The California Bears open the season on the road against the Northwestern Wildcats in the third all-time meeting between the two schools. The Wildcats have a 2-0 advantage and won the season opener last year by a score of 44-30. The Bears finished the 2013 season with a lackluster 1-11 record which was the first time the program only had a single win in a season since 2001. Northwestern opened the season last year ranked No. 22 but fell short of expectations after finishing with a subpar 5-7 record.
California’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback Jared Goff, who preformed at a high level last season, throwing for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bears have 18 players along with Goff on offense with starting experience from last season returning this year. This includes depth at wide receiver with Chris Harper, Maurice Harris, Kenny Lawler, Darius Powe and Bryce Treggs all coming back for the Bears. With a year of experience under his belt and being named to the Davey O’ Brien award watch list, Goff should exceed the stats from his freshman campaign. He was 11th in the nation for passing yards per game, averaging 331.4 yards per game.
The major work for the Bears will be on the opposite side of the ball, after giving up an average of 45.9 points per game last season. The Bears had 11 players with starting experience return on defense with no major losses at any position. If the Bears can be more consistent on defense, the offense can maintain leads giving a chance for the wins to start rolling in.
Northwestern is led by senior quarterback Trevor Siemian who won’t have to split time under center this season with Kain Colter graduating. Siemian threw for 2,149 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, playing only half the snaps for the Wildcats. Colter gave the Wildcats the most attention in the offseason by leading the charge for the Northwestern players to form a union and be recognized as employees of the university. The extra attention hasn’t taken away from the Wildcats’ offense, with nine starters returning including wide receiver Christian Jones, who was named to the the Biletnikoff award watch list.
Just like the offense, the Wildcats’ defense has nine starters returning this season. After allowing 27.1 points per game in 2013, Northwestern’s defense will looking to improve with the leadership of senior linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo. The secondary is also strong with senior safety Ibraheim Campbell, who returns with eight career interceptions.
California will be on the road to play Northwestern at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcast on ABC/ESPN 2.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 45, California 28