Cal was home to one of college football's hottest quarterback battles this fall, but that battles appears to have come to an end... with a true freshman emerging victorious. Cal announced today that Jared Goff, who enrolled early and was there for the spring, has won the quarterback competition over redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder. Here's coach Sonny Dykes's quote from the release:
“We have had a fiercely-contested competition for our starting quarterback position,” Dykes said. “It’s important to name a starter and give them the reps they need to be prepared to play. We feel that right now Jared Goff gives us the best chance to be successful as a team, but we are very fortunate to have three outstanding quarterbacks we feel we can be successful with.”
This tells us two things:
1) Goff is good. He may be a true freshman, but he's been on campus for eight months, and he clearly has talent. He was rated a four-star and the No. 15 pro-style quarterback in the country by 24/7 and seems like a good fit to run Dykes's BearRaid offense at Cal. Speaking of...
2) The BearRaid is a full go. Dykes's coaching stock rose on the national stage due in large part for his Air Raid offense that he had tremendous success with at Louisiana Tech. He brings the Air Raid — or BearRaid (get it? lol) — to Cal to try to ignite an offense that has a lot of talent, but struggled in Jeff Tedford's final year. Yes, it will take some adjustments, but Cal certainly has the playmakers to be dangerous this season.
So what does this mean for Northwestern? Like all Dykes teams, Cal was always going to be a primarily air-based team heading into this game, regardless of whether Goff or Kline — the top two — won the job. This just gives the Wildcats a better idea of what they're getting into in Berkeley. NU will be tested through the air — a bit like the Syracuse game last year — and it will give the likely-improved secondary a good litmus test — the best one it will get before facing Ohio State. The cornerback opposite Nick VanHoose — whoever it ends up being — will get a lot of balls thrown his way.
It will also be a good test for the defensive line. Any quarterback can look like a star against a good secondary if he has time to sit in the pocket, meaning the defensive line needs to step up. If the defensive ends are as good as advertised this year, generating a pass rush shouldn't be a big problem. And while the ends are the key to the pass rush, NU will also need a good showing from its defensive tackles — a unit already full of question marks.
In short, the Cal game will provide a major test for two of NU's biggest question marks heading into the season. While that might be a scary thought for Wildcat fans, it also gets that test out of the way before Ohio State. We'll know a lot more about the team after this opener, as opposed to an opener against an FCS nobody.