The College Football season officially kicks off on Saturday, as most the teams in the nation will play their first game of the 2009 season. The California Golden Bears will host the Maryland Terps' in a game the Bears are heavily favored in.
Coming into the season, most of the talk around campus has been about Cal's Jr. phenom halfback, Jahvid Best. The 5'10" 200 pound speedster is coming off an impressive 2008 campaign in which he rushed for 1580 yards on just 194 carries, good for a 8.1 ypc average. He also found paydirt 15 times on the ground an once through the air. A lot of experts around the nation feel that Best is one of, if not the most explosive back in the college football this year, and there are a lot of expectations surrounding the youngster. The Terps' are going to have to stop him and the rest of the Bears rushing attack if they're serious about pulling off the upset in Berkley. Another key offensive player for Cal is their quarterback Kevin Riley. The Junior quarterback has been heavily involved in the Bears offensive game plan over the last 2 seasons, but this is the first year in which he'll enter the season as the clear cut QB 1 and there isn't anyone else close to threatening that spot. No longer will he have Nate Longshore to share snaps with or compete against for PT, so it should be interesting to see how he does being in this situation for the first time. The Bears are obviously more of a smash-mouth, running offense as is, but I'm still expecting a big season out of Riley, and I'd consider it a disappointment if he fails to reach 2,500 yards through the air and at least 20 touchdowns. The Bears don't have the most stacked receiving corps this year, but they do have returning wideouts Nyan Boateng and Veran Tucker, along with yet-to-be used sophomore Marvin Jones, who the Coach Tedford has high hopes for.
Defensively, the Cal is always pretty solid and this year should be no different as many expect them to be the teams strength. They're returning 8 of the 11 starters from last year, and last years bunch was one of the best defenses in the nation as far as creating turnovers. Defensive end Tyson Alualu and defensive backs Syd'Quan Thompson and Marcus Ezuff should all stand out defensively and lead the charge for the Bears. The only way I see the Bears having any trouble controlling the game vs. Maryland is if the Terps somehow figure out how to shut down Best (they did last season, holding him to a career low 25 rushing yards) and get into the face of Kevin Riley, but I highly doubt they'll do enough of that to disrupt Jeff Tedford's game plan.
Notes: The Stanford Cardinal also officially start their 2009 season off on Saturday, as they travel up to Washington State. The Cardinal are hoping for big things from their star running back Toby Gerhart, who's having visions of a 2,000 yard season. They're also starting a freshman quarterback in Andrew Luck, who they're hoping can take that job and keep it for the next couple of seasons. The Cardinal will have their work cut out for them on the road in a tough environment in Washington, but they're facing a team in which they absolutely slaughtered last year (58-0) and I fully expect the Cardinal to leave Washington with a record of 1-0.