Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SF Chronicle: Cal Schedule Analysis

Ron Kroichick


Sept. 5: Maryland, 7 p.m.

The Terrapins rolled to victory last year in College Park, in a game starting at breakfast time on Cal's body clocks. This year, the game could end well past 1 a.m. on Maryland's body clocks. Will the Terps stay awake? Will they make Jahvid Best vomit again?

Sept. 12: Eastern Washington, 2:30 p.m.

Quick background: Eastern Washington is located in Cheney, Wash. (outside Spokane), the football coach is Beau Baldwin - who once backed up Jon Kitna as quarterback at Central Washington - and the Eagles went 6-5 last season, including road losses to Texas Tech (49-24) and Colorado (31-24).

Sept. 19: at Minnesota, 9 a.m.

The Golden Gophers are leaving the hideous Metrodome for a sleek, modern, on-campus stadium, which they will christen Sept. 12 against Air Force. Minnesota features a talented wide receiver in senior Eric Decker, who caught 84 passes last season and earned first-team, All-Big 10 honors.

Sept. 26: at Oregon, 12:30 p.m.

Autzen Stadium is not an ideal place to open the conference season, especially against a Ducks team with the same ambitions as Cal - toppling USC from the Pac-10 throne. The Bears' challenge begins with corralling Jeremiah Masoli, the slippery quarterback from City College of San Francisco.

Oct. 3: USC, 5 p.m.

Good omen for Cal: The Bears get USC at home and before November, when the Trojans are all but invincible under head coach Pete Carroll. Bad omen: Cal is only 1-6 against the Trojans since Jeff Tedford arrived in Berkeley (a triple-overtime victory in September 2003).

Oct. 17: at UCLA, TBA

Cal plans to take buses to Pasadena in an effort to save money (that should wipe out the state budget deficit). If the Bears don't spend their time gazing at the picturesque landscape along Interstate 5, maybe they'll watch tape of old USC offenses. Norm Chow, who gained renown as the Trojans' offensive coordinator, now holds the same job with the Bruins.

Oct. 24: Washington State, TBA

This could turn into stat-padding time, if the Cougars' defense plays anything like it did last season. Washington State allowed six opponents to score 58 points or more, including Cal (which won 66-3 in Pullman). Coach Paul Wulff needs to show progress or his second season could be his last.

Oct. 31: at Arizona State, TBA

Coach Dennis Erickson's offensive wizardry might receive a stiff test this season, without many of his top players from '08 - including quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who started 43 games while at Arizona State. The Bears got smacked in their last visit to Tempe, a 31-20 loss during 2007's second-half slide.

Nov. 7: Oregon State, TBA

Watch the running backs in this one, because Best and the Beavers' Jacquizz Rodgers could put on quite a show. Rodgers, a 5-foot-7 workhorse who burrowed his way to 1,253 yards rushing as a freshman, returns to lead a dangerous Beavers team.

Nov. 14: Arizona, TBA

Coach Mike Stoops saved his job by guiding the Wildcats to the Las Vegas Bowl last season. One of Arizona's big wins came against Cal, when the Bears allowed a season-high 42 points. Stoops will lean on running back Nic Grigsby, who gained 1,153 yards rushing in '08.

Nov. 21: at Stanford, TBA

Tedford has dropped only one Big Game in his seven years at Cal, but it happened on his last visit to Stanford, in 2007. The Bears better be prepared to wrap up Toby Gerhart, who has the brute strength to carry would-be tacklers along for the ride.

Dec. 5: at Washington, 3:30 p.m.

Just a guess, but the weather might not be ideal in Seattle in December. The Huskies hope new coach Steve Sarkisian can erase the memories of last season's 0-12 record. Sarkisian brings along the same pro-style offense he used with raging success at USC.

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