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2021 California college football preview: Cal seeking consistency after virus ravaged 2020

Cal is looking to get back on track in 2021 with senior quarterback Chase Garbers once again under center.

Oregon v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The upward trajectory that the Cal Golden Bears were experiencing under head coach Justin Wilcox hit a road bump last fall as Covid-19 ravaged the prospects of a team that was initially picked to finish second in the Pac-12.

Like so many teams around the country, the pandemic forced Cal to constantly change and rearrange its roster on the fly in what turned out to be an ultra-short four-game schedule. Following an opening loss to UCLA, the Golden Bears fell just short in a pair of heartbreakers to Oregon State (27-31) and arch nemesis Stanford (23-24) before ending the year on a positive note with a 21-17 upset of eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon on December 5.

Now entering 2021 with a veteran quarterback and Wilcox’s usual nasty defense in two, the team from Berkeley is hoping to keep things moving forward and back into an upward trajectory this fall.

2020 Season Review

  • 1-3 (conference only schedule), 5th in Pac-12 North
  • Cal really rose to the occasion to upset Oregon as they were nine-point underdogs heading into the contest.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 28th
ESPN Returning Production: 81% overall (20th): 75% offense (52nd), 87% defense (11th)
Returning Talent Index: Neutral, 7th in Pac-12
Returning starters: 8/11 offense, 9/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Chase Garbers (Senior)

Chase Garbers enters the 2021 season as the most tenured quarterback in the Pac-12 with 23 career starts on his belt. The Newport Beach, CA, native has 4,049 career passing yards with 34 touchdowns and is just 282 yards shy from becoming the first QB in program history to rush for 1,000 yards.

Offense (non-QB): RB Christopher Brooks (Senior)

The Oceanside, CA, native formerly known as Christopher Brown Jr. is looking to duplicate his 2019 campaign where he accumulated 914 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, and four receiving touchdowns.

Defense: LB Kuony Deng (Senior)

A significant change will be veteran linebacker Kuony Deng moving to the outside this fall. He earned Pac-12 Honorable Mention in his first season at Cal in 2019, racking up 119 tackles, 7.5 TFL, and three sacks.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 81st overall: 73rd offense, 78th defense, 74th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 54th overall: 62nd offense, 53rd defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +75000
To win Pac-12: +2500
Win total: 6 (Over +100, Under -125)

2020 Against The Spread: 1-3
2020 Point Total: Over 1-3

2021 California Schedule

2021 Cal Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 Nevada 10:30pm/FS1 Cal -3.5/52.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 at TCU 3:30pm/ESPNU N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 Sacramento State 4:00pm/Pac12Bay N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Washington TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 Washington State TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 OPEN TBA N/A
Friday, Oct. 15 at Oregon 10:30pm/ESPN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 Colorado TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 Oregon State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 at Arizona TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 USC TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Stanford TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 at UCLA TBA N/A