After just going through the motions these past few weeks, overwhelmed by the steady stream of coronavirus updates, I came across an article that violently jolted me back to life.
CBS Sports writer David Cobb has predicted the California Golden Bears will finish 11-1 to win the Pac-12 North title next season. Cobb goes on to predict the Oregon Ducks will finish 10-2 overall (8-1 conference).
Ppppffffftttt! I actually spit out my coffee. After several hours of teeth-gnashing, hand-wringing and intense pacing, I settled down to gather my thoughts.
Deep breath, in through the nose, hold and exhale. Okay, that’s better. Now, before I take a flamethrower to Cobb’s bear-friendly forecast, perhaps we can figure out exactly what this knucklehead is talking about.
According to Cobb, in 2021 the Golden Bears will notch home wins over TCU, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Stanford. And their only loss? USC.
Cobb’s prediction is partly built upon the Bears’ three-game winning streak to finish last season with an 8-5 overall record (4-5 in Pac-12).
Led by then-sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers, Cal earned wins against UCLA and Stanford on the road and defeated Illinois 35-20 in the Redbox Bowl.
During those final three games, Garbers threw for 787 yards and six touchdowns. The Bears’ defense held Stanford and UCLA to 61 and 58 total yards rushing, respectively, and allowed a single rushing touchdown in each game.
For the 2020-2021 season, Garbers is back to lead the Bears, along with more returning starters than any other team in the conference. Plus, the Bears hired former Oregon quarterback and longtime NFL assistant coach Bill Musgrave as their new offensive coordinator, replacing Beau Baldwin, who now coaches at Who Cares University.
Along with home-field advantage, according to Cobb, all of these factors will give Cal the edge against the Ducks next year, who are looking to replace several NFL-caliber players on offense, including quarterback Justin Herbert (San Diego Chargers), Shane Lemieux (New York Giants) and Jake Hanson (Green Bay Packers).
What about Recruiting?
Since California head coach Justin Wilcox took the reins in 2017, the Bears have been unable to snag a five-star recruit (NOTE: Since 2016, the Bears have only received one verbal commitment from a five-star recruit — wide receiver Demetris Robertson — who later withdrew his commitment to play for the Georgia Bulldogs).
But the real bread-and-butter for Wilcox has been his army of three-star recruits. Since 2017, Wilcox has received commitments from 61 three-star players, including seven verbal commitments for the incoming ’21 class.
Over the same period of time, Oregon has signed three five-star recruits (Kayvon Thibodeaux, Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell) and 46 three-star recruits. With regards to four-star players, the Ducks out-recruited the Golden Bears, 44 to 11.
For the class of ’21, the Ducks have already received verbal commitments from four-star standouts Seven McGhee, Ty Thompson and Kyron Ware-Hudson, in addition to Lebanon High School star linebacker, Keith Brown.
Next year, Oregon will lose a lot of talent, especially upfront. However, there is a lot to be excited about, including the highly anticipated return of Outland Trophy winner and pancake block extraordinaire, Penei Sewell.
And between Tyler Shough and grad transfer Anthony Brown, the Ducks aren’t scrounging around an empty cupboard when it comes to replacing Herbert.
While Musgrave is an impressive hire for the Golden Bears, the Ducks are welcoming Joe Moorhead as their new offensive coordinator. Moorhead, a two-time National Offensive Coordinator of the Year, has more than 20 years of coaching experience and helped four teams win conference titles (Penn State – 2016, Fordham – 2014, Connecticut – 2010, and Akron – 2005).
Now, within the realm of all possible worlds, there is a small chance the Golden Bears could prove to be a challenge next year for the Ducks. And California fans probably recall a fairly close matchup between the Ducks and the Golden Bears last season (Oregon won, 17-7).
With Wilcox, Garbers and Musgrave, Cal is positioned to bring much more firepower to the league this time around. But it’s nothing Oregon’s top-rated defense can’t handle under second-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.
So, the Golden Bears winning the North and finishing 11-1? After a losing conference record in ’19? Against Thibodeaux, Flowe, N. Sewell, Jordon Scott, Brady Breeze, to name only a few?
Sorry Cobb, I just don’t see it. Perhaps a little Windex on that crystal ball, dude.
San Diego, California
Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline
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