The Cal Bears have always been a good team. However, they haven’t been a great team in a long time.
Under coach Jeff Tedford, Cal has reached and won numerous bowl games. They even claimed a share of the Pac-10 title in 2006. However, they’ve never played in a BCS game, and they haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1958.
No one is expecting Cal to reach a BCS bowl. Most people think the Bears will be good, but not great (again). Tedford and the Bears aren’t okay with that, but they’ll have to do a lot to get to a BCS bowl. That probably won’t happen, but success definitely can happen.
Here are four bold predictions for the Golden Bears in 2012.
Keenan Allen was one of the only bright spots in 2011 for the Bears.
Cal finished 7-6 and reached the Holiday Bowl, but they didn’t get much (if any) national media attention during the regular season, and they didn’t beat any great teams. Allen played very well and displayed his pass-catching abilities and athleticism, but not many people were watching.
This year, more people will be watching.
Allen caught 89 passes for 1,261 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. His numbers were great, but not Heisman-worthy. However, he will have an improved quarterback and will be targeted more. As long as Allen gets open, he will get a lot of receptions.
And it’s not only his hands that make him so good. Allen is very athletic and can run for a ton of yards after the catch. He can lay out for a ball, catch passes in the run, make adjustments to bad throws, break tackles and provide the big-play threat Cal needs.
The Golden Bears will play Ohio State on September 15, and the game will be televised. Then, on September 22, Cal plays USC. Lots of people will be watching both games, and if Allen shows the world what he can do, a lot of attention will be directed towards him and the Bears.
People will notice Allen’s spectacular performance. If he plays like he did last year and more people play attention, expect him to be in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy award.
Zach Maynard wasn’t terrible in 2011, but he definitely wasn’t consistent.
Maynard threw 12 interceptions and failed to throw for 3,000 yards in 2011 while completing just 57 percent of his passes. His footwork had flaws, and his accuracy wasn’t good, which caused a lot of the picks. If he didn’t have Allen in the receiving corps, Maynard’s stats would’ve been even worse.
However, his problems are fixable. Allen is a great receiver, and Maynard will target him often. As long as Allen gets open, Maynard will throw the ball to him. He isn’t consistent, but he has the potential to make a great throw.
An offseason of work should help improve Maynard’s consistency, accuracy and decision-making. He has a year of experience under his belt, so expect “rookie mistakes” to be eliminated. Maynard will make better reads in 2012, so as long as he’s accurate, his stats will improve—and Cal’s record will, too.
Cal lost Trevor Guyton and Mychal Kendricks to the NFL, but they still have a good defense.
Marc Anthony and Josh Hill headline a Cal defense that is inexperienced but has lots of talent. Anthony and Hill are both great defensive backs who can cover top receivers, knock down and intercept passes and stop the run. Hill is moving to safety, but his talents will go to good use all the same.
The Golden Bears also brought in some promising recruits. Raymond Ford and Damariay Drew will add more speed and run-stopping ability to Cal's secondary, and they could make a big impact towards the end of the season when Cal takes on high-scoring teams like Washington and Oregon.
There are some great offensive players in the Pac-12, especially at the wide receiver position. Markus Wheaton of Oregon State, Robert Woods and Marquise Lee of USC, Marquess Wheaton of Washington State and De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon. However, Cal has enough talent to shut down these stars.
If their young players can make an immediate impact, the Golden Bears will have a great defense once again.
Cal had a winning record in 2011, but that was still a disappointment.
The Golden Bears were very inconsistent and played horribly at times. They dominated Utah and nearly beat Stanford, but they also struggled to beat Colorado and got blown out by UCLA. You never knew what to expect from the Bears.
Part of that was due to Maynard. The quarterback was very inconsistent, but luckily, he will be better this year. Hill and Anthony headline a good secondary, and the Golden Bears have lots of talent on defense.
Cal has some tough games on their schedule. They have to play USC, Oregon, Ohio State, Washington, Stanford and other tough teams. However, Cal is a well-rounded and underrated team that could be taken lightly by stronger opponents. If the Golden Bears show up and play well consistently, they will win a lot of games and pull off some upsets.
And that's exactly what they'll do when the season starts.