Cal Football: 5 Most Important Post-Spring Dates
As the 2012-13 season approaches, there are few teams and coaches around the nation with as much to prove as Jeff Tedford and his Golden Bears.
After a hot start, Tedford has inched himself closer to the hot seat in the past several years, recording his first losing season with the program in 2010 before bouncing back to 7-6 in last season. Tedford's precarious position this year is amplified by the added pressure of an expensive new stadium that will most likely require success to justify its price tag to alumni and citizens.
Where Tedford and his team will find themselves at the end of the year will depend greatly upon several key dates on the Bears' calendar in the coming year.
Which important dates will those be? Click further to find out....
First Week of August: Start of Summer Practice
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The spring game may have given fans a first glimpse at how the Bears' roster may look in 2012, but the real questions won't be answered until the dog days.
Cal kicks off the 2012 season on Sept. 1, so according to NCAA rules should be allowed begin to practicing around Aug. 1. In the weeks following, many of the roster spots up for grabs during spring practice will be finalized. The Bears only return 11 starters from last year's 7-6 squad, so much of the depth chart will be decided upon during the month of August.
Some of the most important position battles to watch for will be on the defensive side of the ball. Cal must replace six departing future pros, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year ILB Mychal Kendricks and All Pac-12 Honorable Mention S D.J. Campbell.
The Bears' stingy defense was undoubtedly the strong point of last year's team, so replacing these open slots with comparable talent will be imperative to a successful 2012.
Sept 1: The First Kickoff in the New Memorial Stadium
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If coach Tedford wants to keep himself off of the hot seat in 2012-13, a win in the Bears' freshly upgraded stadium would certainly be a good start.
After playing last year's "home" games at unfamiliar territory, the Bears will finally return home to a newly renovated Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1 against Nevada. The renovation project has already come under scrutiny regarding its financing, so the pressure will be on for the Bears to prove that they deserved their pricey new facilities. If the Bears fail to perform up to expectations, the fallout from both fans and citizens could be ugly.
However, the Bears should be the favorite against a decent but not-overwhelmingly Nevada team, and the extra emotional boost of their new home should propel the Bears enough to take a W in their inaugural game.
Sept. 15: At Ohio State
Two weeks after the debut of their new stadium, the Golden Bears will have to leave their comfy new home for a much less hospitable environment: Columbus, Ohio.
On Sept. 15, Cal will face its first true test of the season against the Buckeyes and much-hyped first-year coach Urban Meyer in Columbus. The first BCS opponent of the Meyer era, Cal will have to deal with the both raucous crowd at The Horseshoe as well as significant media attention surrounding the ex-Gator's first major game as coach.
Although always a tough stadium to win in, the Bears should have a decent chance at sneaking out of Columbus with a Week 3 W. Meyer has apparently modeled his offense after Cal's conference rival Oregon, meaning that Tedford's squad should feel somewhat comfortable lining up against the Buckeyes come September.
If California's defense can stifle an inexperienced Buckeyes offense, the Bears could put themselves on the national radar early in the season.
Oct. 20: The Big Game
If the Bears hope for any chance at winning the Pac-12 crown this season, taking down their Bay Area rival will be absolutely necessary.
Losers of the last two Big Games, California will look to swing the momentum back in their favor when they host Stanford at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 20. Overshadowed by the Cardinal's recent success, the Bears will have to beat their division rival if they want any chance at the taking the Pac-12 north this season.
Cal will have their best chance to win in years with the departure of star and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Andrew Luck, as well as several other starters from the Cardinal's 2011 Fiesta Bowl team. If the Bears' home-field advantage and experience can give them the edge over coach David Shaw and the Cardinal, the Bears could be in great position in the North Division by Week 9.
Nov. 10: Oregon at Memorial Stadium
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If Tedford has his eye on playing in Cal's first Pac-12 championship game this season, the Bears will first have to topple the dominant Ducks in the North.
The three-time defending conference champions, Oregon will be the biggest roadblock for Cal on its way to a potential Pac-12 North title. Luckily, Cal will get to play host to coach Chip Kelly and his Ducks for their matchup in Week 12.
This fares well for the Bears, as the last time Oregon visited Memorial Stadium, they barely escaped with a 15-13 win, the lowest a Ducks team has scored in a Pac-12 game under Kelly. If the Bears can provide a similarly tough defensive showing this time around, they could have a good chance at replacing the Ducks atop the Pac-12 North throne in the coming year.