College Football 2011: Cal Football's 5 Dream Scenarios for 2011
Coming off a season where a lot went wrong, the California Golden Bears are hoping for some dreams to come true in 2011.
The Golden Bears finished last season with a disappointing five wins and seven losses, including six conference losses and a crushing defeat to mid-major Nevada.
To make matters worse for Cal, the team suffered key losses to graduation and the NFL. Shane Vereen, Kevin Riley, Mike Mohamed and Cameron Jordan were all key players for the Bears last season that won't be returning in 2011.
There is still hope for Cal this season—it just might take a few things going the Bears' way.
Here are five dream scenarios for the 2011 California Golden Bears.
The Defensive Line Remains Solid
If the California Golden Bears want to be more competitive in the upcoming season, they will need to remain solid in the defensive line.
The Bears' defensive front was very strong in 2010—a large part of that because of defensive end Cameron Jordan.
In addition to Jordan, Cal's defensive line also featured Derrick Hill, and the two combined for 6.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in their final season with the team.
Cal is returning players like Ernest Owusu, Kendrick Payne and Trevor Guyton on the defensive line, who will all likely take the starting snaps for the Bears in 2011.
The real wild cards will be the two top defensive line recruits that signed with the Bears. Todd Barr and Viliami Moala were both ranked in ESPNU's top 150 and have the same kind of upside that Hill and Cameron possessed.
The talent is definitely there for the Bears, but it will need to perform for the Bears to make some noise in the Pac-12.
Someone Becomes a Reliable Placekicker
To say that the California Golden Bears were hurt by their field goal kicking in 2010 is an understatement.
The Bears lost three games last season by three points or less, and at least two of those losses can be directly attributed to Cal's lack of field goal kicking ability.
Giorgio Tavecchio was the Bears' placekicker last year, but after going 11-of-16, it may be time to look elsewhere for kicking.
Now, while five missed field goals over the course of a season may be forgivable, the situations in which the kicks were missed is what is more significant.
Against Washington, Tavecchio missed two field goals in a game that ended in a 10-9 loss. As well, against the nation's top-ranked team, Oregon, he missed a short field goal late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Bears the lead in a 15-13 loss.
Cal didn't recruit any kickers in this year's recruiting class, so it will need to hope that Tavecchio can improve or that another placekicker can step up.
The Bears Get Great Production in Their Running Game
One thing the California Golden Bears have been able to rely on the last few years is a dominant tailback.
Entering the 2011 season, the Bears don't seem to have that same luxury. Isi Sofele will be the starting running back for Cal, but unlike Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best, he may not be able to carry the Bears offense.
In 2010, Sofele ran for only 338 yards on 69 carries and failed to reach the end zone. While much of this was because Vereen was given a majority of the touches, there is still concern over Sofele's durability.
At only 5'7", he is certainly agile and quick, but his small frame may make it difficult for him to be the anchor of the offense.
The Bears are bringing in two very skilled freshmen at running back in Brendon Bigelow and Daniel Lasco, who should be able to help carry the offensive load, but with no experience at the college level there's still some uncertainty.
One thing is for sure: If the Bears are going to be successful this year, they need great production from their backfield.
Zach Maynard Is an Effective Quarterback
Coach Jeff Tedford has named transfer quarterback Zach Maynard the opening day starter for the California Golden Bears.
Maynard, who will be entering his first season with the Bears after transferring from Buffalo, isn't the prototypical Cal quarterback, but that could be a good thing for the Bears.
In a year where the running back position is more uncertain than it has been in recent years, a dual-threat quarterback like Maynard could relieve pressure from Sofele.
Not only would Maynard be able to give the Bears extra rushing production, but he could also create some problems for opposing defenses.
Coming from a small school like Buffalo, it remains to be seen how he will perform in the Pac-12, but if Maynard can be effective, the Bears have a chance to make some noise.
Cal Finishes the 2011 Season 9-3
For a team that finished with a losing record a season ago, going 9-3 in 2011 would certainly be a dream scenario.
As seen in this slideshow, Cal has a lot of questions heading into next season.
From quarterback to the defensive line, there are plenty of uncertainties, but the Bears have the talent, and if they are able to put it all together, a 9-3 season just might be possible.
The Bears will likely win their two non-conference games against Fresno State and Presbyterian, as well as conference games against Washington State, UCLA and Colorado (though the Colorado game won't count in the Pac-12 standings, as it was scheduled prior to conference expansion).
Games against Washington, Utah and Oregon State will be tougher for the Bears but will be great opportunities for Cal to earn three more wins.
Then, between Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona State, the Bears will need to steal a game, with their best chance probably coming in a home game against the Trojans on October 13th.
Nine wins may be a stretch, and after a 5-7 record in 2010, a bowl season can be considered a success in 2011.