Football season is my favorite time of year — bar none. It’s a time when expectations run high and the possibilities are endless. People actually get excited for football games for the play on the field. Flash forward a few weeks and these epic expectations are belittled into things of the past.
For Cal fans, this could turn into a reality.
Playing against Grambling State is a wonderful way for the Bears to start the season. It will be a confidence boost, and Cal will feel on top of the world after a game against the Tigers. The Bears are playing at home against a team they outmatch in many areas of the field, especially with Cal’s offense.
The Bears will most likely win Saturday’s game. And everyone will be so excited about how great the offense looked against a defense so irrelevant that it’s hard to find any statistics on it at all. Clearly, Grambling State is not an opponent that is on the same level as Cal.
Also, Cal historically has done surprisingly well against teams on opening day at home. It has won 11 out of the last 13 home openers, including last season’s 55-14 demolishing of Sacramento State. The Bears have not only been successful at home but also gone 9-4 in season openers — look at last year’s 31-24 win at Northwestern. Weird stuff.
As mentioned above, a victory over Grambling State is deceptive because the Tigers are in the FCS. In their history, the Bears are 8-0 against teams in the FCS. Remember that season they went 1-11, just two years ago in Sonny Dykes’ first attempt as head coach?
That one win was against Portland State — an FCS team.
Now does Cal have more potential promise than it had in seasons past? Sure.
Junior quarterback Jared Goff will be exciting to watch, and he’s got some nice weapons, including senior wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Maurice Harris, who will certainly give him a lot of passing yards per game. Goff’s Heisman contention should not grow louder after this game. He will throw for a lot of yards, and most likely, he is going to put up a lot of points. But it is still much too early and too inferior of an opponent to really show what Goff has to offer this year.
Unfortunately for Cal, however, the defense is still mediocre, and that’s likely the way it will be for this team. Maybe that unit will be a surprise and be able to stop some people. Who knows? But my point is, Cal fans should not start talking about how great the defense is after the team faces the Tigers. That being said, the defense is a veteran group. There should be clear improvements from last season, even if it still struggles against Pac-12 teams. If there aren’t, there should be serious concerns for the season ahead.
Cal fans should, without a doubt, be excited for this season. This is the first time in a while that the Bears are getting national attention. Even if it is as a team that is predicted to “surprise” people in a very tough Pac-12, it’s still better than getting the other kind of attention, which the Bears have received in the past couple of years.
But people should keep their expectations in check. This is a defense that gave up 4,406 yards and 42 touchdowns a game. On average, the Bears gave up 367.2 passing yards per game — 70 yards more than the next team. And hopefully, Cal will get better. It should. The team is older and has more experience with the Dykes regime.
It will be an interesting season for sure, no matter what the results are. This first game will be an opportunity for Cal to show off exactly what it has or what it may be missing. So sit back and enjoy the show.
Just remember to keep your feet on the ground.
Alaina Getzenberg covers football. Contact her at [email protected]