By TIM SULLIVAN
August 30, 2007 -- CAL seemingly had it all last Sept. 2, when the glitzy, glamorous Golden Bears strolled into Knoxville for a season-opening tussle with Tennessee. The Bears were No. 9 in the nation, their highest ranking since 1952. They had superstars at every skill position. They were under the direction of the country's latest, greatest, offensive guru, coach Jeff Tedford. And they were even a darkhorse choice to win the national title. Then they kicked off at Neyland Stadium. Four excruciating hours later, the orange scoreboard read: Tennessee 35, Cal 18. All of a sudden, the Bears were 0-1 frauds, out of the Top Ten and the national spotlight. Until now. "That first game was a drag on the whole season," Cal linebacker Zack Follett said, "and we've had the whole summer to reflect on it and let it motivate us." The nation, and the Volunteers, for that matter, get a chance to see how motivated these Bears are. Saturday night, No. 12 Cal plays host to No. 15 Tennessee in Week One's primetime, marquee matchup.
"I've always been a believer in each game stands on its own," Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said. "This is a different Tennessee team and a different Cal team." A different time zone and stadium, too, and that should make the difference. Plus, Week One is traditionally where home favorites make hay, and we won't challenge that theory much. Listen, Cal won't be confused with Southern Cal anytime soon, especially on the depth chart, but the Bears' starting offensive skill is comparable to the No. 1 Trojans', and the defense isn't bad either. Just ask Texas A&M, which was blasted by the Bears, 45-10, in the Holiday Bowl. Tennessee, picked preseason No. 2 in the SEC East, is in line for a good season. But with Cal, Southern Miss and Florida on the slate the first three weeks, it could be a rocky start on Rocky Top. Cal (-6) is the pick.