The world of sports is full of hot takes. The Lakers will miss the playoffs, the A’s will win the World Series and Mike Trout won’t win AL MVP — these are a few of the hottest I’ve heard over the past several weeks. But there’s one hot take that has stuck with me in particular, and this one dates back to April.
Wrapping up Pac-12 Network’s coverage of the 2018 Cal football Spring Game, broadcaster Roxy Bernstein turned to analyst Yogi Roth for his thoughts on the Bears’ fall schedule and overall outlook.
“Not going to be surprised if they’re 7-0,” Roth said at the time.
Ignore what names are on the schedule and where games are being played — no matter what the circumstances are, a 7-0 start is difficult enough for the Alabamas and Clemsons of college football.
As for Cal? Even Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff couldn’t get to six wins before losing a perfect season as members of the blue and gold. From a pure statistical standpoint, it sounds like Roth is in a different universe than the rest of us.
But does he have a point? It’s no secret that this year’s squad of Bears is entering this season with a different attitude — one that defies logic and is in line with goals that shoot for the moon.
While quarterback Ross Bowers doesn’t have the projected upside that Goff had entering his second year under center, his development as a player and a leader has been evident from day one of fall camp. Furthermore, the lurking variable of South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain figures to be in full effect during goal line and short yardage situations, adding another dimension to offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin’s playbook. Meanwhile, the defense returns seven starters, all of whom have grown immensely after a year under Justin Wilcox’s 3-4 scheme.
One thing to consider about Roth’s on-air statement is that it came before the unexpected departure of star receiver Demetris Robertson, who bolted for Georgia during the summer after once being considered a top-5 receiver in the Pac-12. When spring practice breakout receiver Taariq Johnson left the team for undisclosed reasons, it became clear that the Bears’ depth chart had diverted from the original plan.
I don’t doubt that the Bears have the motivation and capability to pull off such a strong start, even without Robertson sprinting downfield every offensive snap. Bowers has discussed how much last season’s disappointment sticks with him, and starting running back Patrick Laird has reiterated that the team’s satisfaction extends well beyond a bowl game berth.
But in terms of what to (realistically) expect, BYU, Oregon, UCLA and Arizona all present exciting challenges against Cal, meaning that perhaps we should temper our expectations a bit. UNC and Idaho State at home and Oregon State on the road are the only games in those first seven in which I’ll bet my life on the Bears.
And if Cal can indeed rattle off seven straight wins to begin the 2018 season, I’ll personally tip my hat to Yogi Roth, calling it one of the most successful hot takes I’ve heard in recent memory.
“When you look at who teams play before they play Cal, they’re going to have a real chance to make some noise around the country for Justin Wilcox,” Roth concluded in his portion of the broadcast.
7-0? A bit far-fetched. 5-2? Now that wouldn’t surprise me.