CAL VS. ARIZONA at Berkeley, Saturday, Nov. 2, 12:30 p.m..
TV: Pac-12 Networks Bay Area
Cal's goals for the season been reduced to this: The Bears would like to be competitive in a conference game.
Not only have the Bears (1-7) lost six straight games, eliminating them from postseason possibilities with four games still remaining, but they are 0-5 in the Pac-12, with none of the conference games closer than 22 points.
At the moment, winning a conference game might be a bit much to ask of Cal, which would simply like to stay close.
Cal would need to get some breaks and have things fall into place to be competitive in its Nov. 2 home game against Arizona (5-2).
The Wildcats have won two in a row and are still in contention for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. They have the nation's leading rusher in Ka'Deem Carey, who is averaging 153.3 yards per game. That is not a good sign for a Cal defense that yielded 241 rushing yards to Washington's Bishop Sankey in the Huskies' 41-17 victory over Cal on Oct. 26.
Arizona does not have much of a passing game, so Cal can load up to try to stop the run. But the Wildcats' spread option offense will create gaps and is likely to lead to mistakes by the Bears' inexperienced defenders.
Although the Cal defense is beset with injuries and has not held any FBS opponent under 37 points this season, a bigger concern for coach Sonny Dykes is his offense.
He was brought to Cal to put life in the Bears' attack. His Louisiana Tech team led the nation in scoring and total offense last season. But Cal ranks 94th in the nation in scoring, averaging 22.9 points overall and just 16.4 points in conference games.
There were indications early in the season that Cal might be able to put up a lot of points, as it scored 30 points in the opener against Northwestern and 34 in the third game against Ohio State. But the Bears have done little on offense the past three games.
Dykes has twice threatened to replace true freshman Jared Goff as the starting quarterback, but has stayed with him for all eight games. Goff will remain the starter, but he will have his hands full against Arizona, which has one of the nation's best pass defenses.
With Cal having virtually no running threat, the burden of producing offense rests with Goff, who still ranks ninth in the nation in passing yards per game but has been unable to get the Bears into the end zone often enough.
Coach Sonny Dykes shuffled his offensive line against Washington, inserting several younger players, with mixed results. The Bears are scheduled to start true freshmen at quarterback (Goff) and running back (Khalfani Muhammad) and could have as many as four freshmen on the offensive line.
With games against USC, Colorado and Stanford remaining after the Arizona game, the Bears are simply hoping to avoid becoming the first team since 2009 to go winless in the Pac-12/Pac-10. The big one may be the Nov. 16 road game against Colorado, which is also winless in Pac-12 competition.
CAL PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Jared Goff - Goff, a true freshman, retained the starting job despite having to compete with Zach Kline for the starting job in the days leading up to the Oct. 26 game against Washington. He is the key to Sonny Dykes' pass-happy spread offense, and Cal keeps hoping things will begin to click for him at some point. He showed promise early in the season, but he has not been as effective lately. Deficiencies in the offensive line and the lack of a running game have added to the problems for Goff.
--WRs Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs -- The two sophomores each had more than 90 receiving yards in the Oct. 26 loss to Washington, and they are most productive players on the team. Harper has 58 catches for 796 yards and five touchdowns, and Treggs has 54 receptions for 591 yards and one touchdown.
--NT Deandre Coleman - Coleman is Cal's best defensive player, and he has 7.5 tackles for loss. For Cal to have any chance of slowing down Arizona's running game, Coleman needs to get penetration and create problems in the backfield. He is capable of forcing Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker into some mistakes.
SERIES HISTORY: Cal has a 14-14-2 record against Arizona in the series. The teams have not met since 2010, when Arizona won 10-9. Cal last beat Arizona in 2009 and has not lost to the Wildcats in Berkeley since 2002, which was Jeff Tedford's first year as Cal's coach.
QUOTE:: "Just experience. We've had a lot of injuries, and we've been forced to play a lot of freshmen and a lot of kids who, quite frankly, aren't ready to play. Instead of teaching some of them how to play, we're teaching them how to line up." - Cal coach Sonny Dykes, on the difference between his team and the other teams the Bears have faced.
ASSESSING THE CAL RUNNING GAME: Cal has tried five different running backs with very little success, and Darren Ervin, who was not among the top three tailbacks when the season began, is scheduled to start against Arizona. The Bears are averaging just 3.0 yards per rushing attempt and rank 110th of 123 FBS teams in rushing yards per game. Arizona's run defense is not great, but the Bears' offensive line has had trouble producing running room against any defense. The offensive line is even more inexperienced now with the changes Sonny Dykes has made to the starting lineup. Brendan Bigelow is still the team's leading rusher with 280 yards even though he has been moved to slot receiver and has carried the ball only once for three yards in the past three games combined. Freshman Khalfani Muhammad showed promise with 90 yards on four carries against Washington. The Bears hope to have Daniel Lasco back after he missed the past two games with a shoulder injury.
ASSESSING THE CAL PASSING GAME: Cal's passing game in Sonny Dykes' spread offense was productive in the first four games, but was less effective in the last four games. The Bears have slipped to eighth nationally in passing offense, and QB Jared Goff, who once led the nation in passing yards per game, is now ninth. His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 10-to-7 is not good. The Bears have yielded 28 sacks this season, according to the NCAA (Cal's statistics list the Bears with 26 sacks allowed), giving Cal quarterbacks little time to throw. Protection may not be much better with freshmen added to the starting offensive line. The Bears have two talented wide receivers in Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, who have combined for 112 receptions this year.
ASSESSING CAL'S RUN DEFENSE: Cal's run defense had shown marked improvement in the three games prior to the Oct. 26 game against Washington. But the Huskies' Bishop Sankey ran for 241 yards, including 188 yards in the first half, when the outcome was decided. The Bears yield 4.9 yards per carry for the season, and they will have trouble stopping Arizona, which averages 5.91 yards per carry (10th in the country) and has the nation's leading rusher in Ka'Deem Carey.
ASSESSING CAL'S PASS DEFENSE: The Bears rank dead last among the 123 FBS teams in passing yards allowed, giving up 350.9 passing yards per game. Arizona does not pose a major passing threat, but with all the injuries and inexperience Cal has in its secondary, the Wildcats may test the Bears defensive backs with passes. Cal has 12 sacks this season, and it has not consistently applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman CB Cedric Dozier is expected to get his first college start for Cal against Arizona.
ASSESSING THE CAL SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Vincenzo D'Amato has hit 14 of 16 field goal attempts this season. His only misses were from 45 and 46 yards, and he hit one from 51 yards out against UCLA on Oct. 12. Redshirt freshman P Cole Leininger is averaging 42.6 yards per kick. Khalfani Muhammad has been a decent kick-returner, and Bryce Treggs has been adequate as a punt returner, but neither has broken a long return.
---CB Cedric Dozier, a redshirt freshman, is scheduled to start on Saturday. He will be the 11th different player to start a game in the secondary for Cal.
---LB Nick Forbes, who has played in only one game because of a disk problem in his back, is probably done for the season.
---OL Freddie Tagaloa, who was moved from left tackle to right guard last week, got some work with the first team at his new position this week and could be a starter against Arizona.
---RB Daniel Lasco, who missed the Oregon State game with a shoulder injury, is questionable for the Washington game.
---G Matt Cochran, who has missed the past five games following ankle surgery, might play some on Saturday.
---ILB Khairi Fortt was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.
---G Chris Borrayo was scheduled to redshirt this season as a freshman, but that idea was discarded when Borrayo was put in the starting lineup against Washington.