1. Defense wins championships in the Pac-10
Even with the loss of Zack Follett, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder, the Cal Bears defensive unit has all the makings of a very special unit in 2009.
"The Bears defense, dare we say it, in a conference lorded over by USC, might actually end up as the Pac-10’s best unit."
-ESPN's Ted Miller
The Bears "Bend but don't break" defensive philosophy shows in the fact that while the unit finished fourth in yards given up per game, the Bears gave up less than 20 points per game in 2008 (second only to USC). Cal finished ahead of USC in Red Zone defensive statistics. Cal returns eight starters from it's defensive unit of last year.
Cal's defensive front is rock solid and their secondary is completely intact from last season, with likely All-American Syd'Quan Thompson as the units leader.
As stated earlier. Defense wins championships in the Pac-10. Look for the Bears to finish number one in defense next season.
2. Jeff Tedford and Andy Ludwig will be on the same page on offense
When Tedford left Fresno State for Oregon, Ludwig replaced Tedford at Offensive Coordinator for the Bulldogs. Ludwig later replaced Tedford at Oregon as Offensive Coordinator when Tedford left for Cal.
Now the two are back together again and the offense will be in sync and powerful.
Last season with Utah, Ludwig helped coach the Utes to a 15th ranked offense in the nation with an average of 37.4 points per game. The Utes quarterback, Brian Johnson, earned Mountain West Player of the Year honors.
Look for the Bears to strike quick and often next season under Ludwig who looks like he he might be in line for a head coaching position in the not too distant future.
Ludwig has followed in Tedford's footsteps for the past several years now. Could Tedford and Ludwig be Cal's version of Oregon's Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly, where Kelly replaced Bellotti, who ascended to the position of Athletic Director? Only time will tell.
One thing is certain. These two coaches will be on the same page when it comes to leading the Bears to the Pac-10 title next season and a BCS Bowl Game.
3. Cal has the best one-two running back combo in the conference
Jahvid Best finished number one in rushing yards in the Pac-10. Cal's Shane Vereen, a true freshman last season, finished number 10 in rushing in the conference. Only Oregon has two top-10 rushers returning this season, but one of those is their quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Both Best and Vereen are sprinters on Cal's track team. Combined, Best and Vereen ran for nearly 2300 yards averaging 7.1 yards per carry as a team.
Jahvid Best is a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy next season if he can top last seasons stellar performance.
4. USC talent attrition was too great this past year to prevent their falling a notch
I know, I know. USC football players are like teeth in a great white shark's mouth. One falls out to the NFL draft and two grow back in its place.
No offense to past USC recruiting efforts but a team does not lose 11 starting players including their quarterback and not skip a beat the following season. Throw in the loss of assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian who is now the head coach of the Washington Huskies and you have a near mass exodus of talent at USC.
USC will be good, real good, but they will lose at least two Pac-10 conference games this season. From my vantage point, it looks like the Trojans may be "Holiday Bowling" next post season. If USC does indeed win it all again. Pete Caroll has my vote already for Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors.
5. Cal's schedule is favorable
How can a Pac-10 conference opening road trip against the Ducks in Autzen stadium followed by USC at home the very next week possibly be favorable you ask?
Beat Oregon on the road, and come home to beat USC with a rabid crowd behind you and you have instant swagger and confidence to ride rest of the Pac-10 season. Even if Cal were to lose to the Ducks, a bounce back and HUGE win against arch rival USC would quickly erase any sting from a Ducks loss.
While Cal has to face Oregon and Arizona State on the road, they get to face their toughest opponents—USC, Oregon State, and Arizona within the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium.