1. With the regular season over, has Cal met or failed expectations?
After winning three of four games to close the 2011 regular season, with a narrow loss to Stanford, and another winning record, it seemed reasonable to pencil California in for a bowl game with an outside shot at the top of the Pac-12 North. Instead, the bottom fell out in a 3-9 season that cost head coach Jeff Tedford his job, starting with a loss to Nevada in the return to Memorial Stadium after undergoing more than $300 million in renovations and ending by being outscored 121-31 in the Golden Bears’ final two games. For all the great things Tedford did in Berkeley, it was an exceedingly ugly end to his 11-year tenure.
2. What one player has made the difference this season?
Claiming the school record for career receptions in just three seasons, junior wide receiver Keenan Allen was certainly Cal’s top talent. Allen, who is all but certain to enter the NFL draft, erupted for 19 catches for 245 yards and three scores in the Bears’ two conference wins, and paced the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He also led the Pac-12 in punt returns, averaging 14.13 per return, seventh-best in the nation.
3. What are the key improvements that need to be made in the offseason?
Cal lost its offense identity in Tedford’s final few seasons, never sure if it was a pro-style or shotgun spread scheme. Quarterback Zach Maynard was asked to sit in the pocket, ignoring his accuracy issues and wasting his mobility. Explosive running back Brendan Bigelow was never featured after his breakout game at Ohio State. The offensive line was a mess in pass protection, allowing 41 sacks. Whoever comes in will need a tightly defined system that can keep pace in the offensively-driven Pac-12.
4. What has been the dominant headline of the regular season?
Speculation about Tedford’s job status was the narrative that defined the 2012 season. Every game was a referendum on his future, especially after back-to-back wins over UCLA and Washington gave Cal a potential escape route back to the postseason. But being manhandled in the Big Game effectively sealed Tedford’s fate, and it became a matter of whether the school could afford the hefty $6.9 million buyout to move on.
5. If the recruiting class stays intact, what are your expectations for next season?
Facing one of the nation’s most difficult schedules in 2013 with a new head coach, with non-conference games against likely preseason No. 1 Ohio State and Northwestern and road trips to Oregon, Stanford, and Washington on the docket, Cal will face long odds to secure a winning record or bowl eligibility. No, the goal will be matching players to scheme, reestablishing the lines of scrimmage, and building the foundation for consistent success.