2015 Pac-12 grades: California Golden Bears

The 2015 season is officially over for the Pac-12. We continue our season review by handing out some team-by-team grades.


Offense: A year after finishing behind only Oregon in the Pac-12's offensive rankings, Cal dropped to seventh, averaging 31.7 points per game. The Bears did finish the season on a positive note, scoring at least 48 points in three of their last four games, but production prior to that stretch was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps the biggest inhibitor was the poor health of senior running back Daniel Lasco, a 1,000-yard man in 2014 who managed only 331 yards on the ground this season because of injuries.

It wasn't easy for quarterback Jared Goff, who now owns a bevy of Cal passing records, to become his expected dominant self in 2015. But once Goff did hit that stride, the results were spectacular: He combined for nearly 1,500 passing yards and 17 touchdown passes in the Bears' final three wins. Grade: B

Defense: Cal's secondary was the worst in the nation a season prior, and this crew made strides in 2015. For one, the Bears moved from the Pac-12 cellar to No. 7 in the category. The main reason behind this improvement might have been a significantly improved pass rush, which finished with 28 sacks a year after notching only 16. Kyle Kragen was the statistical star here, recording seven sacks, but Cal's defensive improvement was rooted in greater system-wide effectiveness. A year after averaging a gaudy 39.8 points per game, Bears' opponents saw their productivity tumble to 30.7 points per game. Grade: C

Special teams: Matt Anderson punctuated his solid season -- 18 for 21 on field goals -- with a finishing dagger at the gun against Arizona State. A year after returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game, Trevor Davis didn't have a return touchdown this season. The Bears finished rated No. 100 nationally in special teams efficiency, so there really wasn't much to write home about in this phase of the game. Grade: C

Overall: Cal has improved from 1-11 to 5-7 to 8-5 in three years under Sonny Dykes, so this foray back into bowl eligibility -- which featured a season-ending blowout win against Air Force -- can be considered a success. However, the Bears remained unable to beat some of the Pac-12's big names, and a four-game losing streak against Utah, UCLA, USC, and Oregon sidetracked a very promising 5-0 start.

With Goff leaving for the NFL, the program is at a crossroads: Is further improvement under Dykes immediately possible, or are the Bears facing another rebuilding challenge in 2016? Defensive improvement was promising in 2015, but there is still much work to be done on that side of the ball. Grade: B-