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California head coach Sonny Dykes looks on against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Kragthorpe: Gary Andersen shrewd in avoiding Colorado, Cal

Instead of rebuilding Bears or Buffs, he’s challenging for BCS berth with Wisconsin Badgers.

First Published Oct 29 2013 02:21 pm • Last Updated Nov 05 2013 06:02 pm

Instead of having his Wisconsin team in position for a strong finish and a BCS invitation, former Utah State coach Gary Andersen could be enduring a miserable season at Colorado or California.

Or he could be in Logan, which is somewhere in between.

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Colorado and Cal both pursued Andersen last November, before hiring two other coaches from the Western Athletic Conference’s final season of football competition. Colorado’s Mike Mac-Intyre (San Jose State) and Cal’s Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) are trying to turn around their downtrodden programs, without much success so far.

The consolation is the Buffaloes and Bears will meet Nov. 16 in Boulder, likely resulting in the only Pac-12 victory for either team this season. Colorado has lost 12 straight conference games; Cal’s streak is 10 games.

Each team is playing a true freshman quarterback, with Jared Goff having started all season for Cal and Sefo Liufau taking over this month for Colorado. Cal ranks last in the conference in total defense (540.0) and Colorado is last in total offense (377.3).

Colorado claims the only FBS victory between the schools, having defeated Colorado State in a season opener. The Buffs (3-4) appear more respectable than the Bears, partly because a game with Charleston Southern that replaced a flood-postponed contest with Fresno State enabled them to play a second FCS opponent.

Colorado did compete favorably against Arizona for much of the game last weekend, only to fade in a 44-20 defeat. "You change three or four plays here or there, it’s a whole different ballgame," MacIntyre said.

Cal has done some good things offensively, but is being worn down by injuries and inexperience. The Bears are having to use many athletes who "aren’t, quite frankly, ready to play," Dykes said, describing the season as "one of those years that’s been tough to deal with."

From spring practice to now, Cal has lost at least seven defensive starters to injury. Of the 40 players signed in the classes of 2009 and ’10, only one is currently starting, Dykes said.

The struggles for these teams probably will continue Saturday, when Cal’s defense faces Arizona’s dynamic offense and Colorado visits an angry UCLA team that’s coming off losses at Stanford and Oregon.

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So life is unlikely to get better soon for the Buffs and Bears, but each team can anticipate that mid-November meeting with the other.

By moving to Colorado or Cal, Andersen would have faced a rebuilding job similar to the one he undertook at Utah State. Those prospects made staying in Logan attractive, until the Wisconsin vacancy surprisingly materialized. Andersen’s No. 22 Badgers (5-2) will host BYU next week.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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