Editor’s note: First in a series previewing each team in the Pac-12.

ESPN.com recently published an article suggesting that California coach Justin Wilcox may be on the hot seat. 

The Bears posted a 4-8 record last season, after Wilcox signed a contract extension when he turned down an offer to take the head coaching job at Oregon. 

In six seasons under Wilcox, who proved himself as a successful defensive coordinator in previous stops, Cal has gone 30-36, including three consecutive losing campaigns.

“Wilcox isn’t one of the highest-paid Power Five coaches, but Cal’s financial issues are well-documented,” wrote ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg. “The school might balk at firing a coach with so much time left on his contract, but the buyout money ($3.75 million) isn’t too steep. Another factor to watch is athletic director Jim Knowlton, whose status is increasingly shaky given the struggles in both football and men’s basketball, and a scandal involving the women’s swimming program.”

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Unlike most Pac-12 teams, the Bears have struggled offensively. Last season, the Golden Bears ranked No. 96 in scoring offense, averaging 23.9 points per game. 

Entering his seventh campaign at the helm, Wilcox is hoping to jumpstart the offense. He hired a new offensive coordinator in Jake Spatival. In 2016, Spatival, the former head coach at Texas State, held that same job at Cal and the Bears led the conference in total offense and averaged 37 points per game. 

While Cal lost quarterback Jack Plummer, who transferred to Louisville, it welcomes a new QB, TCU transfer Sam Jackson.

The Bears also lost their top receiver, J. Michael Sturdivant, to UCLA but Jeremiah Hunter returns. 

While Cal returns four starters on the offensive line, that group needs to improve in both protecting the passer and opening up holes for running backs like Jaydn Ott.  

Defensively, the Bears ranked No. 111 nationally in total defense, surrendering 428.6 yards per game. 

Wilcox was aggressive in the transfer portal, adding safety Patrick McMorris (San Diego State), cornerback Nohl Williams (UNLV) and linebacker David Reese (Florida).

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Reese, who suffered an Achilles injury early in the 2022 season, should make a big impact for Cal’s defense. 

The Bears face a tough monthlong stretch from early October to early November, beginning with a home game against Oregon State, followed by a trip to defending Pac-12 champion Utah (Oct. 14), a home game against USC and a trip to Oregon. 

The Utes and Cal haven’t met since 2019.

2022 record: 4-8 (2-7 Pac-12)

Utah ties

  • WR Trond Grizzell (Park City HS).

2023 schedule

  • Sept. 3 @North Texas.
  • Sept. 9 Auburn.
  • Sept. 16 Idaho.
  • Sept. 23 @Washington.
  • Sept. 30 Arizona State.
  • Oct. 7  Oregon State.
  • Oct. 14  @Utah.
  • Oct. 28 USC.
  • Nov. 4 @Oregon.
  • Nov. 11 Washington State.
  • Nov. 18 @Stanford.
  • Nov. 25 @UCLA.
TCU quarterback Sam Jackson yells after scoring a touchdown during game against Tarleton State in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Jackson transferred to Cal in the offseason and could be under center for the Bears in 2023. | LM Otero, Associated Press
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