Cal Football: New Coach Sonny Dykes Will Make Cal a Pac-12 Contender

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Cal Football: New Coach Sonny Dykes Will Make Cal a Pac-12 Contender

That vacancy sign at Cal didn't last very long. 

Late Wednesday, Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour announced that Sonny Dykes had been hired as the new head coach of the California Golden Bears.

Dykes is no stranger to the Pac-12 conference—he spent three years as an assistant coach at Arizona and was nominated for the Broyles Award, which honors the most outstanding assistant coach in FBS. 

Dykes comes from the Mike Leach coaching tree—he served as Leach's receivers coach from 2000 to 2005 and then as co-offensive coordinator (with Dana Holgorsen) in 2005 and 2006 before accepting the assistant head coaching job at Arizona.

After three years of working under head coach Mike Stoops as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator, Dykes was named the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he compiled a three-year record of 22-15. The Bulldogs won the 2011 WAC crown and Dykes was named the WAC coach of the Year.

SI.com columnist Stewart Mandel tweeted that Dykes had told him two months ago that the Bay Area would be his top choice if he could live anywhere in the U.S.

Cal football has lately been a yearly culmination of under-achievement despite former coach Jeff Tedford's remarkable imprint on the program.

According to an ESPN.com story, Dykes acknowledged Tedford's push to remodel Cal's stadium and upgrade its facilities to rival those of any elite football program.

"I have great respect for the remarkable job [Tedford] did in building this and doing it the right way," Dykes said. 

This season, Cal's offense could only muster up 391.3 yards per game, but while that average only placed the Bears seventh among all Pac-12 teams, Cal's defense was a different story. The Bears gave up over 441 yards per game and were ranked behind some teams with notably suspect defenses: Washington State, USC and Oregon. 

Dykes' Bulldogs' total offense this year was the second-most productive in the nation, averaging one fewer yard per game than the top-ranked offense in FBS, the Baylor Bears, who averaged 578.8 yards per game. 

Dykes will inherit an offensive line that loses a lot of seniors and he'll be without the services of receiver Keenan Allen, who recently announced he will declare for the 2013 NFL draft.

According to a Sports Illustrated article, "Allen finishes his career as the school's all-time leader with 205 receptions. He ranks third with 2,570 yards receiving and seventh with 17 touchdown catches."

An interesting note—Oregon had the top-scoring offense for 2012, averaging 51.5 points per game. The second-ranked team was Louisiana Tech, averaging 50.8 points per game.

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The Pac-12 will be an exciting conference to watch with the top two scoring offenses in the country residing in the North division. But the 2012 Pac-12 champion Stanford Cardinal had the top-ranked defense in the conference, and that certainly lends credence to the adage, "Defense wins championships."

Current New Mexico State head coach DeWayne Walker sounds like he might be the right guy for Dykes to go after to fill the defensive coordinator position.

Walker made some interesting remarks after his Aggies finished the season 1-11. The Chicago Tribune highlighted what appears to be mounting frustration at New Mexico State. 

"I got a lot of thinking to do," Walker told the Las Cruces Sun-News. "A lot of stuff to think about. The coaches get on the road to recruit Tuesday. You don't want to go out like this."

The Tribune noted that New Mexico State's future may be throttled by the fluid conference realignment and expansions taking place nationwide.

"The Aggies' blowout loss to Texas State in the first week of December marked the last game in the illustrious history of the WAC. Without a conference, NMSU is forced to play next year as an independent, a plan that can only work in the short term for the cash-strapped Aggie athletics department."

Cal will be a contender in the Pac-12. A renovated stadium, top-notch facilities, internationally respected academia and membership in a conference that will send eight teams bowling this season all point to a promising future for Cal football.  

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