2007 California Golden Bears

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 California Golden Bears Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 California Golden Bears

Recap: It was a tale of two starkly different seasons for the Bears in 2007.  In the first, Cal beat Tennessee and Oregon en route to a 5-0 start and a No. 2 national ranking.  In the second, Cal stumbled to a 1-6 regular season finish, falling to seventh place in the Pac-10 and barely qualifying for a December bowl game.  To their credit, the Bears rallied to beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, the only good news in Jeff Tedford's toughest fall in Berkeley.              

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Justin Forsett

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Zack Follett

Biggest Surprise: Down 21-0 to a fired-up Air Force squad on New Year's Eve, Cal had the look of a team that was getting a head start on the offseason.  Instead, the Bears dug deep behind backup QB Kevin Riley, scoring six touchdowns in the final three quarters for a 42-36 victory.  Hey, it wasn't the Rose Bowl that this program craves, but it's substantially better than heading into the long break on a four-game losing streak.  

Biggest Disappointment: After the Oregon win on Sept. 29, the offense went AWOL, failing to score more than 28 points in seven consecutive games.  Although it didn't help that QB Nate Longshore had a nagging ankle injury, the Bears had too many weapons to be stonewalled by the likes of Washington and Stanford. 

Looking Ahead: The next few months should be interesting for Tedford, who hasn't faced this level of adversity, and has already begun to shake up his staff.  Can Riley unseat the unpredictable Longshore?  That's a question that'll be asked plenty between now and the opener with Michigan State.

- 2007 Cal Preview
2006 Cal Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 7-6

Sept. 1 Tennessee W 45-31
Sept. 8 at Colorado St W 34-28
Sept. 15 Louisiana Tech W 42-12
Sept. 22 Arizona  W 45-27
Sept. 29
at Oregon W 31-24
Oct. 13 Oregon State L 31-28
Oct. 20 at UCLA L 30-21
Oct. 27
at Arizona State L 31-20
Nov. 3 Washington St W 20-17
Nov. 10 USC L 24-17
Nov. 17 at Washington L 37-23
Dec. 1
at Stanford L 20-13
Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 31 Air Force W 42-36

Dec. 31
2007 Armed Forces Bowl
California 42 ... Air Force 36

Air Force got the ground game going with 312 yards on the ground and a 21-0 lead on short touchdown runs from Shaun Carney and Jim Ollis and a seven-yard Travis Dekker catch. And then the Cal passing game showed up. Robert Jordan and DeSean Jackson were suspended for the first quarter for violating team rules, but they ripped up the Falcon secondary when they got in with Jackson starting off the Cal scoring with an acrobatic 40-yard touchdown catch fallowed up by a five-yard Lavelle Hawkins scoring grab. Jordan caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but two Ryan Harrison field goals kept Air Force ahead until late in the third when Justin Forsett ran for the first of two second half scores. With Carney out with a knee injury, the Falcon offense wasn't nearly as crisp, but it was able to go on a late scoring drive to pull within four. That was as close as the Falcons would get.
Offensive Player of the Game: California QB Kevin Riley completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, and ran four times for 17 yards and a score
Defensive Player of the Game: California CB
Syd'Quan Thompson made six tackles and three tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Kevin Riley, 16-19, 269 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 23-140, 2 TD. Receiving: Robert Jordan, 6-148, 1 TD
Air Force - Passing: Shaun Carney, 5-8, 68 yds, 1 TD
Shaun Carney, 15-108, 1 TD. Receiving: Travis Dekker, 4-63, 1 TD
Thoughts & Notes ... Cal's win over Air Force was a textbook definition of want-to vs. talent. Air Force came out roaring and with everything working perfectly, and then the Bears turned up their skill level a few notches and roared back for the win. ... Kevin Riley showed why he'll probably be Cal's leader over the next few seasons. Getting time to throw, he worked perfectly with his tremendous receiving corps to spark the comeback, and most importantly once the momentum was all Cal's way, he didn't make mistakes and didn't turn the ball over. ... The option works at the highest levels. Air Force was able to move the ball, but it was the defense that proved to be the problem in the second half. The offense did a nice job of keeping relative control when Cal started bombing away. ... Where was this fight in Cal over the second half of the season? If it had showed the fight and the efficiency it had in the last three quarters against Air Force, it would've been in a much better bowl.

Dec. 1
Stanford 20 ... California 13
Stanford took advantage of several Cal mistakes and got just enough scoring to hold on as Cal got Jordan Kay's second field goal with under five minutes to play to pull within a touchdown. Nick Sanchez snuffed out a final Bear drive with his second interception of the game to give Stanford its first win over Jeff Tedford and send Cal reeling. The Cardinal started out the scoring with a 28-yard Mark Bradford catch on the first play following a Nate Longshore fumble, and got two field goals from Derek Belch and a one-yard Austin Gunder touchdown grab. Cal only got in the end zone on a first quarter Robert Jordan catch from 46 yards out.
Player of the game: Stanford S Bo McNally made 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-47, 252 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 19-96. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 7-63
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 16-23, 151 yds, 1 TD
Jeremy Stewart, 24-70. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 5-84, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The disaster is complete. The Bears not only collapsed over the second half of the year, but now they finished up with a loss to Stanford thanks to one of the team's sloppiest performances of the season. Ten penalties, three turnovers, and a slew of empty drives ended the regular season with a stunning thud. This is too talented a team to be as awful as it turned out to be, and now it desperately needs the practices and the time from the bowl experience to turn things around going into 2008.

Nov. 17
Washington 37 ... California 23
Washington ran for 334 yards with Louis Ranking cranking out 224 with a five-yard touchdown. The Bears appeared to take control with three first half Nate Longshore touchdown passes, but the Huskies rallied with a 12-yard Marcel Reece scoring grab with 12 seconds to play after getting a short field following a fumble. And then the UW running game took over as it hung on to the ball for close to 20 minutes in the second half with the scoring coming from three Ryan Perkins field goals. In the loss, Thomas DeCoud made 16 tackles for the Bears.
Player of the game: Washington RB Louis Rankin ran 21 times for 224 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 20-28, 236 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 22-141. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 6-58
Washington - Passing: Carl Bonnell, 7-19, 108 yds, 1 TD
Louis Rankin, 21-224, 1 TD. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 3-26
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What the heck is going on? Cal lost to Washington by getting pounded on up the middle over and over and over again. The defensive tackles got erased but the UW interior line, and the supposedly high-powered Bear offense never got on track. Is the team really this bad, or is it a letdown factor with the season going down the tubes? At the moment it's a little of both, but a win over Stanford would put a Band-Aid on the situation and ensure a decent bowl since there aren't going to be many eligible Pac 10 teams.

Nov. 10
USC 24 ... California 17
In a major downpour, USC got a three-yard touchdown run from Stafon Johnson to break a 17-17 tie, and then the defense held on as Lawrence Jackson snuffed out one drive with a fumble recovery, and Terrell Thomas stopping another with an interception. The Trojans ran for 239 yards, with Chauncey Washington running for 220 including a 36-yard touchdown dash in the second quarter. Cal also ran well, tearing off 200 yards with Justin Forsett running for 164 and a touchdown. The two teams traded scores back and forth, with Lavelle Hawkins tying it late in the third quarter on a 20-yard catch. The Trojan final touchdown drive started on its own four, going 96 yards in ten plays.
Player of the game: USC RB Chauncey Washington ran 29 times for 220 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 13-29, 199 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 31-164, 1 TD. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 5-64
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 11-20, 129 yds, 1 TD
Chauncey Washington, 29-220, 1 TD. Receiving: Fred Davis, 4-54

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The rain can't be blamed for the three turnovers against USC, especially the two picks thrown by Nate Longshore. Cal ran extremely well, but couldn't handle the Trojan running game and offensive line. There was little pressure on John David Booty, few plays at the point of attack, and not enough game-changing moments on defense. Now the Bears have lost four of five, has seen their season crash and burn, and now needs to beat Washington and Stanford to get back up in the pecking order. Step one to turning things around is to get the receivers more involved. Justin Forsett running is nice, but DeSean Jackson has to get going.

Nov. 3
California 20 ... Washington State 17
Cal got touchdown runs from one and 44 yards from Justin Forsett and two Jordan Kay field goals to plow its way to a tough win. Washington State could only manage three
Romeen Abdollmohammadi field goals before an 18-yard Charles Dillon touchdown catch with 19 seconds to play.
Player of the game: California RB Justin Forsett ran 31 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Cal was able to hang on to the ball for 37:27 by converting 12 of 19 third down chances, and allowing Wazzu to convert just four of 16 tries.
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 20-41, 280 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin McCall, 17-50. Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 4-136
California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 25-36, 205 yds
Justin Forsett, 31-129, 2 TD. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 9-78

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What happened to the Cal offensive explosion? Nate Longshore was fine at keeping the chains moving against Washington State, but the star receivers weren't able to break out and put the game away with any home runs. Justin Forsett got back on track after an average few weeks. The defense came up with one of its best games of the year, mostly because it wasn't on the field. It was able to do a great job of stopping the Cougar running game and didn't allow any big plays to turn the game around. Now comes the real test against USC. Win that, and the season is turned around.

Oct. 27
Arizona State 31 ... California 20
Cal got out to 13-0 first quarter lead on a 13-yard Cameron Jordan fumble recovery for a touchdown and two Jordan Kay field goals, ASU got an 11-yard Dimitri Nance touchdown run, Cal answered with a 21-yard DeSean Jackson touchdown catch, and then it was all Sun Devils the rest of the way. Nance scored from two and eight yards out, Thomas Weber hit a 47-yard field goal, and Kyle Williams caught a 12-yard scoring pass as part of a 24-0 run. Cal's offense sputtered in the second half, but ASU only outgained the Bears 363 yards to 359.
Player of the game: Arizona State RB Dimitri Nance ran 21 times for 85 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 47 yards
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 18-36, 261 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 17-62. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 5-88, 1 TD
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 17-29, 219 yds, 1 TD
Keegan Herring, 24-96. Receiving:
Chris McGaha, 4-58
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The running game has gone bye-bye. It didn't show up against UCLA and went missing against Arizona State. Nate Longshore didn't get sacked, but he was hit just enough to make him relatively ineffective in the second half. The Cal defense was the Cal defense, good at times, but unable to come up with the really big stops when needed. On a three-game losing streak, now it's time for a big, easy win over Washington State before dealing with USC. The season isn't totally lost, even if the Rose Bowl is, but things could quickly go into the tank with a home loss to the Cougars.

Oct. 20
UCLA 30 ... California 21
Down one late in the fourth quarter, UCLA got a 27-yard Kai Forbath field goal for a 23-21 lead, but Cal got into instant scoring range on a big Jahvid Best kickoff return. On third and five from the UCLA 30, Nate Longshore got picked off by Alterraun Verner for the second time of the day, but this time it went 76 yards for a score. In the see-saw game, the Bruins got three Forbath field goals and a trick touchdown on a 29-yard pass from WR Brandon Breazell to Dominique Johnson, but the Bears kept pace with three Longshore touchdown passes including two to DeSean Jackson.
Player of the game: UCLA DB Alterraun Verner made 4.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, broke up three passes, and picked off two passes, taking one for a game-sealing touchdown.
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-34, 232 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 25-76. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 9-136, 2 TD
UCLA - Passing: Pat Cowan, 18-27, 161 yds, 1 TD
Kahlil Bell, 22-142. Receiving: Joe Cowan, 7-39

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Where was the running game against UCLA? The Bruin D is good, but it's not so great that Cal should've been held to 67 rushing yards. Nate Longshore appeared to be a bit rusty coming off his ankle injury, but the big issue late was hit reliance on DeSean Jackson. The Cal offense hummed best when everyone got involved, and even though Longshore spread things out relatively well, Lavelle Hawkins and Jahvid Best each only caught three passes. Now the key will be to get fired up again with a trip to Arizona State up next. This once-promising season could quickly go in the tank with a three-game losing streak if the Bears aren't sharp.

Oct. 13
Oregon State 31 ... California 28
Down ten in the final minutes, the Bears came up with a thriller of an ending as Lavelle Hawkins took a Kevin Riley pass 64 yards for a touchdown to pull within three, and after the D held, they got the ball on their own six with 1:27 to play. Riley almost got sacked for a safety, and almost got stopped several other times on the drive, but he got the ball deep into OSU territory helped by a 37-yard pass to Robert Jordan and a pass interference call to get it down to the 12. But with no timeouts left, Riley tried to run, got stopped at the eight, and time ran out. It was a see-saw game for the first 50 minutes, highlighted by a ten-yard Hawkins touchdown catch, and for Oregon State, field goals from 22, 52 and 33 yards out and two one-yard Yvenson Bernard touchdown runs.
Player of the game: Oregon State LB Alan Darlin made 14 tackles, one sack, and forced and recovered a fumble
Stat Leaders: Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 18-33, 186 yds
Rushing: Yvenson Bernard, 18-33, 186 yds. Receiving: Yvenson Bernard, 8-53
Cal - Passing: Kevin Riley, 20-34, 294 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Justin Forsett, 28-150, 1 TD. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 9-192, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Number one was right there for the taking. Forever, Cal fans would wonder what would've happened if Nate Longshore would've been healthy for the Oregon State game, but Kevin Riley wasn't all that bad, and he even added a little bit of mobility. Yeah, he shouldn't have run at the end and made a mental error, but that's a young player in the biggest of all pressure situations. The defense didn't do enough to get pressure and force OSU QB Sean Canfield to screw up, and the coaching staff didn't do enough to try getting the ball in DeSean Jackson's hands. The season is hardly over, but now there's no room for error.

Sept. 29
California 31 ... Oregon 24
Cal got 21 fourth quarter points on two Justin Forsett touchdown runs and a 31-yard DeSean Jackson scoring grab, but it had to hold on as the Ducks got in scoring range on the final drive, but Cameron Colvin, diving for a possible score, lost the ball through the end zone. After several minutes of review, it was ruled a touchback and Cal was able to run out the clock. Oregon held a 10-3 after a defensive first half, highlighted by a five-yard Jonathan Stewart touchdown run. Cal was able to tie it on a 25-yard Jackson score, but Oregon responded with a 42-yard Colvin catch. Oregon turned it over four times, with Dennis Dixon throwing two interceptions, while Cal didn't give the ball away.
Player of the game: California WR DeSean Jackson caught 11 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 31-44, 306 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 21-120, 1 TD. Receiving: Cameron Colvin, 7-74, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 28-43, 285 yds, 2 TD
Justin Forsett, 23-101, 2 TD. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 11-161, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense was supposed to be beaten up and totally unable to stop the high-powered Oregon attack. While the Ducks rolled for almost 500 yards, the Bears hit like a ton of bricks, and forced four turnovers that proved to be the difference. There was tremendous offensive balance, with Nate Longshore playing a gutty game, keeping things moving late despite being hurt. After a win like this, now the spotlight will really be on. This was the official announcement that Cal is a real deal national title contender.
Sept. 22
California 45 ... Arizona 27
Cal was cruising to an apparently easy win, as Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best each ran for short scores, LaVelle Hawkins caught an 18-yard touchdown pass, and Tyson Alualu recovered a fumble for a touchdown as part of a 28-point first quarter. The Bears were up 38-10 early in the third, but Arizona came back with 17 straight points to pull within 11 with 13 minutes to play. Playing with a banged up thigh, Forsett came off the bench to lead the way on a game-clinching drive, finishing up with a three-yard touchdown run.
Player of the game: Cal RB Justin Forsett rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 42-61, 309 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Nicholas Grigsby, 13-42, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Thomas, 12-105, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 16-30, 235 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Justin Forsett, 23-117, 2 TDs. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 6-95, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Will the team be able to maintain its focus for a full season? It's still early, and already the defense has suffered second half lapses, while the offense hasn't been able to keep its foot on the gas against a good team. 14 penalties for 121 yards, and too many misfires in the second half, helped make things closer than they should've been against Arizona. The lack of a the home run from DeSean Jackson, or anyone else, isn't a concern considering how balanced the offense was. However, to beat Oregon, Cal needs that explosion back.

Sept. 15
California 42 ... Louisiana Tech 12
Cal jumped out to a quick lead after LaVelle Hawkins returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown, and then the running game took over as Justin Forsett scored from two and 39 yards out. A Crag Stevens 17-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half made it 28-6 Bears, and after Tech started off the second-half scoring with a five-yard Patric Jackson catch, the Cal offense went back to work going 47 yards in just over two minutes with Jahvid Best catching a 16-yard scoring pass. Forsett put it well out of reach with a one-yard run.
Player of the game: Cal RB Justin Forsett rushed 23 times for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 18-32, 149 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Patrick Jackson, 18-68. Receiving: Joe Anderson, 5-31, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-33, 230 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Justin Forsett, 23-152, 3 TDs. Receiving: LaVelle Hawkins, 7-87
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Cal knows the passing game is solid, and it didn't have many problems against Louisiana Tech, but this win was all about the running game. The offensive line dominated the Bulldog defensive front, and Justin Forsett took advantage with a sensational day, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. The defense that's struggled so much so far had few problems getting into the backfield and blowing up plays, but there were still a few too many decent runs. That's nitpicking. The team isn't razor-sharp, but it's playing well going into the Pac 10 opener against Arizona.

Sept. 8
California 34 ... Colorado State 28
Helped by a 73-yard DeSean Jackson touchdown run off a reverse, Cal got out to a 34-14 lead, but had to hang on as Colorado State scored on a 66- yard Damon Morton punt return for a touchdown and a three-yard Kyle Bell scoring run in the final four minutes. Cal was able to run out the clock after the Bell score, but it had to sweat. Benn ran for two scores on the day, and Caleb Hanie added a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but Cal tore off a 20-point run, helped by a 64-yard touchdown dash from Jahvid Best to get the lead for good.
Player of the game: Cal WR DeSean Jackson had five catches for 42 yards, two carries for 78 yards and a touchdown, and a pair of punt returns for 24 yards.
Stat Leaders: Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore 19-29, 146 yds
Rushing: DeSean Jackson, 2-78, 1 TD. Receiving: LaVelle Hawkins, 5-43
Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 21-29, 301 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Kyle Bell, 26-102, 2 TDs. Receiving: Damon Morton, 5-116, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... There was bound to be a bit of a letdown after the emotionally charged win over Tennessee, but Cal will have to be wary all year long of letting down in games. It was a breather with about five minutes to play, and then the Bears took their foot off the gas and it became way too close. As explosive as the Cal offense is, it's going to have to keep pushing and keep going for the big plays until the defense can prove it can stop someone.

Sept. 1
California 45 ... Tennessee 31
In a wild game with a variety of big scoring plays, Cal kicked things off with a 44-yard Worrell Williams fumble return for a touchdown, got a brilliant 77-yard punt return for a touchdown from DeSean Jackson, and got two scoring passes and a two-yard touchdown run from Nate Longshore. Tennessee hung tough in a wild first half, and pulled within seven by the fourth quarter with a five-yard touchdown catch from Chris Brown and a 41-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal. Just when it seemed like the Vols had the momentum, Cal went on a 70-yard scoring drive finishing up with a 13-yard touchdown run from Justin Forsett. Despite playing with a broken finger on his throwing hand, Tennessee QB Erik Ainge threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
Player of the game ... California RB Justin Forsett ran 26 times for 156 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 19-28, 241 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 26-156, 1 TD  Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 7-90, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 32-47, 271 yds, 3 TD
Arian Foster, 13-89  Receiving:
Chris Brown, 7-54, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense couldn't handle the Tennessee passing game, a horrible sign of things to come in Pac 10 play, and the run defense didn't do too much, but the explosive offense, and the wonderful punt return for a score from DeSean Jackson, helped Cal get one of its biggest wins in school history. Now there will be a national buzz about the Bears all year long. Everyone will want to see what Jackson does on a weekly basis, and everyone will want to see if the offense can keep up the excitement. If the defense can start to generate some semblance of a pass rush, something it didn't do enough of against the Vols, this will be a dangerous team in the national title chase.

Sept. 1 - Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Sept. 8 – at Colorado State
Offense: There's no reason for the Ram offense to be far, far better. Nine starters are back, led by the return of power back Kyle Bell from a knee injury to save a ground game that was among the worst in America. Caleb Hanie is a veteran passer with one of the Mountain West's best receiving corps at his disposal. It all comes down to a line that gets the interior back, but has to find consistent tackles who can protect Hanie. Keeping Bell healthy is also vital. There was no rushing production two years ago when he wasn't on, and there was nothing happening last year with him on the sidelines.
A veteran defense returns with everyone back except the two outside linebackers. With all the experience, there has to be more pressure in the backfield and more big plays against the pass after coming up with just 27 sacks and seven interceptions. There aren't any superstars, but there are several very good players who know what they're doing. Undersized tackle Blake Smith might move to end to provide the pass rusher the team desperately needs, and the secondary should benefit.

Sept. 15 - Louisiana Tech
Defense: 2006 was expected to be a year of transition, but yeesh. The D was the worst in America allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, and it was simply awful from start to finish. Step one for the new coaching staff is to find a way to get into the backfield after the Bulldogs finished dead last in sacks and tackles for loss, and it'll alternated between a 3-4 and a 4-3 to try to get some production. The linebacking corps should be decent, the secondary can fly, and the defensive line is full of decent-sized veterans. Now there has to be come semblance of production.
Offense: It's not like the offense was awful last year, but it wasn't consistent and it didn't do enough to keep in all the shootouts created by its defense. Enough talent returns to look for more overall production, especially in the running game where Patrick Jackson should shine behind a big, veteran offensive line that can block, but can't pass protect. The quarterback situation will be worth watching with Zac Champion likely to get the job to start the season, but will be pushed by Michael Mosley and Ross Jenkins for time.

Sept. 22 - Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats' quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

Sept. 29 – at Oregon
Offense: As usual, Oregon gobbled up a ton of yards in 2006, but lacked efficiency most of the year and imploded under the weight of its turnovers in the second half of the season.  So when offensive coordinator Gary Crowton left for LSU, Mike Bellotti turned to New Hampshire's Chip Kelly to get the offense back on course.  A spread offense guru, Kelly will have a few new bells and whistles in his toolbox, including greater use of the no-huddle and increased reliance on superstar back Jonathan Stewart.  The key for the offense, and probably the entire team, will be the development of senior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who became the poster boy for the Ducks' collapse late last year.  He'll get adequate protection from Max Unger and the boys up front, but needs more consistency from a receiving corps that misplayed too many balls in 2006. 
Defense: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti isn't shy about bringing pressure with his wave of good athletes, and now has a couple of quality corners to marginalize the risk of selling out.  Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, Freshman All-Americans in 2006, join standout rover Patrick Chung to give the Ducks their feistiest secondary in years.  The front seven, however, is far less stable.  After finishing ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense, Oregon needs to shore up the middle of its defense and develop an end or two that can consistently create pressure.  Redshirt freshman Brandon Bair is one possibility that has the staff cautiously excited about the defensive end spot.  In a league filled with strong-armed hurlers, that promising secondary will pay the price if opposing passers are given too much time to throw.               
Oct. 13 - Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they're a balanced offense that'll run it as much as they throw.  When you've got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that's called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won't go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don't get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                     

Oct. 20 – at UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who'll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that'll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell's triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who's held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they're fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker's defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won't be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that's loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Oct. 27 – at Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State really wasn't Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there's reason to believe that the Sun Devils will score in bunches this year.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that'll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation's best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he's destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter's receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they're now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that's customary in Tempe.       
Defense: Six starters return to a defense that improved in 2006, yet still allowed more than 40 points in four of the final ten games.  The Sun Devils will continue to run out of a 4-3 base while asking their linebackers and safeties to freelance and make plays all over the field.  There are building blocks—and question marks—at each unit heading into 2007.  Tackle Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis have all-league potential, but both are going to need support from a couple of new starters.  Although the linebackers have considerable upside, the man in the middle, Morris Wooten, is a first-year player.  And while safety Josh Barrett and corner Justin Tryon will play on Sundays, the pass defense is in deep trouble if the other cornerback gets routinely exposed.  The net result?  A nice collection of talent that'll still allow plenty of yards to the Pac-10's finer-tuned offenses.                                    

Nov. 3 - Washington State
Offense: Washington State won't abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that's traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they're overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He'd like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that's been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there's hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there's a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there's no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Nov. 10 - USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there'll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren't about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He'll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty's blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who's Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they're aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.   

Nov. 17 – at Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there's one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it's to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he'll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation's worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Dec. 1 – at Stanford
Offense: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that'll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year's atrocious performance. 
Defense: New defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is scrapping the 3-4 this year in favor of an attacking 4-3 that is designed to create more turnovers and more plays for negative yards.  The Cardinal is open to suggestions after finishing last in the Pac-10 in just about every defensive category in 2006.  There are holes, to be sure, but Shafer will also inherit some exciting young talent at each unit, such as sophomore tackle Ekom Udofia, sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  Above all else, the defense has to find some answers against the run after being humiliated for more than 2,500 yards and nearly five yards a carry a year ago.


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