2022 California Golden Bears Preview

by Matt Fargo

California Golden Bears

2021-22 Season Record 5-7 (4-5 Pac 12 North) - 7-5-0 ATS - 5-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 4
Defense - 5

Overview

California has won eight games only three times since 2009 and that has been the max so not much has gone right. Following only four games in 2020 with the program getting hit hard with COVID, 2021 was already at a disadvantage with limited playing time coming in despite 18 returning starters. Head coach Justin Wilcox has gone 26-28 in five seasons which is not terrible and it is a tough school to get blue chip players and the Golden Bears had the No. 60 recruiting class coming in this season. The cupboard is not totally bare but it is damn close as only nine starters are back which is the fewest in the Pac 12 so making a move in the North will be difficult. But good things could happen as this is a good coaching staff that can get the most out of their players as we saw in 2019 when the Golden Bears went 8-5 despite bringing back only 11 starters. A bowl game is a coin flip.

Offense

California had their best offensive season under Wilcox but that is not saying much as it averaged 386 ypg and 23.8 ppg, No. 75 and No. 97 respectively. With only four starters back, there does not seem like much hope to improve the unit but there are some newcomers that could make a difference right away. At the top of the list is quarterback Jack Plummer who transferred in from Purdue after losing his starting job last season which is a head scratcher after completing 68.5 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in four games but never got another chance. The top two receivers are gone but that might not be an issue with Plummer having not worked with anyone. Also gone is leading rusher Christopher Brooks but he had just 607 yards on the ground and the offensive line needs to be retooled so there will be a lot of moving parts early on.

Defense

The Golden Bears defense was better than the offense but not by much. They allowed 370.1 ypg which was No. 55 in the country although the scoring defense was better where they allowed 22.3 ppg, good for No. 35. They were very inconsistent though as they allowed 17 points or less five times and 32 points or more four times and a lot of those inconsistencies were due to poor third down defense where they were No. 120 and that needs to improve immensely. Like the offense, there are a lot of replacements but the returning players are proven playmakers that will have to step up even more. The pass rush will get better with a pair of solid defensive ends and a linebacking corps that is the strength of the unit. The secondary allowed too many big plays early in the season and settled down later albeit against some poor passing offenses. Expect improvements there.

2022 Season Outlook

Wilcox has not had a season worse than two games under .500 but has had only two winning seasons and the average runs from Jeff Tedford and Sonny Dykes eventually cost them their jobs so Wilcox has to figure out how to get more wins. It might take a bowl game to save his job even as respected as he is and for a young team, the schedule is ideal. The Golden Bears open with UC Davis of the FCS at home and then host UNLV before travelling to Notre Dame. California then opens Pac 12 play against Arizona at home and then has swing games against Washington St. and Colorado on the road, feasibly putting it at 5-1 if things go right. The second half is much tougher but they get Washington, Oregon and UCLA at home. The O/U win total is 5.5 and it has a solid shot at the over based on the schedule but any early slips and surpassing that total will be tough. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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