Kodiak: First and foremost, I'd like to see a return to smart, competitive football. I know we're really young at key spots on offense and that the schedule is brutal. Going 6-6 wouldn't surprise me. I'd call that baseline neutral. Success would be 7 wins, a bowl game, and solid enough play to make me feel excited about next year. Great success would be 8+ wins because that would have to include a significant upset.
Failure would be to see more of the same. Penalties. Being out-coached. Coming out flat. No hint that the program is headed in a favorable direction.
Reclaiming the Axe is a wildcard modifier for me. I'd be willing to forgive fewer wins if we get it back.
TheScientist019: I'm very tempted to go along with Kodiak and say being bowl-eligible is a successful season, but it's very difficult to make such a quantitative assessment when there are so many variables; we haven't seen a single team take the field for the 2013 season, so it's a bit of a fool's errand to try to match up and count wins so early.
On the field, it is imperative that our team shows the drive and spirit to stay competitive. I'd like to say no more blowouts period, but (as much as I hate to concede this) that seems to be Oregon's M.O., so I might be a little forgiving if our beatdown is of comparable magnitude as their other victims.
Within the program, things seems to be successful already, though it's a little early to assess. The players seem enthusiastic about the new direction and it looks like there's a new importance placed on academics, which should have never been marginalized at UC Berkeley in the first place. For Dykes's first year to be a success, I'd like to see this continue, with recruiting focusing on kids who can compete in the classroom and demonstrate strong character to establish these are the kinds of players Dykes wants representing our school.
NorCalNick: If there is ever a year to use something other than wins and losses to define success, it would be this year. However, I think the culture and structure of college football is such that it's impossible to separate the two. In college football more than any other sport, perception is reality, at least in the minds of the fans.
Most years, you would expect Cal have two eminently winnable non-conference games, along with a few tomato can teams in the Pac-12, which meant bowl eligibility was an afterthought. But it's pretty easy to list 7 games Cal might hypothetically lose next year: Northwestern, Ohio State, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona and/or Washington . . . plenty of digital ink has already been spilled about what a challenging schedule Sonny Dykes inherited, and it shouldn't be discounted.
So yeah. Bowl eligibility would mean that Cal presumably beat the teams they should beat based just purely on talent, and also won those coin flip games, or pulled a few upsets. Unfortunately, a bowl game would mean at least a three win improvement from last year, which is pretty sizeable. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Cal reaches a bowl and the year doesn't feel like a success.
Kodiak's point about the Axe is a good one. Another easy way for Dykes to build favor without a big win total would be to end USC's hex. Rivalry wins go a long way.
I think a somewhat realistic best case scenario would be a season very similar to what Jeff Tedford pulled off in 2002.
Cal Football: 100 Days Until Kickoff (via calathletics)
BlueandGold15: If we could get to a bowl game, I would most likely mark that down as a success. For the team to swing six wins with a schedule like the one we are facing? It would be hard to get disappointed about that, unless we blew leads in most of the other six games, or something. Depending on how the team competes in its losses, I could even be happy with 5-7.
The baseline for failure, however, is pretty much what everyone else talked about already - if we see an unmotivated, undisciplined and unimaginative squad like the ones that marked Tedford's last few years, and only manage to win 3 or 4 games, Sonny would have his work cut out for him in 2014, when expectations will be much higher. Coach Dykes has already done good work in changing the culture around the program itself, making PR appearances basically everywhere you can think of in order to sell the Cal brand - but that new "brand" has to show up on the field, in some capacity.
atomsareenough: Like Kodiak says, I want to see us play up to our abilities. I don't want to see sloppiness and stupid mistakes. I want to see a fundamentally sound team that executes well. I'm not expecting to see it immediately with all the offseason changes, but I do expect to see improvement on that score every single week. I also want to see consistent effort. I understand there's a human element to it, and it's psychologically difficult to weather a rough season like last year, especially with all the injuries and bad luck... But that doesn't excuse lack of effort. The Bear is not supposed to quit. The Bear is not supposed to roll over and die. The way we simply gave up against Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State last year was pretty hard to stomach. If we get outplayed by a better team, and lose despite a valiant effort, I can accept that any day. I expect us to compete until the end, though.
As far as wins and losses go, and a baseline for "success"... I'd say if we make a bowl game, with the tough schedule we have this year and the first year of the new system, that's an unqualified success. If we just miss out on a bowl game, I'll wait and see how we played before I label it a failure. Norcalnick listed some potential losses, and I won't argue the point that we could definitely lose any of those, but at the same time some of those games also could go our way. Let's try it the other way around. We only need 6 potential wins for a bowl game, so let's see: Portland State, @Colorado, Washington State, Arizona, @Washington, and either Northwestern or USC. That seems pretty doable to me, and none of those would require upsetting a top-10 team or anything. Let's remember that USC went 7-6 last year; they're hardly the juggernaut we're used to seeing.
Anyway, bowl game aside, if we win a even one of the marquee games that we're not favored in (Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford), that would certainly make me feel a little better. Washington of course isn't a marquee game but I want to see us win that one as well.
So what do you think? What is your benchmark for success for Cal Football in 2013?