This will be Cal's fourth straight season opener at home, but it's first against an FCS opponent since 2005. The Bears have opened the season against BCS schools Tennessee, Michigan State, and Maryland the last three years. But the Bears don't see any difference in this Saturday's game, regardless of what subdivision the Aggies play.
"Every opponent, you can't take lightly," said senior quarterback Kevin Riley. "The Boise State game last year with UC Davis, they scored in the last two minutes but it was a pretty tight game the whole game. And Boise State's a good team, obviously."
"There's a drop-off [in athleticism] but it's not huge. [UC Davis is] a good team predicted to win their conference this year. There is a difference, but they're scholarship players as well and they're a good team. You've got to be ready. If you come out there just thinking you're going to win, not ready to play, it's going to be a fight and you might get yourself into a bad situation just like Michigan and Appalachian State a couple of years back, and there's many stories just like it."
The Aggies lost only two games by more than 20 points last season – at Fresno State and a 56-35 loss at Southern Utah. Riley pointed out UC Davis' game at Boise State, where the Aggies were down only 27-16 until the No. 5 ranked Broncos tacked another late fourth quarter touchdown to increase the margin of victory. Another game of note is UC Davis' last game versus a Pac-10 opponent – a 20-17 upset win at Stanford.
The Aggies are 2-17 all-time against current members of the Pac-10 conference with the other victory coming against Arizona (W,9-7) in 1923. Since 2005, UC Davis has played at least one FBS team every season. It is 1-6 in those games.
"We don't want to overlook these guys," said senior All-American linebacker Mike Mohamed. "They've played a couple of good games against big opponents in the past few years. They beat Stanford a few years ago and they played Boise State tough, so we're going to get a good team on Saturday. We just need to show up and play Cal football, and don't take these guys lightly, because they are going to give us their A game."
This is the first time UC Davis has played Cal in 71 years. Cal holds an 8-0 lead in the all-time series between the programs that ran from 1932-39.
Offensively, the Aggies are primarily a single-back, but use veteran fullback Ishman Anderson in the offense as well. Running back Joe Trombetta enters his senior campaign with 1,618-career rushing yards. However, sophomore Marquis Nicolis or junior Josh Reese is expected to start. Wide receiver Sean Creadick and tight end Dean Rogers provide redshirt freshman Randy Wright with experienced targets. Up front, they feature a solid offensive led by Mark Tos, who will make his 35th consecutive start on Saturday afternoon.
"We've been watching film a little bit," said Mohamed. "They run a lot of single-back and the linemen try to stretch you out, try to get guys out of their gaps and they'll try to cut it back on you.
"They have a redshirt freshman quarterback. Their starting running back right now is a new guy, we haven't seen him on film. The guy who started last year is actually their No. 3 guy now. So there's going to be some new faces out there on Saturday, but you know, they're a good team."
The Aggies defensive line features three of the Great West Conference's top defenders. Eric Sobotka, Jacob Maxson, and Andrew Benjamin all return and comprise a formidable group up front. Linebacker Dozie Amajoyi and defensive back Danny Hart lead the Aggies' back seven.
"There's [schemes] you see. They disguise it pretty well with some pressures in third-down situations and things like that," Riley said of UC Davis's defensive schemes. "You've just got to be aware of it. If you don't catch it, it could get ugly, like a lot of things."
Cal has the obvious talent advantage. The Bears are a heavy favorite, and anything less than a resounding victory would be viewed by fans, that haven't forgotten how last season ended with ugly losses to Washington and Utah, as a disappointment.
"It probably wouldn't be truthful if I said from top to bottom they're as athletic as us," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "That's probably not the case, but, that being said, you don't play with individual, you play with team.
"They're very competitive. They're picked again to win their conference. They have 14 starters back and they do a great job. They're very well coached They do a great job of playing together as a team. They run well. They play hard. They're tough. They don't make mistakes."
Tedford is confident and eager to get his Bears on the field for Saturday's game.
"I don't know that I have any concerns," said Tedford. "I'm anxious to see us get on the field and get after it. I don't have any glaring concerns right now."
You can now follow Cal Sports Digest via Twitter.
Discuss in Cal Sports Digest Forums.
If you have not by now, subscribe to CalSportsDigest.com. Click HERE to get access to the members-only content from CSD and the nation-wide Scout.com network.
©Copyright 2010, CalSportsDigest.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.