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SI writers unanimous: Cal BCS-bound

Posted by Eric | August 31, 2006 at 4:05 pm | In Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

Today,’s four college football writers released their BCS predictions. Cal was listed in each of their respective lists, either in the Rose or Fiesta bowls. Take a look.

Excited team “can’t wait” for Tennessee

Posted by Eric | August 31, 2006 at 10:14 am | In Games | No Comments

Saturday can’t come soon enough

The Oakland Tribune published an article today about the team’s preparation for the season opener at Tennessee on Saturday. Coach Jeff Tedford has been playing Tennessee’s fight song “Rocky Top” on loop in the locker room to get them fired up, and also piping deafening croud noise to simulate the 106,000+ fans the team will face in Knoxville, TN. The players are energetic, excited, and a little nervous, but definitely looking forward to the game.

Many are considering this game to be very close, as the teams appear to be quite evenly matched. In Vegas, the game’s spread has been fluctuating between just 1 or 2 points. Recently, Tennessee has been favored (probably due to home field advantage) but the there’s been some movement over the past day or two to make Cal the 2-point favorite, perhaps with the quarterback situation sorted out. Regardless, it’s very close. And, ESPNs Mike & Mike show just called this the “most even game on the board” when describing the big games this weekend. Is it Saturday yet?

Cal at Tennessee is a Saturday storyline

Posted by Eric | August 31, 2006 at 10:10 am | In Coaches, Defense, Marshawn, Offense | No Comments

Marshawn Lynch is on the home page of in a nice banner that also includes stars like QB Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), QB Drew Weatherford (Florida State), and WR Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State).

wartop_lrg_083106_bg.jpg’s Chris Fowler also has a lot to say about Saturday’s matchup:

But let’s see what happens Saturday. Cal is a trendy pick to win the Pac-10 (and that cutting edge Lee Corso has the Bears winning the national title!). But can the Bears get out of Rocky Top intact? They are slight underdogs against a Tennessee team coming off a dismal 5-6 year. Why? Home field, of course. But is the power of Rocky Top being hugely overrated?

About home field advantage:

… The fact is, home field often is vastly overrated. When a huge, hostile crowd is cheering on a great team, it’s hard for visitors to win. When the same crowd is cheering for a merely decent home team, upsets happen all the time.

… The point is, home field is overrated when it comes to a collision of quality teams.

Some questions and analysis about the game for each team:

Now, can Tennessee reclaim Neyland Stadium this year, starting Saturday night? A win would be a huge springboard for a team that certainly will rebound from the unthinkable 2005. A seventh straight home loss to a top-10 team would really sting. The key matchup is Tennessee’s rebuilt but veteran defensive line versus Cal’s rebuilt defensive line. Combined, the Vols’ group has 10 career sacks. These are solid guys, but can they be disruptive playmakers and “War-Daddy” run stuffers against hypertalented Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett? Cal’s blockers consist of three sophomore starters who will get a baptism to the big-time. How well will they handle the noise and confusion of opening night, protect Nate Longshore and open holes? Quick drops can help mask an overmatched line, but for how long?

About Tennessee’s quarterback and new offensive coordinator:

More attention on Rocky Top has been focused on the effect David Cutcliffe’s return as offensive coordinator will have on QB Erik Ainge. In the six years Cutcliffe called the plays at UT, the Vols averaged more than 30 points each year, with Peyton Manning and Tee Martin under center. Last year’s team scored fewer than 19 per game. Expect the average to be closer to 30 than 19 this year. The Vols will be fine. Corso might need a Plan B for Glendale by 9 p.m. Saturday.

And finally, some general praise for the coaches:

Fun with Corso aside, I want to salute what Jeff Tedford and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory have done at Cal. Before they got there, don’t forget, the Bears were awful. Eight straight losing seasons, bottoming out with a 1-10 debacle in 2001 that featured six losses by 27 or more points. The Bears took beatings from UCLA (by 39) and Oregon (by 41). Under Tedford, Cal has reeled off four straight winning seasons, averaging more than eight wins per. If this kind of astounding reversal had been engineered at a more visible program, Tedford would be much more fully appreciated as the absolute top-tier coach he is. That kind of national wake-up call is what can be achieved Saturday night.

Longshore will start at Tennessee

Posted by Eric | August 29, 2006 at 11:25 pm | In Quarterback | No Comments

It’s official. Nate Longshore will start at quarterback in front of Joe Ayoob on Saturday’s season-opening game at Tennessee. Coach Jeff Tedford said, “They’ve both had great camps, (but) somebody has got to take the first snap. It’s very possible they’ll both play. Nate has run the offense very well. There wasn’t a lot of difference between them, but Nate has been real consistent.”

Both quarterbacks are taking the news with class and humility.

Longshore: “Either way, I’m sure we’ll both play, and we just want to go out there and execute the offense. I’m excited. We’re jelling and we’re getting each other’s timing down. We’re figuring everything out, and it’s coming together at the right time.”

Ayoob: “If Nate comes out and goes 10-for-10, I don’t think I’ll go in. But my understanding is I’ll get some playing time, so we’ll see what happens. It’s not about who’s starting or not. It’s about winning games.”

You can also watch a video featuring Tedford’s announcement and statements from the quarterbacks. Thanks Sam W.

No QB named starter, but Longshore favored

Posted by Eric | August 29, 2006 at 2:19 pm | In Coaches, Quarterback | No Comments

Longshore or Ayoob?

Coach Jeff Tedford has still not named a starter at quarterback for the season opener at Tennessee. At today’s Pac-10 coaches teleconference, Tedford stated that the decision is likely to be “a game-time decision” between Nate Longshore and Joe Ayoob.

Apparently, there was also some confusion caused by ESPN asking Marshawn Lynch about the starting situation, implying that Ayoob was to start.

However, according to an unofficial report from a respected insider at the conference, it “distinctly sounded like [Longshore] would start as he remained healthy today, although [Tedford] refused to be pinned down to announcing the starter today.”

Longshore back, starters may be named

Posted by Eric | August 29, 2006 at 5:51 am | In Defense, Offense, Quarterback | No Comments

Quarterback Nate Longshore was limited Saturday, but returned 100% practice yesterday (Monday) after missing 3 days of practice due to a “disk problem that inflamed a nerve”. Jay Heater of the Contra Costa Times says:

Longshore not only practiced, but he looked very sharp. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he is named the starter. He threw some rockets on Monday. You can bet he is making the trip [to Tennessee].

Additionally, Coach Jeff Tedford is saying that he will “probably” make an announcement today naming the starting quarterback who will get “65 to 70%” of the practice repetitions. However, he still maintains that he is likely to play both Longshore and Joe Ayoob at Tennessee.

In addition to quarterback, Tedford is expected to name starters in other positions (right guard, cornerback, rover) today as well.

ESPN’s Corso picks Cal for national championship

Posted by Eric | August 26, 2006 at 7:09 pm | In Ranks/Predictions | 4 Comments

ESPN College Gameday’s Lee Corso picked Cal to be the national champion during their TV broadcast over the weekend, predicting a win by Cal over West Virginia in the BCS championship game. While the other analysts were not in agreement with his statement, it was a great nod of respect from a well-known name in college football. Corso also said that even if Cal were to lose to Tennessee, the team should “blow through the next eleven games”. Good stuff.

Both Longshore and Ayoob to play at Tennessee

Posted by Eric | August 25, 2006 at 2:45 pm | In Quarterback | No Comments

It looks like Coach Jeff Tedford could not pick between quarterbacks Nate Longshore and Joe Ayoob. Apparently, both have played comparably enough that neither has defined themself as the starter for sure. This article about Tennessee has this tidbit near the end:

Quarterback Nate Longshore didn’t practice Thursday because of a “twinge in his back,” Tedford said. The head coach then went against his one-quarterback philosophy by saying Longshore and Joe Ayoob will play at Tennessee. “Just to give them some experience, to see how they perform,” Tedford said. “They’re very close. Nobody has really separated themselves. Both have been productive.”

So, we’ll see both play on September 2.

Lynch #4 in ESPN’s first Heisman Watch

Posted by Eric | August 25, 2006 at 1:50 pm | In Marshawn | No Comments
Running back Marshawn Lynch has taken the fourth spot in ESPN’s Heisman Watch poll with 26 points, behind Brady Quinn (69), Adrian Peterson (56), and Troy Smith (40) while in front of fifth spot (Kenny Irons, 7 points). Take a look.

Overshadowed by that other SoCal school, Lynch has enjoyed two productive years rushing for the Bears. Will he grab the spotlight this year?

Last performance: Lynch put on a show against BYU, rushing for 194 yards and 3 TDs.

SI: Lynch #1 and Mebane #4 players in Pac-10

Posted by Eric | August 24, 2006 at 9:55 am | In Marshawn, Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

Sports Illustrated has an online photo gallery with a listing of its top 10 players in the Pac-10. Marshawn Lynch takes the number one spot:

The dynamic and elusive running back enters the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate. He has the speed to turn the corner and the strength to pound between the tackles. If healthy, Lynch and RB Justin Forsett should easily combine for more than 2,500 yards on the ground.

Meanwhile, Brandon Mebane takes the number four spot:

He could be the nation’s best defensive tackle. At 6-3, 306 pounds, he moves like a defensive end. Last season Mebane regularly faced double teams but still compiled seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He should easily earn All-America honors.

The whole top 10: 1. RB Marshawn Lynch (California) 2. WR Dwayne Jarrett (USC) 3. WR Jason Hill (Washington State) 4. DT Brandon Mebane (California) 5. QB Rudy Carpenter (Arizona State) 6. RB Yvenson Bernard (Oregon State) 7. TE Zach Miller (Arizona State) 8. DE Lawrence Jackson (USC) 9. OT Sam Baker (USC) 10. CB Antoine Cason (Arizona). Thanks Sam W.

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