We’ll have more on 12th-ranked California throughout the week, but I just wanted to share some early thoughts on one of the more intriguing teams in the country. This is a team that has the potential to shake up the national picture and perhaps upend Southern California in the Pacific-10 race.
First and foremost, make sure you check out running back Jahvid Best, the most electrifying player in the country. Everyone remembers the hit Kevin Barnes delivered on Best in last year’s game in College Park, causing Best to lose his breakfast. Best rushed for 1,580 yards last season, scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 8.1 yards per carry. That’s pretty impressive. What’s also impressive: Best has 19 carries of 20 or more yards, and three carries of 80 or more yards. Another Cal running back, Shane Vereen, rushed for 715 yards last season. So Maryland’s rushing defense will have its hands full, even though Cal’s loss of Alex Mack, a second-team all-American center, is a concern for the Golden Bears.
The big question is Cal’s passing game. Quarterback Kevin Riley was inconsistent last season, even though his 14 touchdown passes were offset by only six interceptions. Problem was, he completed only 50.7 percent of his passes. Riley beat out two competitors for the starting job in August. The receiving corps should and needs to be more seasoned. The player to watch is Nyan Boateng, a transfer from Florida who led Cal in receptions (29) and receiving yards (439) last season.
Expect Cal to shine defensively with the return of all four players in the secondary. The foursome had 12 interceptions last season. The best of the bunch is Syd’Quan Thompson, who is expected to earn all-American honors this season. The linebacker unit must replace three starters. I’m expecting a wild game with a lot of points scored. I expect California to score more of those points, but I won’t offer a score prediction until Friday.