It’s week one of the college football season, so what better way to celebrate than to break down and make a play on a game that features a Power Five school from the West Coast heading down south to take on a G5 school? That’s right, I’m talking about the Cal Golden Bears opening their season in Denton, Texas, to take on North Texas.
After hitting the transfer portal hard, Cal looks to bounce back from their 4-8 season in 2022 with a road victory. There are plenty of new faces on Justin Wilcox’s squad, including at the quarterback position, where TCU transfer Sam Jackson V will make his first career start. The dual-threat quarterback saw limited action at TCU, but he did show off his playmaking ability with 79 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, which sets up a dangerous run game between him and Jaydn Ott.
The Golden Bears running back finished his 2022 campaign with 897 yards and eight touchdowns, which are solid numbers considering Cal was 128th in rush play percentage last season. With a change at QB to a more mobile signal caller, the Golden Bears' offense could be a lot more explosive this season.
Defensively, Cal finished 98th in EPA per rush play and 107th in EPA per pass play last season but upgraded multiple positions through the portal. One of the biggest acquisitions being defensive back Patrick McMorris from SDSU, who will have his work cut out for him right away as he takes on an uptempo North Texas offense that will also feature a new signal caller.
Stone Earle will lead the Mean Green onto the field Saturday. Earle will command an offense that was 31st in points per game and 25th in yards per game last season. North Texas had three players rush for over 500 yards last year, and Earle himself has been known to use his legs, as well.
Much like Cal, though, the Mean Green’s defense let the team down a lot last season. North Texas finished 107th in points per game and 122nd in yards allowed per game last season. To make matters worse, Eric Morris’ defense also lost their top three leading tacklers from last season.
The Cal Golden Bears are currently favored by (-7), and I’ll be backing them on for my play. Cal was a mess last season, but they used the portal to their advantage, getting a QB that can create with his legs and upgrading a majority of their defense. Meanwhile, North Texas did not upgrade their lackluster defense from last year and lost two of their two leaders in receiving touchdowns from last season.
North Texas was ranked 84th in EPA per pass play on defense in 2022, and they now need to deal with a Cal offense that was 30th in passing yards per game last season and is returning their leading receiver. Cal is also going from a QB that had one rushing touchdown last season to one that can create when the play breaks down, which again is a problem for North Texas since they finished 117th in EPA per rush play.
Offensively, the Mean Green want to work fast and use their running game, and while last year that could have been a problem for Cal, they now have two linebacker transfers in David Reese and Sergio Allen, that should vastly improve their rush defense. Between Cal upgrading defensively and North Texas losing two key receivers, I think the Golden Bears can pull away in this one and win by more than a touchdown.
Cal Golden Bears (-7)