Pac 12

2010 NCAA Football Preview: California Golden Bears

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2009 Record: 8-5 (5-4 in Pac-10)
2009 Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl (lost to Utah 37-27)
Final 2009 AP Ranking:  Not Ranked
Head Coach: Jeff Tedford (67-35 at Cal, 41-27 in Pac-10)
Non-Conference Schedule: UC Davis (9/4), Colorado (9/11), at Nevada (9/17)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 29.1 points per game (4th in Pac-10)
Rushing Yards/Game: 169 (3rd in Pac-10)
Passing Yards/Game: 222 (5th in Pac-10)
Total Yards/Game: 392 (4th in Pac-10) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 25.5 points per game (7th in Pac-10)
Rushing Yards/Game: 111 (2nd in Pac-10)
Passing Yards/Game: 266 (9th in Pac-10, 111th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 377 (7th in Pac-10)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.31 per game (4th in Pac-10)
Penalties: 49 yards per game (2nd in Pac-10)

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Kevin Riley, Sr (209 of 382 for 2850 yds, 18 TD, 8 INT, 219 ypg)
Rushing: RB Shane Vereen, Jr (183 carries for 952 yds, 12 TD, 5.2 ypc, 73 ypg)
Receiving: WR Marvin Jones, Jr (43 rec, 651 yds, 6 TD, 3.3 rec/game, 15.1 ypc, 50 ypg)
Tackles: LB Mike Mohamed, Sr (111)
Sacks: DE Cameron Jordan, Sr (8)
Interceptions: LB Mike Mohamed, Sr (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #41
Phil Steele: #42
Pre-Snap Read: #35
Sporting News: #62
Sports Illustrated: #20

2010 Pre-Season Pac-10 Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #7
Phil Steele: #3 (tie with Arizona)

Bowl Predictions:
Athlon Sports: Kraft Foods (vs. Fresno State)

Phil Steele: Sun Bowl (vs. FSU)

Cal started out 2009 with 3 straight wins but then got blown out in 2 straight against Oregon and USC. Cal then won 5 of 6 Pac-10 games, including back-to-back wins over ranked teams, before dropping their final two. The Golden Bears have some good talent coming back this year and could make some noise in the Pac-10. We reached out to's California website to find out about the 2010 Golden Bears and Mario Gomez provided us with some answers.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the Golden Bears?

The offensive line is both the strength and weakness. The Bears return four starters that comprise a very good veteran offensive line, but depth is a concern. RT Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best in the Pac-10. Along with RG Justin Cheadle and C Chris Guarnero, the trio started all 13 games in 2009. However, they lose LT Mike Tepper and didn’t sign a capable replacement in February. Talented sophomore LG Matt Summers-Gavin will move to left tackle, but his health is important. He missed five games last season because of injury and the Cal OL suffered without his presence at LG. With Summers-Gavin at LT, inexperienced sophomore Brian Schwenke takes over at LG.

If Summers-Gavin is lost at any point to injury, Schwartz could move to LT and backup Donavon Edwards could play RT, where he started six games in 2008. After Edwards, the experience level drops significantly. Backup junior OT Sam DeMartinis hasn’t played the last two seasons. Sophomore OT Tyler Rigsbee didn’t play last season, and freshman Charles Siddoway is coming off a redshirt year. Bears also lost promising LT prospect Charles Ragland, who plans to transfer to a junior college this season.

With that said, if the unit can stay healthy, specifically Summers-Gavin, it will be a foundation for an improved offense.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Colorado is the second game of the season after a “tune-up” against UC Davis. The Buffaloes return 17 starters, and they will be motivated to make a statement in the first quasi Pac-10 game since joining the conference in June.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Nevada is a scary road game. Cal has played three non-BCS, non-FCS opponents the last five seasons – New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, and Colorado State. The Bears won all three by an average score of 42-10. However, only New Mexico State was on the road, and none of the three was as talented at the Wolf Pack will be.

Cal may stumble in conference play, but the Pac-10 has established itself as a conference of parity. Outside of losing to Washington State, a loss in conference won’t turn heads. However, a loss Nevada won’t sit well most in Berkeley, considering Cal didn’t have to schedule that game in Reno.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Hard to say no one talks about Shane Vereen, but few talk about him being one of the top running backs in the nation. Vereen doesn’t have Jahvid Best speed, but he is fast in his own right. The Cal offense seemed to move more fluently with Vereen as the primary back last season. He can pound it between the tackles, line up at the slot, and like Best, he is threat to take it the house on any carry.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Vereen could be 1,500-2,000 yard back this season with the ability to carry the rock 30-35 times a game if needed. If the offensive line stays healthy, and Vereen stays healthy, Cal should have a successful season.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Cameron Jordan is one of best defensive ends in the Pac-10. But his off-and-on play can wear on a fan. One moment he shows talent of an All-American defensive end, the next he looks like a third-team walk-on. Regardless, he is the most talented defensive linemen on the team. With the loss of NFL first round draft pick Tyson Alualu, the load falls on Jordan’s shoulders this season to be a terror off the edge.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Kevin Riley’s performance will be the difference between a five-win season and a nine-win season. The surrounding talent can get to .500 without good quarterback play. While the secondary does need key players to step up, no one is as important to the Bears success as Riley.

Looking at his 2009 stat line doesn’t tell the story. He threw for 2,850 yards and 18 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He completed just 54.7% of his passes. However, in the Bears’ eight wins, he completed 61.7% passes with a 15-4 touchdown to interception ration. In the five losses, he was a paltry 46% and threw only three touchdowns to four interceptions.

He must be consistent and improve his accuracy and decision-making.

Who is the top newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Keenan Allen was the nation’s top safety prospect in the 2010 class. His presence is needed in the secondary, where the Bears had their worst pass defense performance in the Jeff Tedford era last season. But Allen will likely get his first crack on offense. Cal needs at least three of its incoming receivers to play a role in the offense in 2010, including Allen, the Bears have five new wideouts.

Who is your pick for the Pac-10 this year? Is there anybody flying under the radar that you think will surprise people this year in the Pac-10?

With USC on probation and Oregon needing to replace QB Jeremiah Masoli, the Pac-10 looks as open as ever. Nate Costa will get first crack at the Ducks’ open QB job, but I believe Darron Thomas will ultimately win the job. He has the ability to lead the UO to a second straight Pac-10 title. One team to watch is Arizona. If the Wildcats can replace the eight starters lost on defense, the November 26 Oregon-Arizona matchup could be for the Pac-10 title.

Thoughts on Colorado and Utah joining the Pac-10?

While it’s not the same magnitude of adding Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, it’s still a good move for the conference. With 12 teams, the transition to two separate six-team divisions and a conference championship game are in place. Now, the conference must find a scheduling solution to satisfy all 12 members, especially those in the Northwest that face the possibility of not playing in L.A. every season.

Gut feeling on the team’s final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

As much as I hate to say it, it looks like another eight-win season. To some that may seem successful. Others will see it as a continuation of the mediocrity this team has endured since sharing the Pac-10 title in 2006.

The season will be a success if Cal wins its three non-conference game handily and sweeps the home Pac-10 slate. A road win at Arizona, Oregon State, or USC will be icing on the cake and could put the Bears in contention for the Pac-10 title.

Make sure to check out and for all your California Golden Bears football and recruiting needs. And make sure to browse their message boards.

Previous Pac-10 Previews:
Arizona State Sun Devils 
Oregon Ducks 
Stanford Cardinal 
USC Trojans
Washington Huskies
Washington State Cougars

Next Up: Oregon State Beavers

Previous Pre-Season Previews
ACC- Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Big 12- Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Syracuse Orange, UConn Huskies, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Purdue Boilermakers
C-USA- Houston Cougars,  SMU Mustangs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
Independent- Army Black Knights, Navy Midshipmen, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Central Michigan Chippewas, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
MWC- BYU Cougars,  Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- FIU Golden Panthers, North Texas Mean Green, Troy Trojans
WAC- Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, New Mexico State Aggies