Cal a BCS title contender?

There are tough starts. Then there are TOUGH STARTS. Tennessee's football team clearly faces the latter this season. Two of the first three opponents are being touted as potential national champions.

Game 3 foe Florida (Sept. 15) won the 2006 title and is rated by many as a serious threat to repeat. Meanwhile, Game 1 foe California (Sept. 1) has enough offensive weaponry to put the Golden Bears in the BCS title game come January. At least, that's the opinion of Richard Cirminiello.

Cirminiello, one of the experts at, posted an article today profiling Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears. His opening paragraph pretty much says it all:

"While Cal is hardly perfect, the offense won't be far off. Yes, this is the year the Bears, led by flash-of-lightning DeSean Jackson, should really, truly be in the hunt for the national title."

Tennessee rolled to a 35-0 lead against Cal in last year's opener at Knoxville before closing out a 35-18 victory. Obviously, the Golden Bears would love nothing better than to avenge that butt-kicking in the 2007 rematch at Berkeley. Cirminiello calls this year's showdown "a must-win, national showcase."

Cal lost some quality players from the 2007 team, including tailback Marshawn Lynch, a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. Still, the Golden Bears return Justin Forsett, who split time with Lynch in 2005 and 2006. Cal also returns superstar receiver/return specialist DeSean Jackson, who just might be the NCAA's most electrifying player.

Here's a sampling of Cirminiello's thoughts on the 2007 Golden Bears:

"As long as Head Coach Jeff Tedford continues to rebuff offers to leave Strawberry Canyon, Cal will be a perennial threat for ten wins. However, the upcoming season provides unique challenges, as Tedford and his staff must replace a few all-time great Bears. It's a good thing the program has recruited so well the past few years because no Pac-10 school lost a more productive quartet than star running back Marshawn Lynch, leading tackler linebacker Desmond Bishop, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and All-American cornerback Daymeion Hughes.

"Every year Tedford is back, he's the key returner for Cal, a program that was in complete disarray before he arrived in 2002. The Bears are currently riding the wave of their best five-year stretch in more than a half-century, dramatically upgrading the pool of talent and routinely finishing the season ranked and in a bowl game. That a hollow feeling of unfinished business existed after going 10-3 in 2006 is a testament to just how far Cal has come, since going 1-10 in 2001....

"With a winning tradition beginning to take root, Cal doesn't rebuild, it reloads. Yes, last year was the Bears' golden opportunity to knock mighty USC from its Pac-10 throne, but that doesn't mean they won't be right back in the thick of the 2007 race, especially since the Trojans come to Berkeley Nov. 10. With the trio of quarterback Nate Longshore, running back Justin Forsett and receiver DeSean Jackson back for another year, Tedford's offense will once again roll, giving the revamped defense time to break in six new starters."

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