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Nevada football offseason opponent preview: California

Oregon v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, there are 12 Saturdays until the Nevada football season kicks off.

This is our second annual offseason opponent preview. Each Thursday leading up to the season, I will be previewing each Pack opponent on their 2021 schedule — starting at the beginning of the schedule. This week, we preview Nevada’s season-opening opponent against California, famously known as “Cal”.

Here’s the Wolf Pack’s full 2021 schedule to date:

Nevada Football 2021 Schedule

Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Sept. 4 at California FS1 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Idaho State TBA TBA
Sept. 18 at Kansas State ESPN+ 11:05 a.m.
Sept. 25 BYE ---------
Oct. 2 at Boise State Fox Networks (specifics not yet announced) TBA
Oct. 9 vs. New Mexico State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Hawai'i CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Fresno State Fox Networks TBA
Oct. 29 vs. UNLV CBS Sports Network 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. San Jose State Fox Networks TBA
Nov. 13 at San Diego State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 vs. Air Force FS1 6/7/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 at Colorado State CBS Sports Network 6 p.m.

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Week 1: California Golden Bears

2020 record: 1-3 (all conference)

When: Saturday, Sept. 4

Where: California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif.

Matchup History: California leads 22-3-1

2020 season-in-review:

Cal’s season ended and began with two straight COVID-19 cancellations, limiting its shortened season to just four games. Its only win came in the season finale versus then-21st-ranked Oregon, 21-17. Despite losing by 24 in the season opener at UCLA, Cal lost by a combined five points in its final two losses to Oregon State (31-27) and Stanford (24-23).

Cal on Offense:

The Golden Bears offense is led by quarterback Chase Garbers, a fifth-year senior.

In 23 career starts, Garbers has completed 61 percent of his passes for 4,049 yards, 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In his four-game 2020 campaign, he went 85-for-136 (62.5 percent) for 771 yards, six touchdowns to just three interceptions.

NCAA Football: Oregon at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Garbers, with 718 career rushing yards and seven scores, can become the first Golden Bear quarterback in program history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. In 2020, he rushed for 75 yards with a team-high two scores in 2020.

The tailback trio of Marcel Dancy, Christopher Brown Jr. and Damien Moore will compete for snaps for the second consecutive season.

Moore rushed for a team-high 188 yards on 39 carries (4.82 ypc), adding just one catch for 10 yards. Dancy, returning as a sixth-year senior, didn’t finish far behind — tallying 156 yards on 31 carries (5.0 ypc). Brown had just 65 yards on 3.1 yards per attempt, but had the only rushing score among the three.

Cal returns three of its top four reception leaders from 2020 — led by duo Kekoa Crawford and Nikko Remigio.

Crawford tallied a career-high 19 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Over half of those catches (10) and yards (141) came on Nov. 21 versus Oregon State.

Remigio tied the team-lead for receiving touchdowns, despite finishing fourth in receptions (10) and third in receiving yards (90). Remigio recorded a team-high 28 receptions — 13 more than the second-highest player — for 513 yards and three scores in 2019.

The offensive line, coached by former Nevada assistant Angus McClure, has plenty of depth. Though left tackle and All-Pac-12 honorable mention honoree Jake Curhan — who made 40 consecutive starts — departs to the NFL (undrafted), the Golden Bear offensive line returns each of its other four starters: Matthew Cindric, Michael Saffell, McKade Mettauer and Valentino Daltoso.

Cal on Defense:

Cameron Goode is Cal’s only returning player who received first-team All Pac-12 honors in 2020. He registered two tackles-for-loss per game (!) with three sacks. Goode added one forced fumble and one pass deflection in his torrid four-game campaign.

The Golden Bears’ other EDGE spot is commanded by the team’s top returning tackler, Kuony Deng.

Deng’s a team-captain who returns as a sixth-year senior. Deng, who earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in 2019, registered 31 tackles last year after finishing with 119 the year prior. The 6-foot-6 stalwart finished second in tackles-for-loss (2.5), but led in forced fumbles with two.

Brett Johnson, who finished fourth in tackles behind the line-of-scrimmage (2.5) and third in sacks (1.5), will miss the entire 2021 season due to a broken hip. JH Tevis (18 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks) and Aaron Maldonado (five tackles, 2 TFLs in ‘19) will be the Cal’s most experienced defensive linemen in 2021.

Its secondary will have to mitigate the loss of the team’s top defensive back, Camryn Bynum — a fourth-round pick (No. 125 overall) to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Sixth-year senior Josh Drayden and junior Chigozie Anusiem will hold down the fort on the outside. The two combined for 26 tackles with — while Drayden added four pass deflections and one interception.

Overall:

This is a good road test for the Wolf Pack heading into the season. They left the Silver State just twice in 2020 and they won’t have to travel too far for this one. To add onto that, it will be their first conference opponent in nearly two years. Nevada’s coming off a 7-2 season and saw mostly dominance — it will be interesting to see the juice it has for much more formidable foe.