The 1-8 Cal Bears may not present the most daunting challenge to USC this season, but the Trojan defense has been vulnerable to the spread offense over the years so this week does offer a potentially interesting challenge. Cal’s passing offense ranks eighth in the nation and, despite a rushing offense that ranks 110th, the Bears are 34th in total offense. However, they also rank 84th nationally in passing efficiency, a number which takes into account yards, touchdowns, completions and interceptions versus attempts. That likely explains their 93rd rated scoring offense, which is also worst in the Pac-12.
True freshman Jared Goff leads the Cal youthful offense. The 6-4 Goff won the offseason quarterback competition over redshirt Zach Kline and has had ups and downs this season against a tough schedule. In Sonny Dyke’s “Bear Raid” offense, Goff has thrown the ball — a lot. His 416 attempts are behind only Connor Halliday and Sean Mannion of Washington State and Oregon State respectively. That’s 46.2 attempts per game. He’s completing a solid 60.1% of those passes on his way to 2,861 yards. However, his nine interceptions this season is third worst in the conference.
At receiver, the Bears rely on sophomores Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs. With an identical 61 receptions each, the pair have combined for 1,462 yards and six touchdowns. Harper is a deep threat with six catches of 40 or more yards this season. Freshman Kenny Lawler had a break out game last week, nabbing the first three touchdowns of his career against Arizona. Junior Richard Rodgers rounds out the group with 463 yards this season. Harper and Treggs are both on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.
The Bears don’t have much to boast about in the traditional running game. Sophomore Daniel Lasco and junior Brendan Bigelow are tied as leading rushers with 284 yards, though Lasco missed two games due to injury. Bigelow has yet to score a touchdown, while Lasco has posted two. Khalfani Muhammad is a true freshman who does most of his damage in the all-purpose category. Muhammad is 15th nationally with 146 all-purpose yards per game. Having said that, he has yet to eclipse 100 yards this season on the ground. Current starter Darren Ervin, a redshirt sophomore, has emerged in the past three games with a total of 104 yards on 29 carries.
On the offensive line, Cal features three freshman, one sophomore and one junior, so it isn’t that much of a surprise that they have given up the most sacks in the Pac-12 this season. They’ve also conceded a whooping 68 tackles for loss. At the very least, Jordan Rigsbee was named to Phil Steele’s Midseason All-Pac-12 Third-Team.
Projected Starting Lineup:
X #1 Bryce Treggs
H #5 Brendan Bigelow
LT #76 Christian Okafor
LG #66 Chris Borrayo
C #73 Jordan Rigsbee
RT #64 Steven Moore
Y #11 Richard Rodgers
Z #4 Kenny Lawler
QB #16 Jared Goff
RB #34 Darren Ervin
BONE #44 Lucus Gingold
Check out our preview of the Bear defense.