A.W. Johnston: Tough question. I feel that a 7-5 season would extend my faith an additional year, but this season is much more than that. We have one of the most experienced team's in the Pac-12 and ignoring major questions at offensive line, we should compete in every game this year. 8-4 takes me to the level of entrusting Dykes going deep into the Cal football future.
atomsareenough: "Ensure trust... deep future..." Hmm, that's a pretty high bar. I think 10+ wins would almost certainly do it for me. If we're simply talking about "successful season", that's not quite as high a bar. Obviously it depends a bit on how the games go and the specific decisions that Coach Dykes makes over the course of the season, but I think 8 wins would be a good baseline for a successful season. Obviously, going to any sort of bowl game would be progress, but 6 wins and a bowl would not be enough for me at this point to be fully comfortable that Dykes and his staff are the guys to lead us to the promised land. Frankly, I think we should have gone to a bowl game last year. We had 3 chances to make it, and we didn't seal the deal, finishing off the year with an absolute clunker, replete with poor preparation, poor execution, and poor decision-making against BYU. This year our depth is so much better, we have a bonafide star and potential Heisman candidate at QB, the entire offense comes back, and we're way healthier, and honestly several of our opponents are probably going to take a small step back. Just going to a bowl game like we should have done last year won't impress me. So I think, barring some catastrophe like Goff getting injured, 6-7 wins would be minimally satisfactory, but not a successful season.
Pardon me if that sounds cranky, but it's not. I am optimistic about Dykes and I like our chances at 8 wins. He's done a lot to change the culture and fix the deep-seated problems within the program, and so I give him and the staff credit for the turnaround, and feel the results of the last couple of years were mostly explicable, but now things have improved enough that I think it's time for us to start having some standards and expectations to meet.
boomtho: I agree with atoms, there's a pretty wide gulf between "successful season" and "ensur[ing] trust in Sonny Dykes going into the deep future."
For the former, honestly, I'd say 7-5 with a solid non-conference or conference road win would suffice. Going bowling would show continued, clear progress, and likely allow Dykes another year at the helm in the interest of continuity. I'd probably be worried about a major step back if we lose Goff, but that's a nice problem to have I guess.
To the latter... that's much tougher. I want to say 9-10 wins, including victories over at least 2 of the following: Oregon, USC, UCLA, Texas, and Stanford. Plus, Dykes would have to pull in a top-30 recruiting class and make clear strides on the defensive side of the ball.
Nik Jam: We have to make a bowl game this year, of course. We also have to show clear improvement over last year. We can play with a much improved team and still lose a bunch of games because we have to deal with USC, Oregon, ASU, etc. but there has to be a sign that this team can turn the corner.
Underachieving, or a third straight awful defense cant be accepted and must result in a regime change.
Keegan Dresow: A winning record would be a great achievement given where the program was and the difficulty of the schedule. Even a one game breakthrough and a trip to a bowl would be an accomplishment, and would maintain positive momentum. More important than the record is looking closer at how the team is executing and how hard they are playing. There are so many variables that are beyond a coach's control that judging him solely based on his record is troublesome. It is possible for Cal to further close the gap on the top teams in the conference without winning those games, and such improvement should still be viewed as a major source of trust going into the future.
As a coach, I already respect and trust what Dykes has done. A major recruiting theme of his has been to value attitude, grit, and academic fit over pure talent. Building a team in such a fashion raises the likelihood of attaining a critical mass in the locker room that does not tolerate laziness or attitude problems, and this is essential to team building and long term success. The emphasis on academic fit should help player retention. The emphasis on execution over complexity increases the likelihood of consistent play game in and game out, year in and year out. Though I am obviously not in the meeting rooms or on the field to see these philosophies in action, I have trust in Dykes's system because I agree with those ideologies.
Berkelium97: Like atoms and boomtho said, there's a big difference between a successful season and ensuring my trust in Sonny Dykes for the deep future. I'll tackle the former: a successful season will build on last year's improvement and move us from the bottom of the middle of the Pac teams to the top half of the conference. Barring an unexpected turnaround on defense, we're not ready to challenge for the conference title, but moving us further up in the pecking order would be a successful season. That would probably be a 7-5 or 8-4 season.
Andrew G Miller: I agree with a lot of what's been said so far. There are too many factors to set an exact number of wins that would make me happy, first and foremost being the difficulty of the schedule. I'm more worried about passing the eye test of being a good team, because I think we have the talent to earn that label this year. That means reduced penalties, sound game management, getting the best talent on the field, no late-game blowups etc. Basically eliminating all those typical bonehead moments that seem to always plague Cal. I imagine that looks like seven plus wins if all those criteria are met, but I won't hold a couple of unlucky bounces against him if most of that goes according to plan.
TwistNHook: Ensure trust? I went to school starting in the late 90s. I was born in the Holmoecaust. Oh, you think the Cal's lack of football success is your ally, but you merely adopted it. I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn't see the football success until I was already a man.
KWBears: Making it to a bowl game, but not necessarily for the reasons that others have mentioned above. We haven't done it for a while now - getting 6 wins would surely mean we're on an upward trend. Having all those December practices and playing another game will help us out tremendously. Especially with a number of guys moving on after this season (either to the League or graduation), our young guys will need that additional practice and playing time that comes with a bowl game. Because until we get qualified for that bowl game, you can bet that Dykes will be riding his experienced guys for as long as he can in order to prevent his seat from getting hot in the offseason.