The Golden Bears finished the season with an 8-4 record, a 12-game schedule that included seven games against teams with winning records. Cal won three of those games )Michigan State, Colorado State, and Oregon) while they lost the other four (Maryland, Arizona, Southern Cal, and Oregon State).
Offensively, the Bears will be led by senior quarterback Nate Longshore (6-5/233), a former four-star recruit coming out of high school. Longshore completed 58-percent of his passes during the regular season with 930 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions. He split time with Kevin Riley, who threw for 1,360 yards and 14 scores. Longshore, who was named the game's starter earlier this week, leads a passing attack that ranks 79th nationally.
Cal's best player this season has been sophomore running back Jahvid Best (5-10/185), a former four-star recruit coming out of high school. Best ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards this season with 1,394. He's added 13 rushing touchdowns and is also a major threat out of the backfield. He's one of Cal's leading receivers, with 27 receptions for 246 yards and a score. Redshirt freshman Shane Vareen (5-10/180) is another former four-star recruit and he should see a lot of action as well. He's gained 679 yards on the ground and 214 through the air this season and has eight total touchdowns. Thanks largely to their efforts, Cal's running game ranks 30th in the country.
The top pass catcher is former Florida Gator Nyan Boateng (6-2/205), a junior who has 26 catches for 412 yards and five scores so far this season. Junior Verran Tucker (6-2/185) is the other starter at wide out with 20 receptions for 288 yards and three scores. Senior LaReylle Cunningham (18 for 276 and 1 TD), sophomore Jeremy Ross (15-201-2), and Sean Young (17-192-1) are other top pass catchers at the receiver position. Junior Cameron Morrah (6-4/245) is a talented tight end who has 26 catches for 324 yards and eight scores this season. He is Cal's most dangerous pass-catching weapon in the redzone and is utlized quite well in their offense.
The offensive line is led by senior center Alex Mack (6-5/300), who is considered by many to be the nation's top center prospect for April's NFL Draft. Mack and his linemates have helped Cal rank 22nd nationally in scoring points this season. They rank just 70th nationally in sacks allowed, however.
Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, Cal is probably even better. They rank 24th in total defense and have a lot of proven playmakers on that side of the ball.
Up front, they're led by sophomore Tyson Alualu (6-4/290), a former three-star player who has six sacks on the season.
A pair of linebackers have had excellent seasons for the Bears -- senior Zack Follett (6-2/230), a former four-star recruit, and sophomore Michael Mohamed (6-4/200). Follett leads the team with 8.5 sacks and is a force coming off the edge. Mohamed leads the team with 80 total tackles.
There are plenty of playmakers in the secondary and there isn't anyone bigger in that area than junior cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson (5-10/180), a former four-star recruit who leads with the team with four picks this season.
He's joined by three others in the secondary who have at least three picks this season -- sophomore Darian Hagan (three picks), junior Marcus Ezeff (three), and redshirt freshman Sean Cattouse (three). This might be the strongest unit on the entire team, as they rank fifth in the country in pass-efficiency defense.
The special teams units for the Bears are very solid as well. Punter Bryan Anger ranks 14th nationally with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio is 8-for-11 on field goal attempts this season and has connected on all of his extra point attempts. Receiver Jeremy Ross is the leading kick return man with 337 yards and 17 returns. Syd'Quan Thompson is the leading punt returner, with 28 returns for 344 yards and one touchdown.
It should be an interesting game, especially for a Miami team that hasn't played in the Bay area since 1990. Will the Canes end the 2008 season on a good note and carry some momentum into the recruiting season? Tune in at 8 pm EST to find out.