The Cal Golden Bears will try and build on the 8-5 season in 2009 with plenty of experience returning along with a nice mix of new players. Many projections have the Bears finishing in the middle of the Pac 10 this season, but with a few breaks they could be challenging rival USC for the conference crown. Last season ended with a 10 point loss to Utah (future conference member) in the Poinsettia Bowl. Jeff Tedford enters his 9th season as head coach and has compiled a 67-35 record. Cal is +700 to win the Pac 10 this season.
Running the ball was a major factor in the success of the offense last season. Jahvid Best teamed with Shane Vereen to accumulate over 1800 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. Vereen returns for his junior season and is finally getting his chance to be the primary ball carrier for the Golden Bears. Coach Tedford has produced NFL caliber talent at quarterback and running back in his time at Cal. Kevin Riley saw considerable action as a sophomore and parlayed that into an outstanding junior year in which he threw for 2850 yards and 18 scores with only eight interceptions. He is the prototypical drop back passer Tedford looks for and seldom makes mistakes. The Bears possess a strong receiving core that is anchored by Marvin Jones and his 43 catches from a year ago. WR Jeremy Ross should see his production increase catching the ball, but he is a bigger factor in the return game where he averaged 21 yards in nine punt returns. The offensive will try and start a new streak of 1000 yard rushers under Tedford as their streak of seven was snapped by 48 yards last season.
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory bolted for Boise State after the 2009 season saw his defense allow close to 400 yards per game. It is not often that a college program can pull in a former NFL coordinator, but that is what Cal did. Clancy Pendergast will take over for Gregory in what many believe to be an upgrade after Pendergast spent the past 15 years in the NFL. Cutting down on the 267 yards given up through the air last year will take a collective team effort. The Bears should be much more blitz happy under the new dc and linebacker Mike Mohamed should continue to flourish. Mohamed eclipsed the 100 tackle mark last season and is one of the best at his position in the Pac 10. Cameron Jordan is a classic defensive end in the 3-4 scheme. His 6 sacks were second on the team in 09′ and he is primed for a breakout year. There isn’t much star power on this side of the ball compared to the offensive end, but they will need to be just as good collectively to reach a quality bowl game this year.
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Cal will open the 2010 season at home against UC Davis. The Golden Bears will get an up close look at new conference member Colorado (will join in 2011) in week 2. They face tough road tests at USC, Arizona and Oregon State. The game at Arizona on Sept 25th should separate the contender/pretender in a game that features two middle of the road teams. Three homes games to finish out the season could give the Bears plenty of momentum heading into their bowl match-up. I predict a 7-5 finish for the kids out of Berkeley.