In just two days, UCLA takes on it’s older brother from the north. Unlike UCLA, Cal is not the favorite sibling in the family. The Bruins are 4-1, while the Golden Bears are just 1-4. Right now we’ll take a look at the reason Cal has struggled. Yesterday, we discussed the problems they have defensively. Today, we’ll expose their biggest flaws offensively, because that’s what younger brothers do, right?
Up front, the Golden Bears have struggled mightily to protect the quarterback. Despite returning three of the five starters from last season’s O-line, Cal’s front line couldn’t stop an average Pop Warner D-line right now. They gave up seven sacks to Arizona State one week ago, and have given up 20 sacks in the last three games. Any hopes of slowing down Anthony Barr, Damien Holmes, and the rest of the Bruins pass rush attack may just be a Golden Bear dream.
At Quarterback, Zach Maynard is the man, and Cal fans aren’t too happy about it. Maynard struggled early last season, but came on fairly strong at the end of the year. He solidified his position in spring and summer camp, but has struggled when it matters in fall. Maynard is completing just 57% of his passes and is 81st in the country in passing yards per game. Despite throwing the ball just over 30 times a game, he only has 5 touchdowns on the season. For comparison, Brett Hundley has over twice as many touchdowns(11), with just 5 more attempts per game. Last season, Maynard really struggled protecting the ball. He threw 10 interceptions in his first 8 games. This season, he has protected the ball a bit better, but still thrown four interceptions in five games. The problem is, even if you aren’t throwing touchdowns, you need to move the ball. He hasn’t done that. The California offense is 80th in points scored in the country.
Despite having a terrible offensive line and not much of a passing threat, Cal is able to run the ball at a respectable rate. They are 55th in the country in rushing, averaging 172 yards per game. The workhorse out of the backfield is isi Sofele. The Senior back rushed for over 1,300 yards last season. Thus far in 2012, he averages 5 yards per carry and has found the endzone twice. The problem for Sofele is, he isn’t getting the ball enough. He is averaging just 13.5 carries per game. If the Bruins can get an early lead, they may be able to neutralize Sofele, as offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik often neglects the run if they trail early.
The strength of the Golden Bear offense is one player: Keenan Allen. Allen, who is one of the best receivers in the entire country, is dangerous. He averages almost 7 catches per game and 12 yards per catch. Allen, a junior, is 6-3 210 pounds and runs like the wind. He is elusive after the catch and has good hands. Last season, Allen had 1,343 receiving yards to lead the Bears. This year, he has been neutralized a bit so far due to more attention. If Allen gets single coverage, his half-brother Maynard will look for him all game. If he gets bracket coverage and multiple looks, someone else will need to step up. Other receivers who are yet to show a whole lot are the trio of freshmen Bryce Treggs, Darius Powe, and Chris Harper.