Cal Football: Bears in Top 25 of USA Today Early 2020 Preseason Rankings

Jake Curtis

The high expectations for Cal’s 2020 season apparently are not just a fantasy of Bears’ fans.

USA Today came out with its way-too-early top 25 preseason rankings for the 2020 season, and, guess what, Cal is included.

OK, Cal is not among the elite teams. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and LSU occupy the top four spots, and Cal is not the top Pac-12 team listed. That honor belongs to Oregon, which comes in at No. 6. Another Pac-12 school, USC, is ranked No. 17, but the next Pac-12 team on the list is Cal, which is ranked No. 23, one spot ahead of Washington.

Among those just missing the cut were two other teams from the conference – Utah and Arizona State.

Here is what USA Today said about the Bears, who went 8-5 this past season and won their final three games, including a Redbox Bowl victory over Illinois:

“There's a tremendous amount of experience coming back for coach Justin Wilcox, who did an admirable job slowly building the Golden Bears into a Top 25 contender. With few questions at all surrounding the defense, the biggest key may be keeping quarterback Chase Garbers healthy; he went unbeaten as a sophomore in games he started and finished.”

Actually there are a few questions surrounding the defense with the loss of three of its best players – All-American linebacker Evan Weaver and safeties Ashtyn Davis and Jaylinn Hawkins.

But virtually all of the Bears’ key offensive players return, including running back Christopher Brown Jr., wide receivers Nikko Remigio, Kekoa Crawford and Makai Polk and the entire offensive line. And Cal went 7-0 in games in which Garbers played more than one half.

Cal made an apparent upgrade at the offensive coordinator spot, replacing Beau Baldwin, who left to become the head coach at Cal Poly, with Bill Musgrave, a long-time NFL offensive coordinator. The Bears also recently hired running backs coach Aristotle Thompson and offensive line coach Angus McClure.

Athlon also presented a preseason top 25 for 2020, but it included Cal only as a team that just missed being ranked in its top 25.

Here is what Athlon said about the Bears:

“Oregon ranks as Athlon’s very early favorite to win the Pac-12, but keep an eye on coach Justin Wilcox’s team next fall. A healthy year from quarterback Chase Garbers under new play-caller Bill Musgrave should allow the Golden Bears to push for a spot in the top 25. The ground game is solid with Christopher Brown and Marcel Dancy back, while four of the team’s top five receiving options are back. California’s offensive line should also take a step forward with most of the lineup set to return in 2020. Wilcox and coordinator Tim DeRuyter have elevated the program’s defense among the best in the Pac-12, but this unit loses All-America linebacker Evan Weaver and safeties Jaylinn Hawkins and Ashtyn Davis. However, the news isn’t all bad, as linebacker Kuony Deng and cornerback Camryn Bynum are two of the Pac-12’s top defenders going into 2020. Washington and Oregon come to Berkeley next year, but road trips to USC, Arizona State and Washington State are on tap.”

This assumes Bynum will not enter the NFL Draft, and it appears likely he will return to Cal.