Cal football 2014 game-by-game predictions

Michael Tao/Senior Staff

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Aug. 30 @ Northwestern

Score: 31-17 Northwestern

A year ago, Cal football lost its first of 11 games to Northwestern. This season, the Bears will hit the road to kick off their season with a rematch against the Wildcats in Illinois. Unfortunately for Cal, this game will most likely end up very similar to last year’s.

Although Northwestern isn’t exactly an elite football team, it doesn’t have to be. When any team squares off against the Bears, it immediately looks a hundred times better. Cal will put some points on the board and keep the game in striking distance. Northwestern will score first and lead the whole way, Jared Goff will turn the ball over at least once or twice, and the Wildcats will be glad they got to kick off their season with an easy win.

Ritchie Lee

Sept. 6 vs. Sacramento State

Score: 31- 27 Cal

The one FCS opponent on the schedule, Sacramento State will likely provide Cal with one of its only victories of the year. The Bears’ one win last season came from a narrow 37-30 win over Portland State.

The Hornets finished the 2013 season with a 5-7 record and were blown out 55-0 by Pac-12 heavyweight Arizona State. At the helm is quarterback Garrett Safron, who enters the season with 6,223 career yards, second in Hornets history. If Cal manages a win here, it will have to come on the hands of its offense. Though Cal is vastly inferior to the Sun Devils (who had a 10-4 record), I see the Bears squeaking by the Hornets on a late touchdown drive.

— Michelle Lee

Sept. 20 @ Arizona

Score: 38-35 Cal

It’s going to be a bit of a rebuilding year for the Arizona offense. The Wildcats lost both their starting quarterback BJ Denker and starting running back Ka’Deem Carey to graduation and the NFL draft, respectively. Carey, in particular, will be a tough loss; the Heisman contender almost single-handedly saved Arizona from suffering an upset at Memorial Stadium, rushing for 160 yards as the Wildcats edged out a 33-28 win over the Bears.

This year, I see Cal actually pulling off the upset over a Carey-less Arizona squad. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez always seems to put a competitive product on the field, but it’s going to be difficult to replace Denker and Carey easily. While Arizona struggles to adapt to new offensive circumstances, the Bears will sneak into Tucson and pull out their second win of the year.

Michael Rosen

Sept. 27 vs. Colorado

Score: 29-27 Colorado

This will be intense. With a combined 1-17 record against Pac-12 teams last season, Colorado and Cal are the two worst teams in the conference. Both teams have close-to-nonexistent defenses, so it should be interesting to see which team can take advantage first.

The key to this game will be the quarterback matchup. Cal’s Jared Goff and Colorado’s Sefo Liufau are both young quarterbacks ready to improve on their freshman campaign. Although Goff threw for nearly twice as many yards as Liufau did last year, Liufau boasted a higher quarterback rating of 128.3, compared to Goff’s 123.2.

Last year, this game decided the worst team in the Pac-12, and the Bears emerged as losers. This year, this match will ride on which quarterback can develop faster and outplay the other.

Ritchie Lee

Oct. 4 @ Washington State

Score: 47-37 Washington State

This game likely won’t end very differently from last year’s match, when the Bears were blown out by the Cougars, 44-22. Goff threw for a program-record 504 yards, completing 33 of 59 passes. Cal, however, coughed up three fumbles to go along with two interceptions. If the Bears can limit their turnovers, this year’s meeting won’t be quite as disastrous as last season’s.

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday, who threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears, will most likely light up a struggling Cal secondary. Halliday set a WSU single-season record last year with 4597 passing yards, the second most in conference history.

On the other hand, Goff and his receivers won’t have much trouble scoring against the Cougars’ defense either, which finished third worst in the Pac-12 last season. The game will be high scoring and will depend on which secondary manages to surrender fewer huge plays.

— Michelle Lee

Oct. 11 vs. Washington

Score: 41-21 Washington

Just like Arizona, UW will be faced with the task of replacing its school-record-setting quarterback and running back. Unlike the Wildcats, the Huskies have enough talent in waiting that it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Quarterback Cyler Miles, despite his suspension, might be more talented than his predecessor, Keith Price. And on the other side of the ball, Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson are two of the conference’s best defensive players.

Luckily for the Bears, they’ll get the Huskies at home, but that slight advantage won’t be enough to overcome a UW squad considered by many to be among the country’s best. There will be fewer blowouts this year, but this might be a game that feels like a throwback to 2013.

Michael Rosen

Oct. 18 vs. UCLA

Score: 42-13 UCLA

This game will showcase one of the best teams in the Pac-12 against one of the worst teams. Brett Hundley will rip apart Cal’s secondary, while the Bears go three and out in the majority of their drives. For Bruins fans, the game will be laughable, while Cal fans will just want to forget it.

Although UCLA lost Anthony Barr, the school’s best defensive player, it should have very little trouble dismantling the Bears. Cal is still trying to figure things out and is entering the 2014 season with all kinds of question marks. On the other hand, the Bruins already have an established system and game plan. Hundley, a possible Heisman candidate, will likely be playing his final year of college and will use this game as an opportunity to pad his stats on his way to leading UCLA to a low-stress victory.

Ritchie Lee

Oct. 24 vs. Oregon (Levi’s Stadium)

Score: 44-17 Oregon

The inaugural collegiate football game at the newly built Levi’s Stadium will not be a pretty affair for Cal, who will be facing one of the most well-rounded teams in the FBS. The Ducks are led by one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the nation, redshirt junior Marcus Mariota, a likely top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft.

Cal’s defense, for all its problems, particularly struggles to contain dual-threat quarterbacks. Mariota, one of the best running signal-callers in the country, possesses great arm strength and accuracy while forcing defenses to account for his speed and athleticism.

Last year’s game at Oregon was one of the worst losses of the season. The Bears were dismantled, 55-16, and committed turnovers on five of their first six possessions of the game. Goff and company will have trouble putting points on the board against Oregon’s defense, ranked 13th overall in the country in scoring defense. I see an easy win for the Ducks, and the final score will depend on how many minutes Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich gives his backups.

— Michelle Lee

Nov. 1 @ Oregon State

Score: 45-34 Oregon State

The Cal football team has seen some dark days over the past two years but debatably none darker than its matchups with Oregon State. In 2012, the Beavers hammered the Bears, 62-14, in pouring rain to cap off a shocking 3-9 season, serving as the final nail in Jeff Tedford’s blue and gold coffin. In 2013, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion passed for nearly 500 yards in a 49-17 shellacking on Cal’s home turf.

To the Bears’ horror, Mannion returns in 2014 for his senior season, but the margin of defeat ought not to be quite so dramatic. I still think the Beavers will win — Mannion versus Cal’s secondary is a matchup that’s going to be difficult to overcome — but the Bears’ improved offense will keep it close until the last couple drives of the game.

Michael Rosen

Nov. 13 @ USC

Score: 49-28 USC

This game will most likely look like most of the team’s other games. The Bears will fall behind early and get blown out, and the Trojans will score at will, and a receiver from USC will probably end up having a career high in receiving yards.

Trojans fans are in store for a treat. USC defensive end Leonard Williams matched up against Cal’s shaky offensive line is a nightmare waiting to happen for offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who will watch helplessly as his quarterback gets constantly hit and knocked down. Like most quarterbacks who play against the Bears, USC’s Cody Kessler will look better than he actually is. His receivers will somehow be wide open every other play, and Kessler will get the day off early, as the fourth quarter will be pointless garbage time.

Ritchie Lee

Nov. 22 vs. Stanford

Score: 41-20 Stanford

The Bears concluded their 2013 campaign with a 63-13 loss to their rivals, the worst margin of defeat in the Big Game’s history. Cal’s defense was shredded by wideout Ty Montgomery, who had scored three touchdowns 8:02 into the first quarter.

Though they’ll be playing the Cardinal at home this year, the Bears won’t fare much better, especially against the 10th best scoring defense in college football. Stanford, which gave up a measly 19 points per game last season, will make life difficult for Cal’s offense. The Cardinal, one of three FBS teams to give up under 100 rushing yards per game in 2013, will force Cal to move the chains through the air, leaving yet another unbalanced offensive attack. The final score won’t be as unseemly as last year’s rout, but Stanford will have the game in the bag by the end of the third quarter.

— Michelle Lee

Nov. 29 vs. BYU

Score: 35-21 BYU

Cal fans like to make two types of jokes about their team’s defense. One involves the Bears never defending the tight end, and the other surmises that Cal can never stop a running quarterback. If that second joke holds true, their last game of the year (pending a Pac-12 championship or bowl appearance) is going to be a long and painful one.

BYU returns quarterback Taysom Hill, who racked 1344 rushing yards all by himself as a sophomore in 2013. Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will likely make a point to contain Hill, but that may come at the expense of the passing defense. Either way, it’s going to be a tough matchup for the Bears’ defense, and I see BYU winning pretty comfortably.

Michael Rosen

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