Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two Top 15 Teams Face Off To Open the Season

Saturday, 12th ranked Cal plays host to the 15th ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Last year these teams met to open the season and Tennessee handed the 9th ranked Golden Bears a 35-18 pounding in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee led 35-0 at one point late in the game before putting in backups to gain experience.

So suffice it to say Cal has a chip on their shoulder the size of Neyland Stadium. This year Tennesse must travel to Berkley to face the Bears on their home turf. The Vols have historically been a good road team, but traveling across country is somewhat different then to Tuscaloosa or Lexington.

The Volunteers will also be without the help of sophomore running back LaMarcus Coker. Coker has been practicing with the team since being reinstated but is not on the travel roster. Junior Arian Foster and sophomore Montario Hardesty will shoulder the load at running back behind a revamped offensive line.

Senior Quarterback Erik Ainge suffered a pinky jam on his throwing hand and will be limited in practice leading up to the game. Fulmer has said that Jonathan Crompton is ready to start in the event that Ainge can't go.

The Vol's travel roster will include true freshmen, Eric Berry, Denarius Moore, Brent Vinson, Daryl Vereen and Gerald Jones, as well as junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal.

Cal, which appears to be an offensive juggernaut, is a six-point favorite heading into the 2007 opener.

Under Fulmer, the Vols are 13-1 their first game of the season, with the only loss coming in their last trip to the West Coast at No. 14 UCLA in 1994.

Keys to the game:

Volunteers running attack vs. Cal defensive line - Each time the Vols rushed for over 100 yards last year, they won that game, the problem is that only happened five times. Look for a heavy dose of the running game early to test the Cal defensive line. If the running game is successful, the vols have a good shot at winning the game.

Vols secondary vs. Cal Wide Receivers - Cal is lead by all-everything receiver DeSean Jackson who is widely regarded as the no. 1 receiver in all of college football. A key to a Vols victory will be how well the secondary led by senior Jonathan Hefney will be able to keep Jackson in check. Two first year starters will get the nod at corner back in Marsalous Johnson and Antonio Gaines, but don't be surprised to see a lot of true freshman Eric Berry as he is slated to be the starter at Nickelback.

Special Teams - Special Teams will factor in on both sides as Cal has DeSean Jackson returning punts. All he did last year was average 18.2 yards and score 4 touchdowns to lead the nation in that category.
The Vol's talented punter, Britton Colquitt is nursing a Quad pull and will be limited to punt duties. Daniel Lincoln is an unproven kicker and he will be handling kickoffs, extra points, and field goals.

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