Every team plays better at home than on the road, but few teams had the disparity that Cal had last season. The Bears were 1-4 on the road last season, and got blown out in three of them. The only road game the Golden Bears won was against last-place Washington State, and the Bears trailed in that game well into the second half before pulling out a 20-13 victory.
The Golden Bears made a lot mistakes in their opener, but also showed considerable potential in their 36-21 victory over Fresno State, which wasn't a road game, but wasn't a home game either. Playing at Candlestick Park, where more than half the crowd was Fresno State supporters, may have felt like a road game to the Bears, who played pretty well, especially on defense.
If the Bears play close to as well on defense as they did in that game, they should fare well in Boulder, Colo., as well.
Colorado will feature the same quarterback (Tyler Hansen) that Cal smothered last season, sacking him six times and intercepting three of his passes.
But Hansen is a better quarterback now than he was then, which he demonstrated in the second half of the 34-17 loss at Hawaii in the Buffaloes' opener. However, Hansen was sacked seven times in that game, a trend the Bears' strong pass rush should be able exploit.
Still, the Golden Bears' success rests with QB Zach Maynard, and the Colorado game will provide another gauge of whether he's capable of leading Cal to a successful season. After a slow start in the opener, he showed an ability to move the offense, providing a sense that he can get the job done, something Cal's quarterbacks seldom demonstrated last season.
His ability to run provides a dimension Jeff Tedford has never had in his quarterbacks at Cal, and it will be interesting to see how he utilizes that skill as the season goes on. Maynard ran several read option plays out of the shotgun with considerable success against Fresno State, and Tedford may incorporate more of that in the future. He wants to ensure Maynard stays healthy, however, because Cal's backups are shaky at best.
Sophomore WR Keenan Allen had a big game in the opener, but he had a big game in last season's opener and was never able to duplicate it. He had 59 receiving yards against Colorado last season.
--WR Marvin Jones needs one more catch to give him 100 for his career. He has 12 career touchdown receptions, and one more would move him into a tie for eighth on Cal's all-time list.
--TB Isi Sofele had 24 carries in the opener, nearly twice his previous career high of 13, and he said he was very sore the next day.
--Two current Cal assistant coaches were Colorado assistants last season under Dan Hawkins. Cal's wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Eric Kiesau was the Buffaloes' offensive coordinator last season, and the Bears defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose held the same title at Colorado a year ago.
--Cal coach Jeff Tedford needs one win to tie the record for Cal coaching victories. He has 73, one shy of the record held by Andy Smith.
--Even though both teams are in the Pac-12, this is a nonconference game because of an odd scheduling situation. The teams were already scheduled to play this season before the Pac-10 was expanded to the Pac-12. Because they are in different divisions, they do not automatically play each other, and they were not matched when the conference schedule was released. So they decided to play each other anyway, outside the conference schedule.
SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads Colorado 3-2 (last meeting, 2010, 52-7 Cal).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: WRs Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen were the stars in the opener, partly because QB Zach Maynard was able to get them the ball. They are Cal's best offensive players, and getting them the ball is a major priority because both can make big plays out of short passes. Maynard showed poise and progress in the opener, but his passing statistics (16 for 34, one interception, two touchdowns) were not great. He seems to do his best work when he's on the move, whether he ends up passing or running. The interception he threw on Cal's first official play from scrimmage in the opener is a reminder than he may still be susceptible to turning the ball over. TB Isi Sofele showed flashes of promise, and he's capable of producing a big gainer. But he's also capable of losing yardage on any given play.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The loss of three of the team's best defenders to the NFL – S Chris Conte, DE Cam Jordan and LB Mike Mohamed – did not seem to hurt Cal a bit in the opener, when the defense was outstanding. Mychal Kendricks' move from outside linebacker to the inside, where he played two years ago, seems to have been a success. He had nine tackles, including 2.5 for losses in the opener. Cal's pass rush is one of its strengths, and the Bears got solid play out of its front three, which was a question. Cal CBs Steve Williams and Marc Anthony played well in the opener, and their play may be the key to the team's defensive success.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is probably the first time he's had a quarterback who's good with his feet -- or at least to that level." -- Colorado coach John Embree, on the fact that Jeff Tedford finally has a quarterback who can run.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Cal at Colorado, Sept. 10 -- Cal beat Colorado 52-7 last season, but the Golden Bears went 1-4 on the road last season. Cal won its opener against Fresno State 36-21, while Colorado lost on the road to Hawaii 34-17. Even though both are Pac-12 schools, this is a nonconference game.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Cal had success pressuring Colorado QB Tyler Hansen last season, sacking him six times, and he was sacked seven times in the opener against Hawaii. If Cal can get to him early in the game and perhaps force a turnover or two, the Golden Bears should be in good position to go 2-0. If Cal can get the ball to Marvin Jones or Keenan Allen, it can expect some big plays to result. Zach Maynard's ability to make some plays running the ball needs to be utilized.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Marvin Jones -- He showed elusiveness in the opener that he did not display last season. Although fellow wide receiver Keenan Allen gets much of the attention, Jones has been the more consistent receiver. You can almost count on him getting close to 80 to 100 yards receiving.
ILB Mychal Kendricks -- He had 1.5 sacks against Colorado last year, and you can bet defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will try to find ways to get him to the quarterback this time as well.
FS Sean Cattouse -- He was a virtual non-factor in the opener, because Fresno State seldom got into the Cal secondary. He may get a few chances this week, and he is capable of making big plays.
QB Zach Maynard -- His ability to make plays running the ball may be the key because it makes the defense hesitate and it provides Jeff Tedford with a lot more options on offense.
WR Keenan Allen -- Jeff Tedford has said he will do whatever he can to get sophomore Allen the ball this season, primarily as a pass receiver, but also as a runner, kick returner and perhaps even as a passer. His athletic skills and potential for making big plays make him a major weapon.
--Freshman DB Avery Walls is scheduled to change his last name to Sebastian when he turns 18 on Spt. 11. His jersey already has the name Sebastian on the back.
--Senior WR Marvin Jones wears No. 1, but when he returns punts, he slips on a jersey that has No. 49, which caused some identification problems in the opener. He switches numbers because CB Steve Williams also wears No. 1, and two players can't have the same number simultaneously. As a punt returner, Jones is technically a defensive player.
--ILB Mychal Kendricks is the team's active career leader in tackles (161), tackles for loss (24.5), sacks (11) and fumble recoveries (5).