On Saturday, No. 4/3 Ohio State ventures away from the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium for the first time this season as the Buckeyes will take on Pac-12 member California (1-1). Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on FOX with Gus Johnson and Charles Davis.
Last season when the Bears visited Columbus with Buckeyes prevailing 35-28, the head coach at Cal was Jeff Tedford. But after going 3-9 in 2012, his second losing season in three years, Tedford was relieved of his duties.
After 11 seasons at the helm, Tedford guided the Bears to a 82-57 overall mark and eight postseason bowl appearances, though none of them were BCS bowls and Cal won just one conference title during that span, sharing it with USC in 2006.
Now enter Sonny Dykes, who spent last three seasons at Louisiana Tech, his first head coaching job of his career. From 2010-2012, Dykes led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 overall mark, one Western Athletic Conference title, and one bowl appearance.
Dykes, along with his offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, implement what is known as the “Air Raid” offense which was developed by former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme. Dykes, Franklin, and Washington State head coach Mike Leach were all, at one time, assistants under Munne for the Wildcats.
So far this season under Dykes, Cal has a record of 1-1, losing to Northwestern, 44-30, in the season-opener before garnering its first win last Saturday by defeating FCS-member Portland State, 37-30. After those two games, the Bears are ninth in the nation in total offense (582.5 yards per game) and first in passing offense (472.5 ypg.). Even with all of that yardage, Cal is just 55th in the NCAA in scoring offense averaging 33.5 points per game.
While the Golden Bears have posted some impressive numbers offensively, there are some ugly stats on defense. Cal is 116th in the country in total defense (530.5 ypg.), 104th in scoring defense (37.0 ppg.), 109th in rushing defense (227.0 ypg.), and 104th in passing defense (304.0 ypg). And there are only 123 teams in FBS football.
There also seems to be a recurring them with Dykes’ defenses. Last year, Louisiana Tech surrendered 38.5 points per game.
Last week, freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 485 yards on 33-of-51 passing and two touchdowns to give Dykes’ his first win at California.
There was plenty of offense in the game and very little defense. Cal and Portland State combined for 1,169 yards of total offense and 54 first downs. The Vikings, a team that went 3-8 in 2012, led four different times in the game.
Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Treggs has become Goff’s favorite target with 21 receptions for 266 yards, though sophomore WR Chris Harper is not too far behind totaling 15 catches for 209 yards and two TDs. Harper played sparingly in the second half of Saturday’s win over Portland State due to shoulder issues and dehydration.
Remember junior running back Brendan Bigelow, who ran for 160 yards on just four carries with two touchdowns, including an 81-yarder last year in Columbus? Through two games this season, Bigelow has 136 yards on 33 tries.
With injuries to junior linebacker Nick Forbes, junior safety Avery Sebastian, junior linebacker Brennan Scarlett and others keeping the defensive depth chart thin, some young defenders have been forced to play. Redshirt freshmen linebackers Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson have been two of the leading tacklers on the squad. Barton leads the team in tackles with 17 while Nickerson is third on the team with 13 behind Barton and sophomore cornerback Stefan McClure (14).
The Bears, though, have only registered three sacks and 11 tackles for loss in the first two games. Sophomore linebacker Jalen Jefferson leads the way with a one sack and 2.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
In the secondary, senior safety Alex Logan and junior cornerback Kameron Jackson have each recorded interceptions thus far.