Opponent Preview: Cal Golden Bears

WR Keenan Allen

California is the lone BCS conference foe the Buckeyes will face before hitting Big Ten play, and the Golden Bears boast a solid offensive mind at the controls, some good playmakers and a unique defensive style. Find out more about the visitors in this preview, which also includes a Q&A with Cal's Scout site.

California
Saturday, Sept. 15
Noon ET, ABC
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

The Golden Bears
Head coach: Jeff Tedford, 80-49, 11th year
2011 record: 7-6 (4-5 Pacific-12 North Division, fourth place)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 5-1
School location: Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 36,142
Colors: Blue and Gold
Stadium: California Memorial Stadium
Fight song: "Fight For California"
Game Notes, including depth chart on page 13

The Golden Bears won 10 games apiece in 2004 and ‘06 under head coach Jeff Tedford, who was developing a reputation in the middle of the decade as one of the best offensive minds in the sport, and looked like a team locked into becoming a bowl squad each year.

Instead, the Buckeyes are getting a team in full rebuilding mode. The Bears did make a postseason appearance each season from 2003-09, but the last campaign of that stretch kicked off a recent record that has been less than inspiring.

Since the start of the ‘09 campaign, Tedford's Bears are a combined 21-19, and the team is only 12-15 in Pac-12 play in that span.

This year hasn't been particularly inspiring either for the winningest coach in Cal history. After being picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North Division before the season, Tedford's team reopened California Memorial Stadium after extensive renovations with a Sept. 1 opener against Nevada, but the visitors posted a 31-24 victory to spoil the party.

Game two wasn't anything to write home about, either. Cal did move to 1-1 on the year with a 50-31 home win against Southern Utah of the Football Championship Subdivision, but the Bears fumbled four times – losing only one – while throwing an interception and committing 12 penalties, mistakes that left Tedford annoyed at the end.

"(The errors) bring you back to earth," he said. "The mistakes that are made, you need to improve. Most of it had to do with the penalties. So this game is another lesson, as each game is. There are things in every game that you learn. The biggest thing in this game was the penalties."

Cal's players are looking forward to the challenge of playing in Ohio Stadium, though, as the teams reprise a rivalry that dates back almost a century.

"We just need to execute," wideout Chris Harper said. "We need to come to practice and run every play hard. We have no time to slack off. We need to get our assignments right. It's definitely exciting. The fan-base is going to be larger. It's going to be a good game. We have to come out and play hard."

In A Nutshell
Cal runs a pro-style offense led by a senior quarterback in Zach Maynard. Described by Urban Meyer as an extremely accurate passer, Redmond threw for 2,990 yards last season – the third most in school history and more than NFL most valuable player Aaron Rodgers ever threw for in a season at Cal – but also placed only 10th in the conference in passing efficiency after throwing for 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. So far this, he's 34 for 53 (64.2 percent) for 474 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson make a solid one-two punch at tailgate. Sofele is a 5-8, 200-pound bull who ran for 1,322 yards last year and has 24 rushes for 126 yards this year, while Anderson is a highly talented JUCO player who has stepped up his game and has 19 rushes for 112 yards and a TD. Eric Stevens is the fullback.

Out wide, the Bears are led by one of the most talented wideouts in the country in Keenan Allen, Maynard's half-brother. A potential high NFL draft pick, Allen boasts excellent size (6-2, 210) and great quickness, attributes that allowed him to catch 98 passes last year. He also has a rushing and punt return TD this year. A pair of freshmen are also showing up, as Chris Harper has a team-high 12 catches and Bryce Treggs – a five-star prospect in the class of 2012 – has six grabs.

Cal will be without top offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin, a right tackle who protects Maynard's blind side, as he is battling a knee injury. With him out, the only experienced player on the line is center Bill Schwenke, who has 26 career starts. Bill Tyndall takes over for Summers-Gavin next to first-year starter Chris Adcock, while left tackle and left guard Tyler and Jordan Rigsbee are brothers.

Cal runs a unique bear, double eagle or 46 defense – depending on your favorite terminology – but the gist is the team has a three-man defensive line with a nose tackle over the center and two bigger ends over the guards or in a 3-technique position. That also leads into an aggressive, attacking secondary that isn't afraid to use man coverage with no high safeties.

"They're going to sink an extra guy in the box and play man coverage," Meyer said. "Sometimes they'll put two guys in the box, which means they're going to force you to throw. They're going to play zero, which means no safety help.

"There's two different styles of defense they've used. One is a little more conservative, the other is zero coverage. I imagine they're going to say they're going to stop (Miler), and to stop him, you have to have an extra guy down there."

Up front, Cal's defensive line is anchored by ends Deandre Coleman and Aaron Tipoti and middle man Kendrick Payne. Coleman already has 14 tackles and 12 career TFL, while Tipoti joins him as a preseason All-Pac-12 pick and Payne has six tackles. Depth is provided by Viliami Moali, a one-time five-star prospect, and Mustafa Jalil.

Among the four linebackers, middle man J.P. Hurrell leads the team with three sacks already, while Robert Mullins has a team-high 20 tackles. Chris McCain has been banged up but is talented, while Brennan Scarlett is turning heads as someone who can play near the line of scrimmage (16 tackles already). Nick Forbes and Jalen Jefferson also play.

In the secondary, Meyer has talked up cornerback Marc Anthony, who has a pick-six this year and appears to be a potential high NFL draft pick. On the other side, Steve Williams is an active corner. Safety Josh Hill has 20 stops and is a trusted senior, while Alex Logan is in his first year as a starter.

Allen adds explosiveness to the return teams, while kicker Vincenzo D'Amato has a strong leg with a career long of 47. Cole Leininger is a true freshman punter.

Possible Ohio State edges: Ohio State should be able to put up some points against the Bears if the offense doesn't suffer given the inexperience at tailback (a healthy Jordan Hall would certainly help). Ohio State's defensive line also has a big edge when it comes to talent and experience on Cal's offensive group .
Possible Cal edges: The Golden Bears have a unique defense that could cause trouble, while there always has to be worry about the miscommunications in the OSU secondary that have happened so far when a team has someone as dynamic as Allen on the other sideline.

Results/Notes
Sept. 1: vs. Cal, L 31-24. Cal gave up the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left, but the team was outgained 450-365
Sept. 8: vs. Southern Utah, W 50-31. The Golden Bears pulled away with 30 fourth-quarter points including a punt return touchdown and an interception return score.

Five Questions
Each week, we'll endeavor to ask five questions of an opposing team expert to try to bring some unique insight into that squad. This week, Dan Greenspan of Scout's own Cal Sports Digest joins us.

How would you describe how the team has played so far compared to expectations?
A season that seemed certain to end in a bowl game, as all but two of Jeff Tedford's previous 10 seasons in Berkeley have, is now in doubt.

The season-opening Nevada loss in their return to a newly renovated Memorial Stadium was a shock, but their lethargic performance for three quarters against Southern Utah was equally troubling. Leading 20-17 at the start of the final period, California came away with three plays of 61 yards or longer in a 30-point explosion that provided the final margin.

The Golden Bears just aren't playing well, plagued by too many penalties, too many mistakes, too many turnovers, too many drops, and too many third and longs. They are certainly better than these first two games have shown, but with the quality of competition about to increase dramatically, major improvement will be needed starting Saturday in Columbus.

What does quarterback Zach Maynard bring to the table?
Maynard's strongest attribute is his mobility, so the offense now mixes in the occasional zone-read look or designed run. As a pure passer though, he has struggled. Last season, he had four touchdowns against eight interceptions while completing just 55.3 percent of his passes in Cal's six losses.

He still misses too many easy throws in a conference where quality quarterback play is required to reach the upper echelon. Barring an unexpected surge as a redshirt senior, this team's ceiling is tied into limiting his mistakes and allowing the running game and defense to carry Cal to victories.

What are some of the staples of a Jeff Tedford passing offense fans should expect to see on Saturday?
Because of Maynard's limitations in the intermediate passing game where Aaron Rodgers thrived during Cal's heyday in 2003-04, the offense is relying more on the screen game, with freshman receiver Chris Harper proving to be especially dynamic in the open field. Tedford is also moving the pocket more, creating easier reads.

But the challenge will be involving junior receiver Keenan Allen, an All-America candidate and future first-round draft pick. If running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson can establish any presence on the ground, Allen will get chances to get vertical off play-action. He is also proving his worth returning punts, as his average of 22.17 yards per return ranks fourth nationally.

Expect a very managed approach because asking Maynard to throw more than 35 times all but guarantees defeat for the Bears. Sofele and Anderson must create some semblance of balance for Cal to have a chance at the upset.

Cal lists its defense as a 3-4 but Urban Meyer said it's almost like the old 46 defense the Chicago Bears ran. What problems does that defense provide for opponents usually and how would you describe what Cal is doing with its defense?
It's certainly not a 3-4 in the sense of say the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, as Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast rarely uses zone blitzes or exotic pressures. The middle linebackers do most of the work, with Robert Mullins tied for the team lead in tackles while J.P. Hurrell has a team-best three sacks, though sophomore outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett is providing a nice presence bringing pressure off the edge.

The biggest surprise has to be on the back end, where Cal is playing zone defense almost exclusively despite having veteran corners in Marc Anthony and Steve Williams plus fifth-year senior Josh Hill at safety. That approach has resulted in opponents completing 56 of 77 passes through two games.

But if any team is likely to command the scheme that all but shutdown Oregon in a 15-13 loss back in 2005, where Cal relied on aggressive man defense and spied the quarterback, it would certainly be Braxton Miller.

It seems like Cal's defensive numbers are down this year. Can you put your finger on why?
The defensive line, which looked to be an emerging strength during spring practice, has not performed to expectations. Nearly everyone was banged up at one point or another in fall camp, limiting how much work they could get done. Defensive end Mustafa Jalil didn't play in the opener and came in for a few snaps at the end of last week's game against Southern Utah, depriving the Bears of a player who showed significant potential last season as a true freshman.

Factor in a rebuilt linebacker corps, it is no surprise Cal struggled against one offense in Nevada's Pistol that consistently finishes among the nation's most productive on an annual basis, and another in Southern Utah with a potential NFL quarterback in senior Brad Sorensen.

The front seven will have to elevate their play to have any hope of shutting down Miller.

Five Fast Facts
1. Cal played its home games in AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, during the 2011 season because Memorial Stadium was closed for a $321 million renovation that started in December 2010. Work won't be completed until early 2013, but it is game ready and has hosted each of the Bears' first two games.

2. The Cal roster includes former Penn State linebacker Khairi Fortt, who transferred in when the Nittany Lions players were given amnesty upon the NCAA sanctions slapped on the PSU program in July. Fortt has not played yet, though, because of a knee injury and is not expected to be ready vs. the Buckeyes.

3. Tight end Richard Rodgers' father, Richard Rodgers, Sr., lettered from 1980-83 and was prominently involved in "The Play" in 1982 as the player who made the fourth of the five laterals.

4. Saturday's game between Cal and Ohio State will mark the second time that Jeff Tedford and Urban Meyer have faced each other as head coaches. In the only previous meeting, Tedford's Cal team defeated a Meyer-coached Utah squad, 31-24, in Salt Lake on Sept. 11, 2003.

5. During the Tedford era, Cal has played six road games in other time zones that have started before noon PT and the Golden Bears have a 5-1 record in those contests. Cal won at Michigan State (2002), Illinois (2003), Air Force (2004) and Colorado State (2007) before falling at Maryland in 2008. The most recent early-morning game was in 2009 when the Bears won at Minnesota, 35-21..

Last Time Out
Ohio State's rough 1971 campaign, in which the team posted a 6-4 record, was starting to become just a speck in the rearview mirror as the Buckeyes moved to 3-0 with a 35-18 win in Cal's Memorial Stadium.

The Buckeyes opened the '72 season with a 21-0 shutout of Iowa then posted a 29-14 victory against North Carolina featuring the stunning exploits of freshman tailback Archie Griffin, who in the first year of freshman eligibility floored fans and coaches alike with an OSU record 239 yards on the ground against the Tar Heels.

Things were a bit dicey early against the Bears, though. Ohio State took an early 3-0 lead with 9:16 left on the first quarter clock when Blair Conway booted through a 39-yard field goal. However, Cal blocked a punt out of the end zone early in the second to earn a safety, making it 3-2, before Steve Sweeney caught a 13-yard pass from Mike Shaughnessy to give the home team a 9-3 lead.

That stood until halftime, but it didn't take long for the Buckeyes to assert their dominance in the second stanza as fullback Harold "Champ" Henson completed a four-play, 75-yard drive with a 25-yard romp that tied the game at 9 (Conway's kick failed) just 52 seconds into the third quarter.

Cal retook the lead midway through the third as Ray Wersching nailed a 20-yard field goal, but the Buckeyes bounced back with a five-play, 45-yard romp that ended with Henson bulling over the line from a yard out. Conway's kick failed again, but OSU had a 16-12 lead with 4:03 left in the third quarter it would not relinquish.

Henson was back at it again on the next drive after Ohio State was gifted field position at Cal's 8-yard line. On third down, Henson scored from a yard out to give the Buckeyes a 22-12 lead with 1:02 left.

The Buckeyes pulled away in the fourth quarter. Rick Galbos had a 2-yard touchdown run and Dave Purdy's only pass of the day was a 9-yarder to Mike Bartozek as OSU took a 35-12 lead. Vince Ferragamo hit Shaughnessy with a 7-yard pass late but all it did was set the final score.

Ohio State outgained the Bears 379-233, including a 221-117 edge on the ground. Henson finished with 59 yards on 14 carries as Griffin was limited to 15 rushes for 40 yards. Seven Buckeyes had 10 or more yards on the ground, while Greg Hare completed 8 of 20 passes for 151 yards and an interception. Galbos snagged three catches for 69 while Bartozek had three catches for 45 yards.

The Scarlet and Gray defense didn't get let Cal get comfortable all day long. Four players threw passes for the Golden Bears but Ohio State intercepted four of the team's 27 attempts. Rick Middleton picked off two passes while Lou Mathis and Rick Seifert also interceptions.

Vic Koegel led OSU's defensive effort with 12 tackles while Randy Gradishar had 11 stops.

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