In what can only be described as a wonderfully awkward matchup of fanbases, Ole Miss will travel to UC-Berkeley in 2017 and host those lovable protesters in 2019. When I first heard the news, I went over to California Golden Blogs to read what they had to say. I was hoping for a long thread deriding Mississippi and the South in general. My hopes were dashed. It turns out that Cal fans, you know, like football and stuff. They're excited about the Grove and the matchup. Who knew?
While it's probably pointless this far out, let's get to better know the Golden Bears, specifically looking at what we know of their 2017 situation. The Golden Bears, led by Sonny Dykes (6-18 at Cal) are coming off a 5-7 2014 follow-up to a 1-11 2013. That's imporvement any way you slice it. Should they have only won one game in 2013? Probably not, but you can't argue with the upswing from year one to year two.
One of the biggest reasons for Cal's turnaround of sorts is the emergence of sophomore Jared Goff. Goff went from throwing 18 touchdowns and ten picks as a freshman to 35 and 7 as a sophomore. If you're counting at home, you'll notice that with Goff entering his junior season, he won't be on the team when the Rebels face the Golden Bears in 2017. In fact, assuming Goff doesn't go pro early, Cal will be breaking in a new quarterback when facing the Rebels. 6'3" sophomore phenom receiver Kenny Lawler will also be gone. In fact, shockingly, most of Cal's major contributors this season weren't freshmen. Any non-freshman will no longer be in Berkeley in 2017.
So let's look at how recruiting has gone for Cal.
Rankings over the last three seasons (players who could potentially be on the team in 2017) include, in chronological order: 40 (2 four star players, one of whom was the aforementioned Goff), 53 (1 four-star player, freshman linebacker DeVante Downs who finished the year with 34 tackles and 3 sacks), and 35 (3 four-star players, all of whom are offensive). They're not doing great in the recruiting arena, but it's not like it's laughable. Plus, Dykes, assuming he's still there, will have had some time to build relationships in California and may be attracting better talent by the time the Rebels come to town.
Obviously, there's not a lot we can extrapolate, but I'm pleased with the scheduling. There's very little chance Cal is amazing in 2017, but they could be decent to good by that point. I'll debate making the trip, which is more than I can say for a lot of programs that went 5-7 this season.