Over the last 10 years, Cal Bears football has been mediocre. This upcoming season fans are expecting more of the same.
With Zach Maynard penciled in as the starter (for now), the Bears will have a hard time coming out on top of the Pac-12 North. While a BCS bid seems even more far fetched at the moment, Cal could potentially get that national recognition a few seasons from now if they are able to address a few issues.
This slide show will pinpoint what is holding the Bears back, and suggest how they can get to the next level.
USC, Oregon and Stanford are the strongest teams in the Pac-12. Behind them is Cal, and the rest of the maybe next year teams.
For Cal to even think about earning a BCS bid, they must elevate above the hodgepodge of mediocre teams and start competing with USC and Oregon for the top spot in the conference.
With the talent Cal has this year, they are huge underdogs to win the Pac-12, let alone reach the Pac-12 North Championship Game.
The Bears' have a strong defense, arguably the best in the Pac-12. The defense would be even stronger if their offense was more effective. For them to beat the odds, they must improve their offense, starting with their quarterback.
There were seven teams in the Pac-12 who scored more points per game than the Bears last season. If they want to earn a BCS bid, Zach Maynard must improve.
Maynard had the worst pass efficiency rating in the Pac-12 last season despite having two talented receivers in Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. Maynard has done little in his college career to earn anybody's confidence. 2012 may have been his last season as a starter unless he is able to drastically improve this offseason.
Fortunately for the Bears, incoming freshman Zach Kline will be in competition with Maynard for the starting spot. He was rated as the second best pro-style quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class by Rivals.com after throwing for 3630 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior.
Regardless of if he starts this season or not, it is crucial that Kline lives up to his expectations if Cal is ever going to earn a BCS bid.
Regardless of who the starting quarterback is next season, Cal will rely on their run game to win games. Unfortunately, starting running back Isi Sofele is not productive enough to get the job done.
Cal has relied on the running game in the past with talented rushers such as J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forrsett and Jahvid Best. Sofele is a serviceable back but not a game changer.
He barely gained 100 yards per game last season and only found the end zone 10 times. Cal needs to find a running back who can score more than a touchdown per game to make up for their inconsistent pass offense.
Whether its Pop Warner or the pros, an offense cannot be effective if it does not have a good offensive line. This is especially true for teams with average running backs and quarterbacks.
The Bears' offensive line was okay in 2011, but was nowhere near dominant. They gave up 28 sacks last season and did not consistently open holes in the running game.
Whether it is Maynard or Kline lined up at quarterback, Cal's offensive line must improve in order to give their signal callers as much time as possible. This will decrease the likelihood of either quarterback making rash decisions and turning the ball over.
Cal is a far cry away from earning a BCS bid in the 2012-2013 season. However, there is hope for them in the near future.
Some of their top recruits in 2012 are filling major offensive needs. Quarterback Zach Kline's development should be helped by the three 4-star wide receivers and the four offensive linemen they brought in.
The only negative in the 2012 recruiting class was that they were unable to bring in any 5-star recruits, and they failed to find an impact running back.
Cal needs to figure out a way to bring in more elite players if they ever want to make any noise in the BCS. Since recruiting DeSean Jackson in 2005, they have only gotten two 5-star recruits.
The Bears came close to signing top level talent this offseason but fell short. Shaq Thompson, Ellis McCarthy and Stefon Diggs were all 5-star recruits who considered Cal before deciding to go elsewhere.
Not signing Thompson and McCarthy is extra costly because they both ended up in the Pac-12.
Cal's lack of talent can be overcome by mastering the fundamentals.
The Bears had the second most penalty yards per game in the Pac-12 last season. Penalties kill drives on offense, and give up precious yards on defense. A team that is already struggling cannot afford to shoot themselves in the foot.
Cal's offense only converted on 38.8 percent of their third down attempts in 2011. This will be improved once they get better play out of their quarterback.
In 2011-2012 the Bears only averaged 20 yards per kick return and 5.8 yards per punt return. Freshman Brendan Bigelow showed flashes as a kick returner last season. They need him to step up so that the offense can consistently begin drives with good field position.
Improving in these three phases of the game will earn an average team like Cal one or two more precious wins per season.
Jeff Tedford has done a good job since being named Cal's head coach in 2002. Prior to his arrival, the Bears had not had a winning season since 1993. Despite turning this program around, he has never coached the Bears to a BCS game.
Other current and past coaches in the Pac-12 such as Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have innovated their programs. Tedford has made the Bears a better team, but has not provided the spark that creates excellence.
Tedford's game plans are very plain. This defines the team as a whole. Under Tedford, the Bears have been on the brink of earning national recognition, but for the most part, Cal has been mediocre.
It is time for the Bears to find a new coach who can bring the program to the next level—someone who can consistently get their team to the Pac-12 title game and ultimately earn a BCS bid.