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By Jon Wilner
Friday, September 14th, 2007 at 7:15 am in Pac 10, Cal, Stanford, San Jose State, WAC. That’s right, one of the most important games of Cal’s season is this weekend, only it’s not Cal-Louisiana Tech or even USC-Nebraska. It’s Tennessee at Florida. Old, Young and Not-yet-born Blues should be rootin’ hard for Tennessee, not only Saturday but throughout the season. How the Vols perform could have an impact on Cal’s Bowl Championship Series prospects. The better Tennessee is, the better Cal’s two-touchdown victory looks in the eyes of voters in the south, east and midwest. If Tennessee beats Florida, the defending national champs — and especially if it wins the SEC East — then what happened Sept. 1 in Berkeley becomes a hugely impressive win for the Bears. And no one could dispute that. But if Tennessee loses to Florida and finishes .500 or so in the SEC, well … then the fans and media and pollsters across the country might take a skeptical view of Cal’s win. That could affect where they vote the Bears, and a few lost votes could keep them out of the BCS at-large pool. (Cal’s placing in the computer polls would also be affected by Tennessee’s performance, as well.) Oh, and while you’re at it, Cal fans: you might want to root for Colorado State, too.
Cal should be so far ahead of Louisiana Tech that Coach Jeff Tedford will yank his starters in the third quarter. But this is a critical game for at least one player: backup quarterback Kevin Riley. It’s one of the few chances the Bears have to get Riley some game experience before the schedule heats up. If Cal takes care of business early, Riley could play most of the second half, and he needs to. A redshirt freshman, Riley has never thrown a pass for the Bears. I’m not sayng that starter Nate Longshore is injury prone, just that it’s asking a lot for him to play every important snap of the season. He could miss a few plays after getting his bell rung, or banging a finger on his non-throwing hand … perhaps in the fourth quarter in Eugene, or Tempe. And that’s when the Bears will need Riley to get them out of a bad play at the line of scrimmage, or read the blitz, or make a third-down pass. The more experience he gets against teams like LaTech, the more prepared he’ll be down the road.