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Monday fast forward: Cal

(Sorry today's installment is a little late in the day. I'm out of town and don't always have the best internet access. – Jacob)

There is something pure about a 0-12 record in college football. Well, purely pathetic. There are so many opportunities for a major college team to pick up a win or two over glorified NAIA teams that most of the worst teams skate by and are merely remembered as appallingly bad, if they are remembered at all.

But to reach true infamy, a team needs to catch all the bad breaks. Key players need to be injured, questionable flags need to be thrown, a schedule can't have any games that are too easy and at the end of it the coach probably wishes he could have a few calls back.

Achieving an “imperfect season” puts a major conference team in rarified air, truly. Recently, it probably means you're the Duke Blue Devils, a program that managed to do it in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2006.  Prior to that, South Carolina pulled it off in 1999, Illinois went winless in 1997 and Kansas State didn't win a game in 1987 or '88.

Don't forget – as if any of you could – that the purple people eaters from the wet side of the state had 12 long bus rides home in 2008.

So when looking ahead to Washington State's game against California next season, remember that the Golden Bears were just a 37-30 home victory over Portland State from entering the Pantheon of Pitiful.

Follow the jump for our Cal preview.

Last Season: OK, so Sonny Dykes' first season did not go according to plan. But while the team did not win games his first go around, he handpicked a quarterback, found some capable wide receivers and gave a glimpse of what his version of the Air Raid offense could look like in the years to come.

Unfortunately for Dykes, that offense has a long ways to go. The Golden Bears could throw the ball, sure, and finished third in the conference with 329.8 passing yards per game. But Cal finished dead last in scoring with just 23.0 points per game and fielded a defense that was a full touchdown per game worse than its Pac-12 opponents.

The Golden Bears struggled all season, obviously, but a 33-28 early November loss to Arizona gave them hope that some momentum could be built heading into Dykes' second season. That hope was snuffed out over a brutal three game stretch to end the season, culminating with a 63-13 loss to rival Stanford to end the year.

After the season the team suffered an uncomfortable amount of unwanted attrition. Backup quarterback Zach Kline transferred, as did offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa, and linebackers Johnny Ragin and Chad Whitener.

Furthermore, Brendan Bigelow, Viliami Moala and Kameron Jackson all declared early for the NFL draft but went undrafted.

Players to watch:

—Jared Goff, QB, 6-4, 195: Goff was third in the conference with 290.7 passing yards per game last season. The next highest freshman on the list? WSU's own Austin Apodaca, who came in No. 12 with 17 ypg over 42 attempts. Goff hit 60 percent of his passes last season and threw 18 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. However, it came on short, “safe” throws and he only averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. Expect Dykes to play less conservatively in Goff's second season — Cal's success will depend on how he responds.

—Chris Harper, WR, 5-11, 170: Harper's lateral agility allows him to pick up yards after catching it with his reliable hands, which is why he led Cal with 852 receiving yards and is drawing the eye of NFL scouts. Expect Dykes to scheme ways to get the ball to Harper in space often and trust him to do the rest.

—Jalen Jefferson, LB, 6-2, 220: Jefferson often lined up as the strongside linebacker in Cal's 4-3 defense, and should again this season with different defensive coaches. He's fast and has drawn praise for his ability to beat blocks, now Cal just needs him to turn those tools into more than three sacks.

Strength: Passing game. Cal's passing game is a strength by virtue of use, as the Golden Bears will sling it all over the field whether the Air Raid is working or not. Goff is a year older, as are Harper and fellow receiver Bryce Treggs. If the team is able to get a few more explosive plays than the air attack could really be deadly, and give the defense some time to catch its breath.

Weakness: Defensive inexperience: Cal has a new defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and defensive backs coach. It also signed four junior college defenders. Every one of those additions could be an upgrade on paper, but Dykes still has to fit all the new pieces together.

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Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpe) Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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