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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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California's Stefan McClure, top, breaks up a pass intended for Portland State wide receiver Victor Dean (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Pac-12 football preview: Cal pins hopes on sophomore Goff

Of Pac-12 teams, ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura reports this week that Cal has the third-most former players in NFL camps right now, with 37.

Utah, by comparison, has 30. Washington State has 10.

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Twenty of Cal’s NFL players have three years of experience or less. So what gives? How is this a team that has lost 31 games in the last three seasons?

That’s the question Sonny Dykes has to answer.

Dykes said at Pac-12 Media Days last month that rather than overhaul the program, he’s made "a lot of screwdriver adjustments."

"We’re bigger. We’re stronger. We’re faster. We’re going to be a different-looking football team than we were last year," Dkyes said. But, "still not where we need to be."

Dykes said Cal has few seniors. On the offensive side of the ball, at least, there is cause for hope, and that starts with quarterback Jared Goff.

Goff passed for 3,508 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a true freshman, and will be surrounded by proven talent at wide receiver and a burgeoning group of speedy backs. Dykes said the emphasis this year with Goff will be on consistency.

"A lot of times last year, we threw him to the wolves a little bit," Dykes said. "We had to score a lot of points every game. I think he felt pressure to do that. I think you look at his performance last year, middle of the season, he kind of hit a period where he didn’t improve that much. Maybe he took a step backward."

This year will be all about steps forward. Dykes said the goal is simple: It’s not to win two games, or three games, or six games. It’s very simple now: Improve.

"You don’t circle five games and say we can win these games. ... At the end of the day, you try to play better and perform better and coach better."

2013 IN REVIEW » 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12

RETURNING STARTERS » 15 total (9 offense, 6 defense)

TOP RETURNING PLAYER » As a true freshman, Khalfani Muhammad led the Bears with 446 rushing yards on just 74 carries — a 6.0 average — and though he was No. 2 behind Daniel Lasco on the preseason depth chart, he figures to play a key role in the kick return, receiving (187 yards last year) and rushing games. And he might have entered fall camp the starter if he wasn’t busy running 10.55 in the 100 for the track team this spring.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK » Cal averaged 45.9 points per game last season. How do they stop the bleeding? That’s the problem new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman is charged with solving, and if he doesn’t, there may be a fourth defensive coordinator in four years, starting 2015. Dykes was asked at Pac-12 Media Days if he’ll pay more attention to defense after last year’s struggles: "I paid more attention to defense last year than I ever have before, so maybe I’ll pay less attention this year."

SCHEDULE OUTLOOK » Brutal. The problem with being Cal in the Pac-12 North, right now, is that you don’t get to play Cal. The Bears open as 11-point underdogs at Northwestern, and the only somewhat likely win on the schedule comes in Week 2, against Sacramento State. The season ends with a gauntlet of Washington, UCLA, Oregon, at Oregon State, at USC, Stanford and BYU. Even if they entered that stretch undefeated, they might miss a bowl game — and it is highly unlikely that they enter that stretch undefeated.

— Matthew Piper


Twitter: @matthew_piper

PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
» Can you top these UA football memes?
» Hansen: Arizona vs. Cal
» UA volleyball: Arizobal has keyed UA's success
» Transcript: Q&A on UA football with Daniel Berk

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» ASU football chat with Doug Haller
» Foster stable offensive force for ASU football
» Doug Haller's Week 3 Pac-12 power rankings
» Martinez overcomes tumor to become starter

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Jeff Tedford's recruits finding delayed success at Cal
» Sonny Dykes: Cal's confidence rooted in hard work
» Stanford, Cal 2015 football schedules announced
» Oakland Soldiers set tone for college basketball recruiting in Bay Area

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Speedy freshman Donovan Lee gives CU Buffs another playmaker
» Colorado coached to avoid coin-toss glitches, MacIntyre says
» Colorado's MacIntyre gratified Buffs practiced hard Monday
» CU Buffs tackle Jeromy Irwin might play vs. Hawaii after concussion

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks open up Autzen Stadium doors for Fan Fest: Photo gallery
» Washington State's aerial attack isn't the first challenge for Oregon Ducks corner Dior Mathis
» No concerns here about Oregon's defense, but Oregon State needs to clean up the penalties
» Tyson Alger and Andrew Greif on Oregon Ducks at Washington State Cougars: Audible (video)

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State roundup (Sept. 19)
» OSU men's basketball: Tinkle says positive steps being made
» Spencer to become new AD at Evansville
» BeaversSalute program gives tickets to military personnel and veterans

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Stanford coach David Shaw goes digging
» Cal, Stanford Pac-12 men's basketball schedules announced
» Local sports digest: Stanford's Maverick McNealy ties for medalist honors
» Local sports digest: Stanford sweeps Santa Clara

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Improving UCLA has questions to answer during preseason football camp
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA's prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play by NCAA after leaving Notre Dame
» Pac-12 Media Day: Eyes on Anthony Barr for UCLA's 2013 hopes

USC (Los Angeles Daily News)
» USC Football Notebook: Marqise Lee's injury not too serious
» USC Football Notebook: QBs Max Wittek, Cody Kessler present dilemma for Trojans coach Lane Kiffin
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel thinks Trojans might not miss QB Matt Barkley
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dion Bailey says it's 'now or never'

Washington (Seattle Times)
» Remember Joe Jarzynka? Huskies looking for a punt returner who can bust it
» Lorenzo Romar on Robert Upshaw, Ray Rice and starting Sept. 25
» WNBA playoffs most-viewed postseason since 2007, according to ESPN
» NFL draft analyst Rob Rang breaks down the Washington Huskies

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Chiefs ready for new season with new look
» Ewu sports chat Sept. 18 (noon)
» A big weekend is ahead
» Week four Pac-12 power rankings

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