Pac 12

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#76 California Golden Bears

NATIONAL FORECAST

#76

Pac-12 North PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Sonny Dykes, 1-11 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tony Franklin | DEF. COORDINATOR: Art Kaufman

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 76 California.

Previewing California’s Offense for 2014:

Jared Goff’s freshman season began last fall with a 450-yard passing performance against Northwestern and ended with a shoulder separation against Stanford. In between, Goff set school records for most yards in a game (504) and a season (3,508) in the fast-paced, no-huddle offense. The Bears expect him to be more efficient and have a better command of the offense this fall.

Fully healthy by spring, Goff will only thrive if the running game comes alive. After averaging just 122.2 yards per game, the Bears seek better balance. “When they’re rockin’ and rollin’ it’ll make everything happen easier,” Goff says of the Bears’ running backs.

Fast but undersized sophomore Khalfani Muhammad and injury-plagued junior Daniel Lasco will get first shot at the tailback spot, but freshman Tre Watson, who rushed for 3,434 yards and 48 touchdowns as a high school senior, will get a look. The Bears’ deepest group is receiver, where juniors Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs combined for 147 receptions last season, but only six TDs. 

It will only click if the experience gained by a young O-line translates into a more productive unit this season. Eight returnees, led by center Jordan Rigsbee and left tackle Steven Moore, combined for 51 starts on the line last season.

Previewing California’s Defense for 2014: 

Stripped of five would-be starters, who missed most or all of the season because of injuries, the Bears were helpless on defense last season. They allowed 45.9 points per game — worst in school history — prompting three changes on the defensive coaching staff. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman brings a simplified system that will include more blitzing and more man-to-man coverage in the secondary. “This year communication is a lot better,” linebacker Jalen Jefferson says. “Guys feel confident out there. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Defensive line remains perhaps the biggest question mark on the team after the departure of players who accounted for 37 of 48 starts. Two key players are end Brennan Scarlett and tackle Mustafa Jalil, former top-10 national recruits at their positions who were both sidelined last season by injuries. Scarlett, moved from outside linebacker to utilize his pass-rush abilities, “can be a dominant player,” coach Sonny Dykes says.

Also back after a year on the shelf are safeties Avery Sebastian (Achilles) and Stefan McClure (knee), anchoring a secondary that allowed 32 touchdown passes last season.

Previewing California’s Specialists for 2014:

The Bears’ special teams hit rock bottom in a 62–28 home loss to USC in which the Trojans returned two punts for touchdowns and a blocked punt for a third. Punter Cole Leininger actually had a solid sophomore season, averaging nearly 43 yards per kick. Sophomore Noah Beito will try to replace departed senior Vincenzo D’Amato, who converted 17-of-20 field goals.

Final Analysis

The Golden Bears are starting from an unfamiliar place — the bottom. Dykes’ debut season in Berkeley was a disaster in every way, and the new regime still is looking for its first victory over an FBS team. The Bears should be deeper and more experienced, and Dykes saw a new resolve during spring ball.

“That’s been the most impressive thing, their mentality,” Dykes says. “They’ve moved on.” Adds running back Muhammad: “A season like that, it hurts. It hurt every game. It’s a new year. We all come in here with a lot of confidence.” 

Still, there are more questions than answers, and victories are hard to find on a schedule featuring the steadily improving Pac-12 and non-conference games against Northwestern and BYU. How much improvement shows in the standings remains to be seen.

Acknowledged Dykes: “We’re a work in progress.”




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#71 Colorado Buffaloes

NATIONAL FORECAST

#71

Pac-12 South PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Mike MacIntyre, 4-8 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Lindgren | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kent Baer

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 71 Colorado

Previewing Colorado’s Offense for 2014:

Sophomore Sefo Liufau will be the opening-day starter at quarterback barring a dramatic drop-off in performance in fall camp. There is no other QB on the roster who has even taken a snap in a college game at the FBS level. Sophomore Jordan Gehrke will likely be the backup. Gehrke played well at the junior college level during the 2012 season. True freshman Cade Apsay will compete for playing time when he arrives in the summer, but he’s likely ticketed for a redshirt season.

Christian Powell led the team in rushing the past two seasons and could do so again in his junior year, but he might have a hard time fighting off sophomore Michael Adkins II, who averaged more than five yards a carry and led the team with six rushing touchdowns last season. The Buffs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and 120.8 yards per game on the ground last fall.

Junior wide receiver Nelson Spruce was second on the team in receiving last season after leading it in 2012. Redshirt freshman Bryce Bobo had a big spring and is the likely starter opposite Spruce, with senior D.D. Goodson, sophomore Devin Ross and speedy freshman Shay Fields likely to get opportunities in the slot. CU also should be improved at tight end, with sophomore Sean Irwin poised to move into a starting role. 

The talent is there at the skill positions, but those players are only going to be as effective as the offensive line allows them to be. There could be as many as three new starters.

Previewing Colorado’s Defense for 2014:

The Buffs have struggled big time on defense since joining the Pac-12, but they have pieces in place for improvement.

Tackle Josh Tupou, an all-conference-caliber player, will anchor the defensive line. The Buffs are young at end, especially if Samson Kafovalu isn’t available (due to academics). If Kafovalu can’t go, Jimmie Gilbert would be the most experienced end on the roster after playing 261 snaps as a true freshman last season.

Sophomore middle linebacker Addison Gillam, who led the team in tackles as a true freshman last season, will be joined by Woodson Greer and Kenneth Olugbode in the starting lineup, giving the team much more speed at linebacker than it has had in the recent past.

Second-year coach Mike MacIntyre returned to his roots by working with the cornerbacks during spring drills and may continue to do so during the season. His secondary is loaded with depth. Greg Henderson is the best corner on the team entering his senior season. That leaves potential starters Chidobe Awuzie, Kenneth Crawley and Ahkello Witherspoon fighting for two jobs — the other cornerback spot and the nickel back. The starting safeties should be senior Jered Bell and sophomore Tedric Thompson, but they have plenty of competition, too.

Previewing Colorado’s Specialists for 2014:

This can accurately be described as an area of strength. Punter Darragh O’Neill and placekicker Will Oliver are entering their senior seasons and will be four-year starters. O’Neill, who can punt with either foot, set a school record with 22 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. Oliver has been dependable throughout his career, though he hit a rough patch for a stretch last season.

Final Analysis

The depth and talent are improving in Boulder under MacIntyre. But the program is still in rebuilding mode. The Buffaloes have won a combined four Pac-12 games in their three seasons in the league, including one win in each of the past two years. Last season, the Buffs’ average margin of defeat in their eight conference losses was 29 points. More wins would be nice, but simply being competitive on a consistent basis would show progress in the short term.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#45 Arizona Wildcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#45

Pac-12 South PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Rich Rodriguez, 16-10 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Calvin Magee, Rod Smith | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Casteel

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 45 Arizona.

Previewing Arizona’s Offense for 2014:

In a sense, it is Groundhog Day at Arizona. After getting remarkable production from one-year quarterback starters Matt Scott in 2012 and B.J. Denker in 2013, coach Rich Rodriguez will open with his third QB in three years. Next in line is USC washout Jesse Scroggins, who is in his fifth year of college football. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, a four-time state champion from Las Vegas, challenged strongly for the No. 1 job in spring camp.

Two-time consensus All-America tailback Ka’Deem Carey — who became Arizona’s first Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year — left for the NFL after his junior season. A mix of four young players, including Zach Green, Nick Wilson and Jonathan Haden — none with a college carry — could share the tailback job.

Six players are in the receiving rotation, all of them starter-quality. Senior Austin Hill, who missed 2013 after undergoing knee surgery, caught 81 passes a year earlier and is the dean of the group. DaVonte’ Neal, a transfer from Notre Dame and two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, has game-changing explosiveness and will be difficult to keep off the field. Cayleb Jones, a transfer from Texas, who has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver.

Four offensive line starters return, including three-year starting tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. Both have been durable and effective in Rodriguez’s fast-paced scheme.

Previewing Arizona’s Defense for 2014: 

The defensive line is troublesome and thin. Sophomore Dwight Melvin, with no career starts and little playing time, is the leading candidate to open at nose guard. The defensive ends are capable, if not standouts. Seniors Dan Pettinato and Reggie Gilbert aren’t skilled pass-rushers, which is what Arizona’s defense lacks. The Wildcats added LSU transfer Jordan Allen after spring practice. The former four-star recruit is an end but might be able to slide inside and play nose guard as well.

Sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright started 12 games as a true freshman and made 83 tackles, fourth-best on the club. He will now be a leader on the defense. The rest of the linebacking crew will need introductions. Sophomores DeAndre’ Miller, Derrick Turituri and Jake Matthews are challenging for full-time jobs. Incoming freshman linebacker Jamardre Cobb is one of the school’s top recruits.

Arizona cut its points allowed from 35 per game in Rodriguez’s first year to 24 last year, and most of the secondary players partially responsible for that performance return. Safety Jared Tevis isn’t blessed with NFL size and speed, but he’s an effective college player. Three-year starting cornerback Jonathan McKnight is a possible all-conference back, and hybrid linebacker/safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant will be starting for the fourth season. Arizona won’t be shy to use its bench.

Previewing Arizona’s Specialists for 2014:

Junior punter Drew Riggleman averaged 40.1 yards in his first year as a starter, but incoming kicker Josh Pollack is expected to challenge for the job immediately. The placekicking job is a mystery. Junior Casey Skowron ended spring drills on top of the depth chart, but he hasn’t kicked in a Pac-12 game. The return game, which has been a problem for Arizona in the Rodriguez years, should improve significantly.

Final Analysis

Rodriguez has twin 8–5 seasons in two years at Arizona, and he has more Pac-12-ready players on the roster for Year 3. The uncertainty at quarterback hovers over the entire operation, but the strengths at receiver and on the offensive line create an optimistic feeling about another winning season. The Wildcats are faster and deeper on defense. The schedule — four winnable games to open the season — sets up favorably.




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