1. It's no secret that it's been a tough year in Berkeley, so how do you feel about year one of the Sonny Dykes era? Is it too early to judge his coaching style?
atomsareenough: I dunno, to be honest. Nothing went right all year. It's hard to know exactly to what extent that was due to Dykes and the coaching staff, and to what extent it was simply due to circumstances. While the injuries and youth doomed us to be a bad team this year, what's concerning to me is less the win-loss results, but the lack of visible progress shown by the guys who actually did play. Maybe the light will go on over the offseason, but it's not been very encouraging so far.
Ruey Yen: It is too early to say anything definitive, but the fanbase is definitely doubting this hire more and more. From watching The Drive on the Pac-12 Networks this season, I do like what I see out of Dykes in his interaction with the players. I think he has also been quite shocked by how this year has played out. I expect Sonny to evolve his coaching style a bit in the offseason.
Kodiak: It's still too early to pass judgement. But eyebrows are raised and the hot seat is warmed up. We knew it would be bad. Didn't think it would be this bad.
2. This team is really young and banged up, so it seems like there's room for rapid improvement in the Bears' future: Do you have confidence in the program moving forward?
Ruey Yen: It is hard to be as optimistic as at the beginning of this year when Sonny Dykes and the Bear Raid are complete unknowns. On the other hand, things would likely be better next year, just because this year has been pretty unbelievably poor. I think the Cal offense will come around a lot quicker than the defense (particularly if Buh stays as the defensive coordinator). Right now, I have more confidence in Cal winning the 2014 Big Game than the one this Saturday.
atomsareenough: There's some reason to have hope, I suppose. But I do I have confidence? No, not really.
Kodiak: Just getting starters back on the O-line and all over the field defensively would be a big help. If we can't lean on youth/injuries as an excuse, we'll see whether we're being out-coached or out-manned.
3. How do you feel about Jared Goff's season? Do you expect Dykes to truly reopen the QB competition next year?
atomsareenough: On balance, Goff did okay for a true freshman playing on a bad team against an incredibly difficult schedule. He's got a lot of good tools that should equip him for future success. The ability and talent level is there. It's been a pretty up-and-down year though. He's battled commendably under tough circumstances at times, and was easily taken out of his element at other times. The offense has consistently started very slowly under him, needing a full quarter or more to get into any kind of rhythm, and they have often played so poorly that it put the defense on its heels. Often Cal hasn't been able to get anything going on offense until there was already a substantial deficit on the scoreboard. Early on in the season, he was very accurate but was prone to making big mistakes with interceptions and fumbles. The offense was moving quickly though, and he was putting up decent numbers. Of late, the tempo of the offense has slowed down, and he's had fewer turnovers and fewer deer-in-the-headlights moments, but Goff has been less consistently accurate. It's a mixed bag.
Anyway, I don't expect Dykes to truly reopen the QB competition next year. I expect backup Zach Kline to transfer and incoming freshman Luke Rubenzer to be the backup or redshirt.
Ruey Yen: Jared Goff has put up some great numbers (mostly yardage-wise) and will likely hold a few of these yardage records for a freshman QB for a long time. Still, these records are a bit hollow in that they are results of the pace (though they are not executed as fast as what Sonny Dykes would ideally like) and system. Given how this season has gone, all positions should be open competition for next year.
Kodiak: What started with a lot of promise against Northwestern has ultimately been a disappointment. Stats-wise, he'll likely set a single-season passing record. But from a results standpoint, he was more inconsistent than we would have liked; i.e. we didn't see an increase in confidence and ability as the season progressed. Some of that is on the O-line and lack of running game. I don't expect Dykes to re-open the QB competition.
Ruey Yen: Although the Bears do have a solid receiving corps with size, there is really no need to focus on any particular play. Late in the season, freshman Kenny Lawler Jr. has emerged as another big weapon, in addition to Treggs and Harper. Sadly, just pressuring Goff on a consistent basis would probably be sufficient to shut down the Cal offense.
atomsareenough: Focus on getting pressure up front, forcing Goff to throw quickly. Make sure your guys are ready to cover slants and screens, and that your linebackers and safeties can cover laterally to prevent the running backs from turning the corner when they see that no running lanes are available inside (and trust me, there won't be). Shouldn't be much of a problem for the Cardinal, to be honest.
Kodiak: Just play your base D. You can get pressure without blitzing and your DBs are good enough to play our guys straight up.
5. Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
Ruey Yen: Cal finally break through (after two losses earlier in the year) and win 11-10 to claim the Big Splash. What? You care more about the second half of the double-header? I just know that the 2013 Cal Football season will mercifully come to an end at around 4 pm PT on Saturday.
Kodiak: Cal wins. Shaw leaves for the NFL.