Cal Football: The Bears' Biggest Question Marks

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIJuly 4, 2012

Cal Football: The Bears' Biggest Question Marks

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    With a young defense and a suspect offense, the Bears will be heading into 2012 with numerous questions.

    A lot of pressure will be on a young defense to perform, while Cal fans will be looking for wide receiver Keenan Allen to make the leap to elite status.

    From an early road game at Ohio State to the Big Game back at Memorial Stadium, the Bears might be the hardest team to assess in the Pac-12.

    Here are the five biggest question marks surrounding the Bears heading into 2012.

Offensive Philosophy

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    Conservative coach Jeff Tedford often uses the run game to open up the pass.

    With a healthy diet of Isi Sofele and bruiser C.J. Anderson, the Bears will again rely on their run game.

    However, with Keenan Allen quickly turning into one of the nation's best receivers, Tedford could elect to pass more than usual.

    Last season the Bears aired it out for an average of 246.6 yards per game. Perhaps Cal will utilize Allen and quarterback Zach Maynard's versatility and throw some twists into the playbook with some quarterback options and plays out of the Wildcat.

    How the Bears approach the attack will be crucial to their success next season.

Pressure on Allen

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    Keenan Allen will need to adjust to the pressure that will come with being a top wide receiver.

    With Marvin Jones playing in the NFL, Allen will be the premier wideout for the Bears next season.

    Secondaries will lock in and Allen will see a lot of double coverage throughout the season. With true freshman Maurice Harris flanking Allen on the outside, Cal could surprise opponents in the passing game.

    It will be on Allen to come up with clever ways to get open. He will need to use his height, speed and deft route running to find the ball in the right spots and break off the big play.

Maynard's Game Management

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    After a turbulent start to the season, Zach Maynard put together some nice performances down the stretch.

    Maynard demonstrated maturity and poise in impressive performances at Stanford and Arizona State. More comfortable with the offense, the southpaw looked like a legitimate starting quarterback for the Bears.

    Yet at times Maynard was downright awful last season.

    In a September game in Washington, Maynard threw it 43 times. Often forcing the ball into tight holes, he converted just 23 of those tosses en route to a 31-23 loss.

    Against lowly UCLA, Maynard had another stinker. Going just 14-for-30, Maynard threw four picks and the Bears fell to the Bruins 31-14.

    Which Maynard will show up next season will be key for the Bears, as his game will dictate the offense next season.

The Complexion of the Pac-12 North

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    The Pac-12 North might be due for a shakeup in 2012.

    After consistent dominance by Oregon and Stanford, middle of the pack teams like Cal and Washington might make their way to the top.

    Oregon always has a lethal squad, but can it sustain its dominance in 2012?

    The Cardinal has its own issues as well, as Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck is now playing in the NFL.

    With Washington quarterback Keith Price looking to improve on a stellar sophomore campaign, the Pac-12 North could be up in the air.

    It would be the perfect opportunity to Cal to jump in and rise in the rankings. How the Bears' competition shapes up will be integral in evaluating the team's chances next season.

Early Streaks

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    Over the last two years Cal has been one of the streakiest and most unpredictable teams in the nation.

    This is a team that came close to upsetting No. 1 Oregon in 2010 and then dropped a road game to abysmal Oregon State.

    After winning their first three games of the season in 2011, the Bears promptly dropped their next three contests.

    The early part of the 2012 season is favorable for the Bears with home games against Nevada and Southern Utah.

    But how will the Bears react to their first two road tests of the season? Back-to-back games at Ohio State and at USC could be fatal for this young squad.

    Cal is a team that rides off its highs. Dropping two games road games decisively could have this team in a hole early.