Golden Nuggets: USA Today ranks the Bears as the 116th best team in the country in 2014

CalBearsOnline

Cal's attempts to follow up an ugly 2013 will be difficult thanks to a tough schedule and a developing team.

Heading into the cold and football-less days of summer, USA Today has embarked upon the daunting task of ranking all 128 FBS football teams. And we're... 116th. Well, that's just lovely.

USA Today contends our schedule is the toughest in nation, which shouldn't be anything new for the Bears after tackling an equally difficult line-up in 2013or at least making a futile dive at a pair of feet streaking towards the endzone in a move that vaguely resembles tackling.

Ten teams from a Big Five conference, nine reigning bowl teams, nine conference foes, eight teams coming off seven or more wins, seven teams coming off eight or more wins, four teams coming off 10 or more wins, four reigning Top 25 teams, four teams with title hopes, two teams with real title hopes.

Of all the schedules in all the landyes, even in the Southeast - California's is the hardest.

They identify the problems that will plague the Bears in 2014basically everything but the receiversas being the same that afflicted us in 2013. Huzzah, we all know just how well that turned out...

The article thinks that regardless of the fact QB Jared Goff will likely improve, the team may still struggle and it's imperative for Coach Sonny Dykes and the rest of the staff to maintain his confidence and keep him from blaming himself. They see a young offensive line that will struggle in the Pac-12, but will do a heck of a lot better with Jordan Rigsbee, Matt Cochran, andmost importantlycenter Chris Adcock anchoring the interior.

Defensively, new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has a proven track record for first-year turnarounds, but he's never faced a situation as dire as the one in Memorial.

So we embark on the greatest rebuilding project of Kaufman's career: Cal could trim its per-game total by 20% and still rank 90th in the FBS in yards allowed per game, according to last year's national averages, and enters 2014 without any sense of identity. The reason for optimism: Kaufman replaces Buh, giving the Bears a steady, unflappable hand at the tiller. The reasons for pessimism: Cal's line is a mess inside, is heavily reliant on one player for a pass rush, is youthful at linebacker and is grabbing at straws in the secondary.

Up front, the Bears are half-set at DE with the returning Brennan Scarlett, but the other side is a question mark. Defensive tackle is an even bigger question markand that's not just a reference to their sizesand running low on depth. Elsewhere on the defense, we've got young linebackers and a secondary that must improve.

We should be set at punter, but replacing the automatic Vincenzo D'Amato will be a rocky road.

The biggest position to watch is running back, which emphasizes the need to disprove the myth that Dykes is trying to install a pass-heavy air-raid offense.

One of the silliest misconceptions about Dykes' offense is that it ignores the running game. Totally incorrect. Dykes not only stresses the ground game but demands it for this offense to run at full capacity, as shown in simple terms at his previous stop: Louisiana Tech went 195 when rushing for 140 or more yards, 310 when not. It was largely tough sledding a season ago, though the Bears did find a groove late in the year; the offense averaged 144.2 yards per game from Washington through the finale, to little avail. Looking forward, Dykes is still searching for a thunder-and-lightning combination in the backfield, the sort of duo that can interplay hinging on the circumstancesone a big-play threat, the other a mudderand balance out a pass-heavy offense.

What do they predict as the dream and nightmare scenarios for the sturdy Golden Bear?

Dream season: The Bears go 30 in non-conference play and knock off Colorado and Oregon State to finish 57.

Nightmare season: Another 111 season, with that one win coming against Sacramento State.

Check out what the other Bear squads have been up to this weekend and let us know in the comments what your dream and nightmare seasons are for the Bears.

Along these same lines, SBN's Football Study Hall did a nation-wide prediction of S&P, a measure of offensive production; Cal is expected to be 82nd in the nation and among the five worst of major-conference schools.

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