But while the Bears privately say they have as much talent as they have ever had under head coach Jeff Tedford, they have an unexpected quarterback battle between expected starter fifth-year senior Nate Longshore and sophomore Kevin Riley.
Longshore has had some rocky moments in his tenure at Cal including missing the entire season in 2005 with a broken ankle. But he roared back the following season throwing for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns.
He had an injury-riddled 2007 campaign and threw back-to-back game-losing picks against UCLA and Arizona State causing fans to call for the backup Riley who led the team to a win in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Now Longshore, suffering the effects of a pulled pectoral muscle, struggled through spring camp and some Cal supporters are openly calling for Riley.
There's good reason for that.
Riley rallied the Bears, who were down 21-0 in the Armed Forces bowl to six touchdown drives in relief of Longshore, including a 16-of-19 three touchdown pass performance as Cal defeated Air Force 42-36.
Still Tedford refuses to name a starter, saying he'll wait right up until the game week to name who'll start the season under center.
"There's a lot more (the quarterback position) than just throwing the football. The mental part of the game at that position is critical," said Tedford.
"You're asking them to do a lot. Whoever puts us in the best position to win, that's what we are looking for."
While Longshore gives the Bears the experience and poise of a fifth-year senior, much the way Brian Hoyer does for the Spartans, Riley brings playing making skills with both his arm and his legs when he gets out of the pocket and throws on the run, much the way former MSU signal caller Drew Stanton did.
Whoever is behind center, Michigan State knows they face a tough and talented opponent in Cal.