California (3-1) is coming off of back to back games and it is looking like it is going to be another this weekend. The Golden Bears are a lot like the Cougars on the offensive side of the ball and are in stride this season after finishing last year with just 1 win, a 7-point victory over Portland State.
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California has struggled against PAC-12 opponents this season as they both have been games that came down to the final play. They have been on both sides of the close game as they took a loss to Arizona on a last second hail mary to end regulation 2 weeks ago and again last weekend when they won by a field goal in double OT.
So, who are the Golden Bears?
With 47.5 points per game and 366 yards through the air the Bears have scored 45 or more in 3 of their games this season. Their 47.5 points a game is good enough for 5th in the nation while their passing game is ranked 7th. Their offense is lead behind the arm of Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff and the legs of Daniel Lasco.
Goff has been great this season as he has 1,348 yards on 80-128 passing and has 17 touchdowns while only throwing 3 interceptions. Outside of the pocket Goff really has nothing to show and has negative-24 yards on 13 attempts this season. He is a very accurate passer and is the type of quarterback who has the ability to make really big plays at any given time.
Goff has many different targets as 6 of his 13 receivers have more than 100 yards with 1 more receiver being just under that at 95 yards. Trevor Davis leads the team with 220 yards on 12 receptions and 1 touchdown. Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler are the only ones along with Davis to have more than 10 receptions. Treggs is second on the team with 192 yards on 12 receptions and 3 touchdowns. Harper is 4th on the team in yards with 184 and 3 touchdowns as well. Lawler leads the team in both receptions and touchdowns with 13 catches for 160 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Nine different players have hauled in a reception for a touchdown this season as well. Darius Powe (9 receptions – 188 yards) , Lasco (4 receptions – 109 yards), and Lucas Gingold (1 reception – 5 yards) all have 1 touchdown while Stephen Anderson (9 catches – 179 yards) has two.
Daniel Lasco has been the main go-to guy on the ground and has rushed for 347 yards on 55 carries and has 2 touchdowns as well. Khalfani Muhammad is second on the team with 169 yards on 36 carries and has 4 touchdowns. Luke Rubenzer is the third back with 90 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown as well.
The offensive line for the Golden Bears has allowed 7 sacks on the season after giving up 35 last season. The good thing for the Bears is that they are returning most of their lineman and are experienced enough up front to give Goff the protection he needs.
The California defense has had their ups and downs this season. Not only have they allowed the 107th most points this season (35.8) but they also came through in a double OT game to stop Colorado to help them win by a field goal.
The main fault to them this season is the amount of points they are allowing. Against Arizona they gave up 49 points and the following week they gave up 56 to Colorado. The amount of total points that could be scored in this weekends game is up in the 70’s and 80’s.
Linebackers Jalen Jefferson and Michael Barton lead the team with 29 and 28 total tackles. The rest of the top-5 is filled by defensive backs; Griffin Piatt (24), Cameron Walker (23), and Michael Lowe (22).
Piatt leads the team with 3 interceptions that were returned for 7 yards. Avery Sebastian, Jake Kearney, and Jefferson all have an interception as well this season as well. Jefferson is an all-around type of player as he is third on the team with 1 sack. Jefferson is one of two linebackers to record a sack – Devante Downs also has a sack. Defensive lineman Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett lead the team with 2 sacks. Mustafa Jalil and Puka Lopa finish out the group with a sack.
The defense has been a big issue for the Bears over the past few years and they are looking to turn that around. Last season, when Washington State went down to California, the Cougars were able to put up 44 points while Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards on 41 of 67 passing and 3 touchdowns.
With a new defensive coordinator and 6 returning starters there should be a lot changed for the Bears and the passing game should not be that open for Halliday.