Midseason report: California

Cal marched 82 yards in 10 plays on its first drive of the season and scored on a fake field goal against then-No. 22 Northwestern. The Sonny Dykes era started in style.

Since then, it’s been all downhill.

In many ways, Dykes’ arrived to a stacked deck in his first year in Berkeley. He inherited the youngest team in the conference to play one of the nation’s toughest schedules. If that wasn’t enough, the Bears have been decimated by injuries to several of their most experienced players and one of their top defensive players, junior linebacker Chris McCain, was dismissed from the team due to “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Andy Buh was brought over from Wisconsin to run the defense, but the results have been dismal. Cal (1-5, 0-3 in the Pac-12) ranks last among BCS conference teams and No. 121 nationally allowing 518 yards per game.

Despite the bleak outlook this year, the old adage, “If you’re going to lose, at least make it exciting,” certainly applies. The Bear Raid offense has Cal averaging 483 yards per game and true freshman quarterback Jared Goff qualifies as the light at the end of the tunnel.

If the Bears hope to avoid a winless season against FBS competition, the best bet appears to be at Colorado on Nov. 16. It’ll also serve as a chance for Dykes to avenge his loss to Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, who led San Jose State to a win against Louisiana Tech in Dykes’ final game at the school last season.

Offensive MVP: Goff. After beating out prized recruit Zach Kline in Fall camp, Goff dazzled to open his career. The true freshman threw for at least 450 yards in his first two games and set a school record with 504 yards against Washington State on Oct. 5. His 2,036 yards passing ranks fourth nationally and is tops among freshmen.

Defensive MVP: LB Jalen Jefferson. Jefferson has been the most consistent player on a defense searching for answers. He made 24 tackles over the first five games, but missed Cal’s loss to UCLA with a head injury.