Unlike the ESPN.com projections for the Pac-12 North, which predict Cal will go 4-5 in conference play, the 247Sports panel projects the Golden Bears to finish second in the North.
Of course, this assumes there will be a college football season in 2020.
In any case, all previous projections for the Pac-12 must now be reassessed because the Pac-12 announced on Friday that it will play a conference-only schedule. Whether the restructured 2020 Pac-12 schedule will look anything like the existing schedule of Pac-12 matchups remains to be seen.
The 247Sports projections are based on the voting of an 11-person panel representing 247Sports websites across the West. Points were assigned as follows: 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote, etc. As you can see Oregon and USC were unanimous choices to win their respective divisions.
Here are the projections:
1. Oregon, 66 points (11 first-place votes)
2. Cal, 49
3. Washington, 45
4. Stanford, 30
5. Oregon State, 22
6. Washington State, 19
1. USC, 66 (11)
2. Arizona State, 53
3. Utah, 46
4. UCLA, 30
5. Arizona, 20
6. Colorado, 16
Here is how some other outlets expect Cal to fare:
ESPN.com: Projects Cal to finish 6-6 overall, 4-5 in the conference, tied for third place in the Pac-12 North with Stanford and Washington State.
Athlon magazine: Picks Cal to finish 9-3 overall and tied for second in Pac-12 North
Lindy's magazine: Picks Cal to finish third in Pac-12 North,
USA Today: Puts Cal No. 23 in its preseason top-25, one spot ahead of Washington, with Oregon and USC being the only Pac-12 teams ranked higher.
CBSSports.com's David Cobb: Picks the Bears to win the Pac-12 North, finishing 11-1 overall and 8-1 in the conference. (CBSSports.com did not rank Cal in its preseason top 25, however.)
ESPN's Power Index: Picks Cal to finish 6-6, based on its metrics.
The 247Sports story said this about Cal:
Cal returns most of its starters, including linebacker Cameron Goode, who had 9.5 sacks. The offense returns 93 percent of its production from last season, which could be viewed one of two ways: the Bears will be just as bad as it was last season (112th nationally) or it will improve. Quarterback Chase Garbers returns and Bill Musgrave is on board as the new offensive coordinator. Garbers rebounded from injury to lead Cal to a 4-1 finish to the season, and this might be the year the Bears break through in the Pac-12 North.
Cal, however, wasn't a heavy favorite in second place. Washington was only four points behind Cal.
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic also believes Cal will finish high in the Pac-12 North, as noted in The Update podcast below, from The Athletic Bay Area hosted by Kate Scott. He thinks 10 wins is possible for Cal, but he also cautions listeners about something Cal fans probably fear -- that the Golden Bears will get off to a great start to the season, only have the season interrupted and ultimately wiped out by a spike in the coronavirus.
That would be so Cal.
Back to the 247Sports poll story, with some comments about Cal possibly being a dark horse in the Pac-12 race:
Oregon probably isn't as good as it was a year ago, and a few teams will make it tough for the Ducks to repeat as conference champs. Watch for upstart Cal to make it tough on Oregon to even win the North, since it gets the Ducks at home in late October. USC has the best chance to win the South and the most talent to overcome Oregon in the conference championship game. — Tracy Pierson, Bruin Report Online
I expect the North to be the dominant division, with USC and ASU being the two top teams in the South. I'm watching the teams with new staffs or new coordinators as the lack of spring ball could really affect those teams, especially early in the season. I expect Cal and Oregon State to be two surprise teams that could sneak up on people this fall. — Angie Machado, BeaverBlitz.com
We also have to mention a slip-up on the 247Sports site, when talking about the quarterbacks in the Pac-12:
Kedon Slovis will be the headliner in the Pac-12 at quarterback, but the league will see its new crop of elite QBs enter the fray. Jayden Daniels at ASU is also already established, but we'll see Oregon's Tyler Shough, Cal's Ross Bowers, Arizona's Grant Gunnell and UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson put up big numbers. And thus setting up a 2021 season in which NFL scouts will be flocking to the Pac-12. — Matt Prehm, Duck Territory
Bowers was Cal's starting quarterback in 2017 and started the opener of 2018. He did not play again that season, transferred to Northern Illinois in the offseason and was the Huskies' starting quarterback in 2019. Chase Garbers was Cal's No. 1 quarterback for much of 2018 and all of 2019, and he is expected to be a key figure for the Bears in 2020 -- if there is a season.
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
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