Over/Under 5.5 Wins () vs California Golden Bears ()Date : 09/01/2018
Time : First Game: North Carolina Tar Heels @ California Golden Bears 4:00 PM
Location : California Memorial Stadium
Pick, Prediction, & Preview:
Over/Under 5.5 Wins vs California Golden Bears
This current decade hasn’t gone as planned for the California Golden Bears football program as they have experienced 3 different coaches, 6 losing seasons, and only 2 bowl appearances but things are looking like they are trending upward for a struggling program. 2nd-year coach Justin Wilcox is looking to take the next step forward for the Golden Bears after having this team so close to the postseason last year as they lost 3 games by a combined 7 points in route to a 5-7 campaign. The offense has an opportunity to be one of the best in the Pac-12 considering they return all 11 starters and the experience should pay dividends for a unit that ranked 73rd in PPG last season. The defense took a big leap last season from the Sonny Dykes era as they improved their points allowed per game from 42.6 to 28.4 which is understandable considering Wilcox is a defensive guru. Although the defense was improved in 2017 they will have to fill in some key losses from their unit as the defensive front will be looking thin this season. Justin Wilcox has the advantage of recruiting successfully in his home state as California is arguably the deepest state in terms of football talent but the 2nd year head coach is still finding his way. California had an average 2018 recruiting class as they ranked 8th in the nation with two 4-star recruits signed, both of whom play offense.
Over/Under 5.5 Wins's Latest Performance :
The California Golden Bears missed out on a bowl game for the 2nd consecutive season last year and although they went 5-7 they lost to Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford by 3 points or less which could have been the difference to making the postseason in Wilcox first season. California returns a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball and with a defensive minded coach like Wilcox you can never doubt his side of the ball which is why oddsmakers have set the over/under at 5.5 wins.
Can Cal Break Through?
The California Golden Bears need a bowl appearance to rejuvenate this program and they may have the chance of doing that this season as there schedule is reasonable. The non-conference schedule for California should be an easy 3 wins as they will host UNC and FCS foe Idaho State and then travel to BYU who is coming off a 4-9 campaign. The conference schedule will be tough as usual but they will only need 3 wins to become bowl eligible (If they win non-conference games) which could come at home against UCLA and Colorado or even on the road where they will see Oregon State and Washington State. California will welcome in two of the best teams in the Pac-12 as Washington and Stanford will both travel to Berkley and if they can pull off an upset in either of those games it would be monumental for Wilcox and the Golden Bear program.
California Golden Bears's Latest Performance :
The problem with the Cal Bears last season was they were really inconsistent as they scored 7 points against Washington in week 6 but followed that up with a 38 point triumph over the 8th ranked Washington State. The one spot that Wilcox hopes improves this season is the quarterback position as redshirt junior Ross Bowers was problematic in keeping care of the ball after he threw 12 interceptions last year. Bowers beside the turnover problem was okay in his first season under Wilcox as he was still able to crack the 3,000-yard mark as he posted 3,039 while completing 59% of his passes. The running back depth took a major blow when Tre Watson transferred to Texas this past offseason but Wilcox still returns his top running back in Patrick Laird. The former walk-on exploded onto the scene in his first real season as the redshirt senior rushed for 1,127 yards and 8 TDs but he was also serviceable in the passing game as well as he caught 45 passes for 322 yards. The wide receiver unit should be strong this season despite the departure of their former 5-star receiver Demetris Robertson as they return the top 2 pass catchers from 2017 in Vic Wharton and Kanawai Noa. Redshirt senior Vic Wharton was Bowers top target out of the two playmakers as the 5’11 WR led the team with 871 yards and 5 TDs but that doesn’t take anything away from Noa who sat just behind Wharton with 788 yards and 4 TDs. Wilcox improved the defense in 2017 as he had his team in the top half of the Pac-12 in total defense but the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator is hoping they take an even bigger leap in 2018. The linebackers thrived the most out of any unit in Wilcox’s defense and they have potential to be even better this season considering they return their top tackler Jordan Kunaszyk (74) and the top pass rusher Alex Funches who had a team-high in TFL with 9.5. The improvement in the pass defense could be accredited to the young talent that resides in the secondary as they are led by sophomore corners Cam Bynum and Elijah Hicks. Bynum was the best DB for the Golden Bears last season as the California native led the team with 2 interceptions and 8 pass deflections, expect the redshirt sophomore to thrive once again in his 2nd year as a starter. The defensive line could be one of the weaknesses of the Golden Bear defense as although they return veterans at both the DT and DE spots there is not much production which could prove to be disastrous especially in the run game. The 2017 defense was the best unit for the California Golden Bears in 6 years and although they lost production at the defensive line spot I still expect defensive guru Justin Wilcox to improve the defense.
Player To Watch
Ross Bowers, QB, RS Jr.
The California Golden Bears offense was up and down at times last season but if they want to make their first bowl game under Justin Wilcox it will have to be generated from the QB position. Bowers often showed the potential to be a great QB as he threw for 363 yards and 4 TDs against UNC in week 1 but he also showed flashes of a bench worth QB especially against the best teams as he threw 4 interceptions against USC. Bowers has a great group of playmakers to throw at this season which could boost his stats by 1,000 yards or so and if he can keep his interceptions down he has potential to be a top 5 QB in the Pac-12. The success starts with the leader of the offense and Wilcox will ask a lot out of the redshirt junior.
How Over/Under 5.5 Wins & California Golden Bears Matchup.
Vegas Odds, Offshore Odds, & Odds ATS:
Over 5.5 Wins -120
Under 5.5 Wins – Even
In-Depth Analysis of each team:
9/1- UNC- W
9/8- @ BYU- W
9/15- Idaho State- W
9/29- Oregon- L
10/6- @ Arizona- L
10/13- UCLA- W
10/20- @ Oregon State- W
10/27- Washington- L
11/3- @ Washington State- L
11/10- @ USC- L
11/17- Stanford- L
11/24- Colorado- W
Overall Record: 6-6
Against The Spread Selection: Over 5.5 Wins -120
My reason for the pick :
The California Golden Bears won’t be a top team in the Pac-12 North but they will be a tough outing for the conference as they should be much improved in Justin Wilcox 2nd season as the head man. The offense was what truly held this team back from being a 7 win squad back in 2017 but with an experienced QB, a 1,000-yard rusher, and two 500+ yard pass catchers there is no doubt that they could be the most improved unit in the conference. California started 3-0 last season and they should do that once again but they need to make sure they don’t have a mid-season collapse if they want a shot at the postseason. Wilcox is one of the best young coaches in the game and I have full faith that he will make this program one to reckon with which is why I will take the over 5.5 win total for the Golden Bears.