone are all three tailbacks that got the vast majority of reps last season in Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and Mike Manuel. In their place will be the duo of speedy junior Brendan Bigelow and hard-running sophomore Daniel Lasco, who will be backed by incoming freshman Khalfani Muhammad, the two-time California state 100m and 200m champion.

[READ MORE: SCRIMMAGE Running Game Analysis]

Bolstering the offense are returning wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper, who combined for 760 receiving yards on 62 catches last season. Adding to that duo will be expected breakout receiver Kenny Lawler and redshirt sophomore Maurice Harris, Allen's sure-handed younger cousin.

What to watch for on offense:
The Bear Raid, as it's been christened, was the scheme behind last season's most prolific offense in the nation, in terms of yards gained and points scored. Now, that offense that gained an average of 577.92 yards per game and put up an average of 51.5 point per game is going to have Pac-12-level athletes at its disposal, including a bevy of game-breaking receivers in Treggs, Harper, Lawler and others, to go with Bigelow, Lasco and Muhammad.

What to watch for on defense:
Because of the surplus of linebackers, the interior and front of the defense should be stout against the run, particularly with Fortt and Jefferson patrolling the middle of the field. The defensive line – despite losing two of last season's three starters – is perhaps the deepest unit on the team, with Chris McCain, Viliami Moala, Mustafa Jalil, Deandre Coleman, Kyle Kragen, Puka Lopa, Harrison Wilfley, Gabe King and Dan Camporeale, even without a healthy Scarlett.

[IN FOCUS: Interior Defensive Line]

McClure will buoy up a very, very thin defensive backfield after missing all of last season while recovering from a horrific knee injury, while the staff has moved Joel Willis from receiver to corner, and Jason Gibson from linebacker to safety to help bolster the last line of defense.

More on the Secondary
FEATURE: Feels Like First Time for McClure
FEATURE: Avery Sebastian: Rock Steady
FALL CAMP DAY 14: Lapite Steps Up
BTTV: Gibson Makes the Switch

The team will be far better if… The Bears can get the pace going early. The hallmark of the Bear Raid offense is the speed with which it is executed. Of course, there are two parts to that statement: The speed itself, and the execution. Unlike Jeff Tedford's system, this scheme is very, very simple, with multiple variations on a select few themes. This offense isn't designed to out-smart opponents. It's designed to out-run them, by getting the ball to playmakers quickly, and in space. That's why Goff was named the starting quarterback: He makes the short, quick throws to his weapons with room to run, and doesn't turn the ball over. As we saw in the first scrimmage, penalties and sloppy execution will stall this offense very quickly, so the offensive line – which now seems to be solidified with a right side of Steven Moore (RT) and Matt Cochran (RG) – has to gel, and gel quickly, so that freshman QB Goff doesn't take too many hits, putting Cal in third-and-long situations.

The schedule:
The new coaching staff will face quite an uphill battle in its first season at the helm. In its first four games, Cal will square off with three preseason top-25 teams, including Ohio State (undefeated in 2012), No. 22 Northwestern and perennial national title contender Oregon. The only break the Bears get is a Week Two dance with FCS Portland State. Cal does get Arizona and USC at home, but will have to deal with a ticked-off UCLA on the road, as well as the Ducks and rival Stanford. Unlike last season, Cal does get a bye week during the season, between a home date with the Buckeyes and a road tilt in Eugene, Ore.

Best offensive player:
Last season, then-sophomore tailback Brendan Bigelow was underutilized in Tedford's complex offense, and this new scheme will allow him quite a bit more freedom. In an offense based on speed, Bigelow has boatloads of it, and will keep defenses honest against an offense seen as primarily passing-based. Despite only carrying the ball 44 times, Bigelow was third on the team with 431 rushing yards, and not a single carry for negative yardage. He also caught seven passes for 92 yards. Bigelow will also likely be the primary kick returner, and for good reason. Last year, Bigelow ripped off 805 yards on 35 kickoff returns, including a long of 57.

Best defensive player:
Despite the fact that he didn't even play a single game last year, McClure figures to be one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12. McClure was discovered by, of all people, Aaron Rodgers. The current Green Bay Packers signal-caller played catch with McClure at an event in San Diego early in McClure's recruitment, and after that, immediately called Tedford to tell him that McClure was, as a high school junior, already NFL-ready. After recovering from his knee injury suffered in 2011 against Arizona State, McClure plays the game at a different speed, picking off passes at will during offseason 7-on-7 workouts against two of the best quarterbacks in the last two recruiting classes in Kline and Goff. Before the season is out, don't be surprised if McClure becomes a true shut-down corner and a first-team all-league selection.

Key player to a successful season: The quarterback. Goff is long, lean, mobile and calm under pressure. His sense of quiet, reserved, steady-as-she-goes leadership is what this team and this offense need, particularly because he's not a gambler. He'll take the short, easy pass to put his receivers (or tailbacks, for that matter) in position to gain yards in open field, rather than trying to go for the home run ball into double coverage. If nothing's open, he's not afraid to pull the ball down and run, and while he's a shade under 200 pounds, he's not fragile. He can get skinny real quick to sneak through gaps in the defensive line, and doesn't take many square hits. Another key for this offense is not turning the ball over, and Goff only threw one interception during fall camp. He was chosen as the starter because he takes care of the football, and if the offensive line can take care of him, Cal could surprise some folks.

The season will be a success if … After a 3-9 season with just two wins over FBS teams, it wouldn't seem like the bar is very high for 2013, but with a stadium entering its second year, a new coaching staff, new uniforms and a new quarterback, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the talent and ceiling of this group, particularly in the context of the new offense. That excitement, though, has to be tempered with reality: A new quarterback, three new tailbacks in the rotation, a young receiving corps and a depleted secondary are all reasons for concern, not to mention a very, very difficult schedule that sees the Bears face off with two potential top-15 teams in the first five weeks of the season. In my opinion, Cal needs (and should) win on Aug. 31 against Northwestern to start the season off on the right foot, and perhaps get the ball rolling on a 3-2 start. A strong showing against Ohio State – who Cal took to the brink last year in Columbus – would help, win or lose, particularly because it's the primetime game at 4 p.m. PT on FOX on Sept. 14. Finally, with all the focus Dykes has placed on Stanford and the Big Game, it's not tough to see that this offense matches up well with the No. 4 Cardinal, and could result in a nice season-ending upset to get the ball rolling into 2014.

Key game:
You only get one shot to make a first impression, and the Aug. 31 tilt against Northwestern will be that one shot for the new Cal coaching staff. The Big Ten team has experience dealing with a high-octane offense thanks to Ohio State under Urban Meyer, but the Wildcats will be coming in essentially blind, with no game film of this offense working with this level of talent. It's the Bears' best shot to steal a win over a ranked team and start the new era off right, and if they can do that, it will help ease the transition for fans and reward the players that bought in early to the new schemes and new way of doing business in Strawberry Canyon.


2012 Fun Stats:
There isn't much ‘fun' about the 2012 season that most Cal fans want to remember. The Bears ranked 9th or worse in the conference in scoring offense, scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, passing offense, passing defense, passing efficiency, passing efficiency defense, kickoff returns, interceptions, punting, kickoff coverage, PAT kicking, sacks against, first downs, opponent first downs, opponent third-down conversion, fourth-down conversions, penalties, time of possession and turnover margin.

However, Cal ranked fifth in rushing offense (183.0 ypg), third in punt return average (11.4 ypr), third in fourth-down defense (40% conversion rate) and fifth in red zone defense (80.7% conversion rate).

Despite a paucity of touches, Bigelow still managed to rank eighth in the conference in all-purpose yards (109.8 per game), more than third-round draft pick Keenan Allen. In fact, Bigelow averaged 15.4 yards every time he touched the ball.

Ten Best California Players
1. RB Brendan Bigelow, Jr.
2. WR Chris Harper, So.
3. WR Bryce Treggs, So.
4. CB Stefan McClure, RSo.
5. DT DeAndre Coleman, RSr.
6. LB Khairi Fortt, RJr.
7. RB Daniel Lasco, RSo.
8. DE Brennan Scarlett, So.
9. WR Kenny Lawler, RFr.
10. DB Avery Sebastian, Jr.
10A. OT Freddie Tagaloa, So.

2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 Northwestern
Sept. 7 Portland State
Sept. 14 Ohio State
Sept. 21 BYE
Sept. 28 at Oregon
Oct. 5 Washington State
Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona
Nov. 9 USC
Nov. 16 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Stanford

2012 Schedule / Record
Sep. 1 Nevada (L, 31-24)
Sep. 8 Southern Utah (W, 50-31)
Sep. 15 at No. 12 Ohio State (L, 35-28)
Sep. 22 at No. 13 USC (L, 27-9)
Sep. 29 Arizona State (L, 27-17)
Oct. 6 No. 25 UCLA (W, 43-17)
Oct. 13 at Washington State (W, 31-17)
Oct. 20 Stanford (L, 21-3)
Oct. 27 at Utah (L, 49-27)
Nov. 2 Washington (L, 21-13)
Nov. 10 No. 2 Oregon (L, 59-17)
Nov. 17 Oregon State (L, 62-14)

DEPTH CHART: Could Two QBs Play?
DAY 16 OFFENSE: Bears Break Out Jumbo Line, Plus VIDEO
DAY 16 DEFENSE: Fortt Announces Return in Big Way, Plus VIDEO
DAY 16: Live From Memorial
DAY 15 IN FOCUS: Interior Defensive Line
DAY 15 OFFENSE: Harris' Loss is Grisom's Gain
DAY 15 DEFENSE: Guess Who's Back
DAY 14 VIDEO ANALYSIS: Game Prep Kicks Off, Plus VIDEO
DAY 14 DEFENSE: Lapite Steps Up
DAY 14 OFFENSE: Bigelow Works on Receiving Skills
DAY 13 OFFENSE: Borrayo Makes a Move, Lawler Impresses
DAY 13: Broussard Down, Wilkerson Out
DAY 13 VIDEO ANALYSIS: Three Up, Three Down
DAY 11 DEFENSE: McClure-Harper Battles Highlight Day 11
DAY 11 VIDEO ANALYSIS: Three Up, Three Down
DAY 11: The QB Decision
DAY 10 DEFENSE: Barton Makes a Move
BREAKING: Goff Wins Starting Job
DAY 10: Three Up, Three Down
DAY 10 OFFENSE: O-Line Falters
DAY NINE VIDEO ANALYSIS: Quarterbacks Go Head to Head
DAY NINE DEFENSE: Call and Response
DAY NINE: Sebastian Recovering
DAY NINE: Live Thread
SCRIMMAGE: Offense Uneven in First Test
SCRIMMAGE: McCain Pulls Double Duty
SCRIMMAGE: Sebastian Goes Down
DAY SEVEN DEFENSE: Fadelli turns in late pick in uneven day for defense
DAY SEVEN: Fight Night at Memorial
DAY SEVEN: Live Updates
DAY SIX: Defensive Breakdown
DAY SIX OFFENSE: Hinder Improves, Kline Impresses With Fewer Reps
DAY FIVE DEFENSE: Secondary Rules the Day
DAY FIVE OFFENSE: Bear Raid Takes a Step Back
DAY FOUR DEFENSE: Battles in the Backfield
DAY FOUR: Then There Were Two
DAY FOUR: Live Thread
DAY THREE VIDEO: Receivers and DBs Go At It
DAY THREE: QB Race Heats Up
DAY TWO DEFENSE: McCain, King Continue to Impress
DAY TWO VIDEO: Offensive Highlights With Portera and Davis
DAY TWO: Kline Makes a Move
DAY TWO: Live From Memorial
DAY ONE VIDEO: Speed Kills
DAY ONE ANALYSIS: Who Stood Out in the Passing Game?
DAY ONE: Quick Hits

GRISOM: For Love of the Game
SEBASTIAN: Rock Steady
BOEHM: A Different Kind of Ball
GOFF: Big League Calm
VIDEO ANALYSIS: Goff Earns the Nod
PHOTOS: Fall Camp Photo Gallery, Part 2
MUHAMMAD: Catch Him if You Can
NICKERSON: Earning the Name
WILFLEY: On a Mission
RODGERS: Rebuilding Richard
AUSTIN: You Don't Know Jack
BARR: First Line of Defense
PHOTOS: Fall Camp Photo Gallery, Part 1
GIBSON: Making the Switch
MCCLURE: Feels Like the First Time

Going Camping, Part 2
Going Camping, Part 1
Camp Preview

RECRUIT REACTION: Mixon Switches Up Visit
A Gem of an Offer
Bears Offer De Anza DL
RECRUIT REACTION: Daniel Gets Sacks'd
Downs Commits
Cal Commits Earn AGH Honors
Offer Brought Langley to Tears

Have a Little Faith in Me: How Dykes and His Staff Earned Cal's Trust
BAY AREA MEDIA DAY: Emptying the Notebook
Handicapping the QB Race
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Treggs, Dykes Talk QB Race and Position Changes
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Fall Camp, Walk-Ons and More
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Offense Notebook
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Holding Each Other Accountable
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Bears Lose Two Signees
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Stay in Your Lane

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