Thursday, August 25, 2016

California Golden Bears vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Preview

Cal Bears vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
at Sydney, Australia
Game Time: 7:00 PST

California Story Lines: The Golden Bears start life after Jared Goff in a much better state than they were anticipating when they signed Davis Webb to a commitment after he was all but ready to head to fellow PAC-12 member Colorado. Webb should be able to allow the Bears passing offense to transition nearly seamlessly from the loss of Goff to the NFL. Chase Forrest, a sophomore who completed 10/18 passes last season, will be the backup after he left spring ball with the starting job before Webb arrived.
Establishing a run game will be a priority for the Bears as Tre Watson is lined up to start at RB after carrying just 88 times last season. The Junior will have all eyes on him early on to help the Bears balance out what they can of their pass happy offense.
The Bears, who start four receivers, will be replacing all four heading into this game, so the entire starting passing unit will be breaking each other in. Getting a rhythm going early will be a huge point of emphasis.
Matt Anderson hit 18/21 FGs last season, but will focus solely on punting in 2016, but could still see some work at PK. Cole Leininger has moved on at Punter. Sophomore Dylan Klumph is slated to get a bulk of the time at PK.
On defense, Cal loses their best player as a grad transfer in Hardy Nickerson, who moved on to Illinois. Second leading tackler and LB Kyle Kragen is gone as well. Cal will be breaking in some new players at LB. SS Damarley Drew will be expected to step into a leadership role. Cal had no one player who registered double figures in sacks last season, so finding a way to get pressure in the backfield will be a priority for this unit. Cal also gave up 30 or more points six times last season, so keeping Hawaii under that number will be very important to measure where this defense is at.
Sonny Dykes is just 14-23 entering his fourth season, and needs to get a fast start, which is always what Cal does, before they tend to fade off from the mid point of the season on.

Hawaii Story Lines: It all starts with brand new coach Nick Rolovich, who is starting his first head coaching job. He is a former star QB at Hawaii, so he understands the program and the culture, but he has a huge task ahead of him. Rolovich will also coordinate the offense, which is a role he held last season at Nevada. Hawaii is coming off a three win season, and lost 10.
Rolovich must first build some kind of offensive surge after scoring just 17.6 points per game. QB Max Wittek is gone after a far from stellar season, and Ikaika Woolsey will be back in a starting role, and played in all 13 games last season, but only completed 49% of his pass attempts. He will be project number one for Rolovich in building an offense, and if he can't get going, a replacement is likely before things het out of hand.
Paul Harris is back at RB, and should be a focal point of the offense against Cal, after rushing for 1132 yards, but he also only rushed for six scores. He needs to be placed in scoring opportunities more often. He averaged just over 16 carries per game last fall, and should see that number climb to over 20 this season for the Rainbows to be successful. There is no backup option of any developed kind in  the run game.
There is plenty of depth in the receiving game, as five of the top six receivers are returning, so there is a silver lining.
Where Hawaii is similar to Cal is their ability to give up points in buckets. Teams scored 35.6 points per game against Hawaii in 2015, which was good for 11th in the Mountain West.
Hawaii loses four of their top six tacklers from last fall, and must rebuild that production. Kennedy Tulimasealii is a star at DE, and will try to make life rough on Cal's backfield, and will get help from LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams, who recorded 89 tackles last fall. The secondary must create turnovers, which is something they were terrible at last fall.

Point Spread: Cal -19.5 (Las Vegas Westgate)
OU: 64
My Pick: Cal at -19.5, Over

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