California Golden Bears Open Season Against Grambling State Tigers


College football season is finally here, and after a few days of action around the country, the California Golden Bears open their schedule against the Grambling State Tigers. Cal has the privilege of beginning their season on their home turf, at Kabam Field at Memorial Stadium.

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Sonny Dykes is entering his third year with the Bears, and the team has an underwhelming 6-18 record with Dykes at the helm. After a miserable 2013, when they claimed victory just once in 12 games, the Bears improved in 2014, winning five games compared to seven losses. In 2015, Dykes will attempt to lead the Bears to their first winning season since 2011.

Jared Goff will be the player to watch against Grambling, and will be so for every one of the Bears’ games after that. In the offseason, Goff was named to a number of preliminary award watch lists, including the Manning Award and the Walter CampAward, and has been called a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Goff, now entering his junior season, is coming off a fantastic sophomore that saw him break a myriad of school records, including throwing for 3,973 yards and 35 touchdowns. He comes into this season within very close striking distance of a few career school records, most of which he should break before the conference schedule opens. He is 645 yards shy of Troy Taylor‘s record of 8,126 career passing yards, 11 shy of Kyle Boller‘s 64 career touchdowns, 47 completions away from Taylor’s 683, and 262 attempts from Boller’s 1,301.

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Goff has plenty of weapons to work with, both familiar and new. Four of his top five wide receivers from 2014 (Kenny Lawler, Bryce Treggs, Trevor Davis, and Darius Powe) will be back this year. Tight end Stephen Anderson, who was third on the team in receiving yards last season, and running back Daniel Lasco, who caught for 356 yards last year, will also be at Goff’s disposal this year. When two four-star recruits, Carlos Strickland and Jaylinn Hawkins, are added to the mix, the Cal Bears’ air attack should be just as good, if not better than the sixth-ranked attack they owned last year.

While the offense can put up points with the best of them (38.3 points per game in 2014, 10th-best in the nation), the defense has to be better at holding opponents (39.8 points per game allowed in 2014, sixth-worst in the nation). The Bears’ defense ranked dead last in the Pac-12 last year with just 16 sacks and in yards allowed with 511.8, as well as the points allowed.

Art Kaufman, now entering his second year as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, has to get more out of his defense so the team doesn’t waste the big scoring outputs from Goff and company. The Bears lost five times last season when the offense scored more than 30 points, and twice when they totaled more than 40 points. As long as Goff is leading what should be another very prolific offense, the defense can’t allow more games to slip away.

The Golden Bears’ opponents on opening weekend, the Grambling State Tigers, plays in the NCAA Division I-AA SWAC Conference. They finished 7-5 last season, led by their quarterback, Jonathan Williams, who ascended the depth chart last season after injuries to both signal callers ahead of him.

While there are never any easy games, Grambling State is a team that the Bears should beat. Goff and his compatriots should be able to light up the scoreboard, and the defense needs to respond with a solid outing. If both sides of the ball can play well, the Bears should come away with a nice season-opening victory, and some ever-important confidence heading into week two against San Diego State.

Next: Goff a Legitimate Heisman Contender