California Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

A skeptical nation still wants more out of California.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

There's no East Coast media bias when it comes to college football, but there's an ignorance. After all, is anyone outside of the Pacific time zone able to get Pac 10 games on TV? How many writers and fans are going to stay up for the late night games after a full day of other big college football battles?

The fact of the matter is that outside of USC, it's hard for most to have any clue what the Pac 10 is doing, but there continues to be this Cal football program that makes a lot of noise and is very interesting. But no one ever gets to see it play.

There was some national respect a few years ago for being the last team before Texas to beat USC, and then ESPN cranked things up another notch by going on and on about how good Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Bears were after a loss to the Trojans. Once again, though, no one actually watched Cal football until the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech, and by then the SEC, Big Ten parts of the world felt like they were right all along to not respect the rumor that was the Bears.

Heck, J.J. Arrington ran for 2,000 yards and barely got more than a "hey, that's neat" from the Heisman voters. Last year, Cal exited the national consciousness with an early loss to UCLA on the way to a respectable 8-4 record, but 2005 was a mere transition season to this year when all the parts should come together when the program finally shows the world how good it is.

Head coach: Jeff Tedford
5th year: 33-17
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Cal Players
1. RB Marshawn Lynch, Jr.
2. DT Brandon Mebane, Sr.
3. CB Daymeion Hughes, Sr.
4. WR DeSean Jackson, Soph.
5. RB Justin Forsett, Jr.
6. LB Desmond Bishop, Sr.
7. LB Worrell Williams, Soph.
8. CB Tim Mixon, Sr.
9. QB Nate Longshore, Soph.
10. TE Craig Stevens, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 at Tennessee
9/9 Minnesota
9/16 Portland State
9/23 Arizona State
9/30 at Oregon State
10/7 Oregon
10/14 at Washington St
10/21 Washington
11/4 UCLA
11/11 at Arizona
11/18 at USC
12/2 Stanford

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 8-4

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Sacramento St W 41-3
9/10 at Washington W 56-17
9/17 Illinois W 35-20
9/24 at NMSU W 41-13
10/1 Arizona W 28-0
10/8 at UCLA L 47-41
10/15 Oregon State L 23-20
10/22 Washington St W 42-38
11/5 at Oregon L 27-20 OT
11/12 USC L 35-10
11/19 at Stanford W 27-3
12/22 Las Vegas Bowl
BYU W 35-28

There are few teams with more speed among the starters with an array of talents that would litter the All-America lists if it played in one of the other BCS conferences. DT Brandon Mebane, CB Daymeion Hughes and LB Desmond Bishop will be among the best in the nation at their respective positions, and RB Marshawn Lynch deserves Heisman consideration from day one.
The quarterback situation will sort itself out with Nate Longshore ready to steady the four-man race, Lynch and Justin Forsett combine to form one of the nation's top tailback duos, and the receivers are among the fastest in the country. 
The defense will be a sack machine with too many good ends for one team, Mebane an all-star in the middle, and one of the best linebacking corps in the nation. The slight concerns are on the offensive line and at safety, but those won't turn out to be any big deal as the season goes on.
So now it's up to the college football world to pay attention. The opening day game at Tennessee will be a make-or-break game for national respect, but even a loss shouldn't mean anyone should dismiss this potential Pac 10 champion. Head coach Jeff Tedford has assembled a potential monster going into his fifth season and it'll be one of the nation's most fun teams week in and week out.
Hopefully, everyone will finally be watching.

The Schedule: The opener at Tennessee to start the season will be the high-profile battle everyone will focus on, but the following week's game against Minnesota should be just as entertaining. The Pac 10 slate starts off nasty playing Arizona State in what might be an elimination game in the title race followed up by at Oregon State, Oregon, and at an improved Washington State. However, if Cal really is as good as expected, being unbeaten going into the late season road trip to USC should be a distinct possibility.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Marshawn Lynch. He won't have the same great line he enjoyed last year, but he should still be a threat to flirt with the 2,000-yard mark. If he can stay healthy, watch his draft stock soar with his combination of size, quickness and production.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Brandon Mebane. The 306-pound senior is one of the best interior pass rushers in America and will be the rock of the defensive front seven. He has a chance of taking over where Oregon's Haloti Ngata left off as the nation's best tackle.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore OT Mike Tepper. The line should be fine, but only two starters return with the loss of C Marvin Philip and T Ryan O'Callaghan particularly hurting. Tepper is 6-6, 334-pound talent who should make a big splash this season if he can stay healthy. He needs to be a rock in pass protection to keep Nate Longshore, or whoever is playing quarterback, healthy.

The season will be a success if ... Cal wins the Pac 10 title. It's time to take that next step up. It might be asking a lot to win the championship with a game at USC to worry about, but the Bears are good enough to dream big.

Key game: September 2nd. at Tennessee. The Vols might still be reeling from last year's disaster, but if Cal can go into Knoxville and come up with a win, that would set the tone for the entire season and might finally get the rest of the nation to start going out of its way to watch what should be one of the nation's best teams. A loss to Tennessee and fans will dismiss the Pac 10 as that conference that plays past their bedtimes.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: California 115 - Opponents 56
- Penalties: Opponents 82 for 670 yards - California 69 for 620 yards
- Interception return average: California 26.1 yards on 15 picks - Opponents 3.4 yards on 17 picks

The Last Time Cal…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Las Vegas Bowl vs. BYU)
…missed a bowl game…2002
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Arizona)
…was shutout…1999 (Nebraska)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Washington)
…went undefeated…1937
…won a conference title…1975 (Pac 8)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1996 (Pat Barnes)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Marshawn Lynch)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2003 (Geoff McArthur)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (QB Aaron Rodgers)

Related Stories
California Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
California Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
California Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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