Scouting California

Ohio State heads west to take on its first BCS conference team of the season. What will the Buckeyes face when they take on California? We bring you a look at some of the Golden Bears' schemes and personnel from film study.

California heads into the game Saturday night against Ohio State still looking for its first win over an FBS opponent under new head coach Sonny Dykes, so what should the Buckeyes expect to see from the Golden Bears?

Well, they bring a freshman quarterback into the game who leads the nation in passing, but Jared Goff is more than just numbers (though he is in a system built to produce great numbers).

Goff was a four-star recruit last season and it is not hard to see why. The 6-4, 205-pounder stands tall in the pocket and has a nice arm with a quick, fluid release. He completed just about every throw in the book in his first start, a 44-30 home loss to Northwestern. He may be running an iteration of the Texas Tech Air Raid offense Dykes learned during his time as an assistant for Mike Leach, but Goff is no noodle-armed, undersized guy from the mold Leach seemed to turn out every season in Lubbock. He ran the no-huddle offense like a veteran and appears to have a bright future. Goff threw the long hitch from the opposite hash (a play Buffalo had lots of success with but also one Ohio State is willing to concede in many cases) and the deep out with zip. He also showed nice touch on a fade for a touchdown but missed a handful of throws, including a slant in the end zone that could have been a touchdown before the end of the first half.

On the outside, Goff has a pair of smallish, quick and dangerous targets in Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper, sophomores who can go down the field or turn short passes into big gains. Harper flashed his ball skills when he outleapt a Northwestern corner the end zone on a fade for a touchdown. They had big target Darius Powe (6-3, 210) in the slot against Northwestern, but he has been battling an ankle injury and is listed as the backup to 6-0, 180-pound senior Jackson Bouza on this week's depth chart. Having Powe inside and the smaller guys on the outside is a bit of an inversion of what you generally see in a passing spread, but it could create another way to make mismatches. Powe dropped a pass that turned into a pick-6 against the Wildcats, though.

The offensive line is very young with two sophomores and two redshirt freshmen joining junior center Chris Adcock on the first team. Against what is probably an average Northwestern defensive front, the Bears had a hard time making room to run and gave up four sacks. Third-year sophomore Jordan Rigsbee had a couple of standout moments at left guard as he showed off some power by burying a Wildcat tackle a couple of times on running plays, while redshirt freshman right tackle Steven Moore had the most notably poor play of the night when a Northwestern end gave him a power move to the inside and ran through him for a sack. Moore, it's worth pointing out, goes only 285 pounds and probably has a lot more maturing to do before he is done in Berkeley.

At running back, Ohio State fans will remember Brendan Bigelow, a 5-10, 180-pounder who look more powerfully built than that. He runs strong with good balance and can be hard to bring down in the open field. Backup Daniel Lasco is bigger (6-1, 200 pounds) and a good enough athlete that he covers kickoffs, while freshman Khalfani Muhammad provide change of pace as at 5-8 and 175 pounds. Muhammad ran for 58 yards on 13 carries last week while Lasco sat with a hamstring injury.

Although Cal is primarily a spread passing team, the Bears have a diamond formation they call the "super bone" that has the quarterback flanked by two backs with another lined up behind him. They will run both zone and power blocking schemes.

The Cal defense has been gashed in both its games so far, but there are some good-looking players at a handful of positions for the Bears.

Three-technique tackle Villiami Moala is an active 315-pounder who can penetrate and disrupt. The 2011 five-star recruit showed up a handful of times against the Wildcats and needs to be accounted for.

Both ends go 6-3 and weigh in the 250-pound range, so they could be potential targets in the power running game. Senior Dan Camporeale looked good as a pass rusher with active hands and good speed on the edge against Northwestern.

Sophomore Sam linebacker Jalen Jefferson runs well and is very aggressive against the run. He really plays downhill. Hardy Nickerson (son of the former NFL great) starts in the middle and has 13 tackles this season but is not considered an elite prospect. Ohio State probably won't see the guy who looked like Cal's best linebacker against Northwestern, as redshirt freshman Michael Barton is expected to miss the game with a sprained knee. Barton leads the team with 16 tackles this season and is an instinctive, aggressive player. Khairi Fortt, a junior who transferred from Penn State, is listed as the starter in his place and notched nine tackles, including a sack, last week.

Against Northwestern's spread offense that resembles Ohio State's in some ways, Cal spent most of its time in a four-man defensive front and rarely blitzed. They weren't afraid to match up with wide receivers but didn't have a lot of success slowing down the Wildcat passing game (299 yards) or subsequently Portland State. The Vikings threw for 308 yards and ran for another 245 in a game they led in the third quarter before losing 37-30.

Cal looks dangerous offensively despite only having played a pair of games in its new offense, but I would expect Ohio State to be able to keep it contained. The Bears figure to pile up some yards, but the Buckeyes' physical corners could give Cal's best receivers trouble in the red zone if it comes to that.

When the Buckeyes have the ball, they will have to deal with a group that likes to run and hit but has been vulnerable to giving up all kinds of yards and points so far this season.


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