The Colorado Buffaloes travel to Berkeley, California this Satuday to take on the California Golden Bears. It is CU’s first meeting against a PAC 10 team since the Buffs announced they were going to join the conference in 2012 and leave the Big 12. Besides taking on their new rival on the field, the CU and Cal are academic rivals, competing to get the best and brightest to attend their respective universities. This game will not replace Cal vs. Stanford, though it will probably develop into a bragging rights game for each school.
Both CU and Cal are coming off opening day victories. The Buffs defeated the Colorado State Rams 24-3 and Cal beat UC Davis 52-3. Colorado hopes to snap a 13 game losing streak on the road, while Cal wants to improve its record against Big 12 schools. Under Coach Jeff Tedford, the Bears have been one of the top teams in the PAC 10, but they are not expected to compete for the conference title in 2010.
Their seventh place preseason ranking in the PAC 10 is surprising since Cal returns key skill position players such as running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Marvin Jones and quarterback Kevin Riley. Having a balanced attack will prevent the Buffs from stacking the line and running upfield like they did last week against freshman quarterback Pete Thomas. The key matchup pits the Bears receivers against the Buffs’ shutdown corners, Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. If they can contain Cal’s wideouts, CU will be able to put more men in the box. CU’s defensive line and linebackers held the Rams to 49 total rushing yards last and hope to repeat this effort. It will be more challenging this week due to Cal’s team speed and athleticism.
CU’s offense has to keep California off balance with its play calling since they have not established a dynamic offensive scheme to date. It was a workmanlike performance last week and the Buffs will need to build upon this in order to compete with the Bears. Tyler Hansen was steady at quarterback, but he will have to step up his performance this week against a superior California defense if Colorado is to win. CU will need more production out of Rodney Stewart to put Cal on their heels and to open up the passing game. With a game under their belt, the Buffs wide receiving corps is poised to stretch out the Bear’s secondary. Scotty McKnight, Travon Patterson and Toney Clemons are capable of putting up big numbers and expect Coach Dan Hawkins to let Hansen open it up a little more against the Bears defense and take some more chances downfield.
It is going to be tough to win on the road, but the Buffs need this one if they realistically want to make a bowl game and have a winning record. A victory will snap their road losing streak and will reintroduce the CU program to blue chip prospects in California, which will help with future recruiting efforts and was instrumental in making the Buffs a national power in the 1990′s. Every game is important, but to Coach Hawkins and the Buffs this is the most important game to date and maybe for years to come.
About the Author
Written by Brian O'Connor
Graduated from the University of Colorado in 1993 and have been a big fan of the Buffs since the halcyon days of Coach McCartney, Big 8 titles and a National Championship. While I know I'll get nostalgic when the day arrives, I'm hoping that a change of scenery to the PAC 10 will lead us back to the glory days. Until then, I want to see some Buff pride in what will probably be our last year in the Big 12. Beat Nebraska.