The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 51: California
Coach: Jeff Tedford (79-48, 11th season)
2011 record: 7-6 (4-5 in Pac-12 Conference, fourth in the North Division)
Look back: After 10 seasons at the helm of the Golden Bears program, Tedford is starting to feel the heat ever so slightly. In 2010, Cal finished 5-7 and followed it up with a 7-6 record in 2011, its worst season since 2007. The team spent all of last season playing its home games at AT&T Park while work was being done on Memorial Stadium.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Defensive starters lost/returning: 6/6
Key losses: WR Marvin Jones, P Bryan Anger, PK Giorgio Tavecchio, LB Mychal Kendricks, DL Trevor Guyton
Top returnees: QB Zach Maynard, RB Isi Sofele, WR Keenan Allen, DL Aaron Tipoti, LB Chris McCain
Strengths: Quarterback Zach Maynard struggled early on before finally settling down midway through the season. He finished with 2,990 yards and 17 touchdown passes and should see those numbers improve in 2012 – his second as a starter. Joining Maynard in the backfield is Isi Sofele, who surprised many critics last season when he rushed for over 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns. His presence provides Cal with a solid one-two punch on offense. Keenan Allen was a standout at wide receiver last season but the loss of Marvin Jones and Michael Calvin means that the team needs to find another option at wide receiver.
Weaknesses: For the second straight season, Cal finished the year with one of the top defenses in the Pac-12. This year’s squad loses six starters from that unit including the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year, Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks led the team in tackles (107) and tackles for loss (14.5). The squad does return key components from the secondary including defensive backs Marc Anthony, Josh Hill and Steve Williams. The three combined for 131 tackles and five interceptions on the season. Special teams needs major rebuilding with the losses of punter Bryan Anger and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. Also finding a replacement for returner Marvin Jones will be crucial.
Outlook: While Tedford may not be on the full-blown Hot Seat, he is starting to hear the grumbles from Cal fans looking for a little bit more from this team. Especially considering this program hasn’t won a bowl games since 2008. Expectations should be high for the season opener against Nevada in the renovated Memorial Stadium.
Sept. 1 Nevada
Sept. 8 Southern Utah
Sept. 15 at Ohio State
Sept. 22 at USC
Sept. 29 Arizona State
Oct. 6 UCLA
Oct. 13 at Washington State
Oct. 20 Stanford
Oct. 27 at Utah
Nov. 2 Washington
Nov. 10 Oregon
Nov. 17 at Oregon State