Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Season grade: California
By Ted Miller
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.
Up next: California
Offense: The Bears averaged 419 yards and just under 30 points per game. That's not bad. But in their losses, they averaged 16.5 points. That's bad. They ranked fourth in the conference in rushing. That's good. They ranked ninth in passing efficiency. That's bad. They ranked second in the Pac-12 in red zone offense. But only 33 of those 54 red zone opportunities produced TDs, which is mediocre. The offense looked good the last two games of the regular season. It looked rotten in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas. Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones were a first-rate receiving combo, and Isi Sofele ranked 22nd in the nation with 1,322 yards rushing. The offensive line yielded only 22 sacks. QB Zach Maynard bounced back from a midseason slump to play well down the stretch. At least until the bowl game. In other words, there was good and there was bad with the Cal offense this year, which is not a new story in Berkeley. Nor was inconsistent QB play.
Defense: The Cal defense ranked first in the Pac-12 and 25th in the nation in total defense, and it was fourth in the conference and 48th in the nation in scoring defense. You can be sure that coordinator Clancy Pendergast would be glad to reverse those rankings -- scoring is really what a defense is all about -- but the numbers again say that the Bears played good defense in 2012. But not always. Oregon scored 22 in the third quarter alone and rolled up 563 yards. Arizona State rolled up 477 yards and 38 points, with a 4-1 turnover advantage saving Cal. LB Mychal Kendricks earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, DE Trevor Guyton had a nice year and LB D.J. Holt was quietly efficient. Further, lots of young guys played: This defense should be good next year, despite the loss of six starters.
Overall: We projected Cal ninth in the Pac-12 preseason power rankings, so a sixth-place finish means the Bears slightly exceeded our expectations. And, heading into the bowl season having won three of four -- the lone loss being a tight one against rival Stanford -- it seemed the Bears had pulled things together for a nice late-season surge. Then the Holiday Bowl happened, when the Bears got whipped by a mediocre Texas team 21-10, mostly because it lost the turnover battle 5-0. Just when it seemed like Cal had found its rhythm, it reminded everyone of its chronic inconsistency of the past few seasons. A win over Texas might have generated some momentum for a preseason top-25 ranking. Now that's not going to happen. The 2011 season produced reasons for hope in 2012. But it didn't do enough to change the general perception that coach Jeff Tedford will be on the hot seat in 2012.