Colorado vs. California preview

Cal visits Colorado on Saturday in the Buffaloes' home opener.

Jon Embree wasn't on the sidelines when Colorado played at California in 2010.

Colorado's new head coach was miles away, coaching tight ends for the Washington Redskins, when the Buffs were throttled, 52-7 by the Bears.

Embree has watched the tape, however, and realizes it wasn't pretty.

"I don't feel like we competed very well last year," Embree said.

He hopes that changes today. Looking to rebound from a season-opening loss in Hawaii, Colorado welcomes the Cal Bears to Folsom Field for the home opener today.

"We have to get better every week and I do expect to see improvement every week," Embree said.

Looking across the field, Embree sees a talented Cal team with a lot of weapons -- on both sides of the ball. Cal has dynamic players on offense and experienced play-makers on defense.

"They're a very good team," Embree said. "I think they're a team a lot like us -- they have a lot to prove."

Embree's main message to his team, however, is to not worry so much about the opponent. Yes, Cal thumped the Buffs last week. But, the Buffs have bigger things to worry about.

"We have to learn to be more about us than the opponent," Embree said. "We have to play at a certain standard or a certain level, and whatever happens, happens.

"I think part of our issue is we do get caught up too much in who it is, where it is and all of that instead of just going out and playing and playing at a certain level."

Looking to play at a high level for the home opener, the Buffs will look to their own play-makers, including quarterback Tyler Hansen, running back Rodney Stewart and receiver Paul Richardson on offense; and linebacker Jon Major, safeties Anthony Perkins and Ray Polk and others on defense.

If CU's play-makers show up, the Buffs could very well walk out of Folsom Field with their first win of 2011.

Here's a glance at today's game:


When/Where: Today, 1:30 p.m., at Folsom Field in Boulder

The series: Cal leads 3-2, including a 52-7 win over the Buffs in Berkeley, Calif., last season. This is Cal's first trip to Boulder since Sept. 11, 1982.

Last week: Colorado lost at Hawaii, 34-17. Cal defeated Fresno State, 36-21.

Last year: Both teams finished 5-7 and missed out on postseason play.

Air it out: Playing in the Pac-12, Colorado is going to see a lot of passes thrown this season. Although this is a non-conference game, it starts today. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard has a great arm and a great set of receivers, led by Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen. Jones and Allen combined for 13 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win against Fresno State.

Protecting Hansen: If Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen is feeling a bit nervous about this week, there's good reason. He was sacked seven times last week and never could get comfortable in the pocket. Now he faces Cal, a team that sacked his six times -- and hit him several other times -- a year ago.

Bear to keep an eye on: LB Mychal Kendricks -- Maybe the best linebacker in the Pac-12, Kendricks is a big-time play-maker. CU found that out in 2010. He had 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against the Buffs a year ago. Against Fresno State, he had nine tackles (2.5 for loss) and 0.5 of a sack.

Buff to keep an eye on: CB Greg Henderson -- The true freshman played well in the opener against Hawaii, but this will be a bigger test. Henderson is likely to spend most of his day lined up against Marvin Jones or Keenan Allen. It's a good bet the Bears will look early to test the rookie corner.

Did you know?: Cal has always been known for its offense, most notably its quarterbacks. Yet, last year, the Bears had the No. 1 defense in the Pac-10, giving up just 319.08 yards per game.

This and that: Since 1991, this is just the sixth time that's CU home opener comes against a BCS school. ... If the Buffs hope to go to a bowl game this year, today's game is huge. Only once in school history have the Buffs started 0-2 and gone to a bowl game (1986, started 0-4, finished 6-6). ... Cal had posted eight straight winning seasons before last year. ... Cal coach Jeff Tedford has 73 wins with the Bears, one shy of tying Andy Smith (1916-25), who is the school's all-time leader. ... Maynard and Allen are half-brothers. ... CU sophomore receiver Paul Richardson has eight touchdown receptions in 13 college games.

How the Bears can win: Attack on offense. If Maynard, who has been prone to throwing interceptions during his college career, keeps his composure and can find a way to exploit CU's inexperienced cornerbacks by using his dynamic receivers, it could be a long day for the Buffaloes.

How the Buffs can win: Get the ground game going. CU wants to establish itself as a running team, yet gained just 17 yards last week (61 when not counting sacks). If Rodney Stewart and Co. can keep the chains moving this time around, it'll help keep the clock moving and keep Cal's weapons on the bench. CU gained just 75 rushing yards against Cal last year.