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(Sports Network) - Colorado will eventually become a member of the Pac-10, but this Saturday the Buffaloes will play out of the Big-12 when they take on the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium.
The Buffaloes opened their new campaign with a convincing, 24-3 victory over rival Colorado State. It was a much needed season-opening win for coach Dan Hawkins and his squad, which tallied a mere three victories last season.
The Golden Bears also enjoyed a rather easy victory in their opener, as they pounded the much weaker UC Davis Aggies, 52-3. Last year Jeff Tedford's team did not live up to expectations, finishing with an 8-5 ledger, but this season the bar is not as high, so the hope in Berkeley is that California will surprise a few opponents.
California defeated Colorado, 31-17, 28 years ago, tying the all-time series at two games apiece. The last time these two schools tussled in Berkeley was in September of 1968 and that matchup also went to Cal by a 10-0 margin.
The Buffs might have walked away with a victory in their opener over Colorado State, but the offense was not overly effective for coach Hawkins.
Last season Colorado struggled on the ground and there were more problems in that area in the opener, as the team finished with just 115 yards on 3.3 yards per attempt. Rodney Stewart led the way for the Buffs with 67 yards on 16 totes, while Justin Torres helped out with 26 yards.
Tyler Hansen was named the starter for the opener, and he did not disappoint his coach, or the fans at Colorado. The signal caller threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
Hansen's main option was Scotty McKnight, who finished with eight receptions for 78 yards and one score. On his 27-yard touchdown reception, McKnight passed Michael Westbrook as Colorado's all-time receptions leader.
The biggest problem for the Buffs in 2009 was their inability to stop the run, and although it was just one game, coach Hawkin's defense did a good job in that area, holding Colorado State to just 49 yards on 25 carries.
The secondary surrendered 196 yards through the air, but still proved too strong for the Rams, finishing the game with three interceptions. Overall the Buffs held CSU to just 12 first downs, and a meager 1-for-12 on third down attempts.
Jon Major led the defense with eight tackles, while Anthony Perkins collected seven stops, to go along with an interception.
Last season the Golden Bears opened the year with one of the best running backs in the nation in Jahvid Best, but because of injuries the team often saw Shane Vereen on the field. The experienced gained in 2009 clearly helped the junior prepare for this campaign.
Now the starting tailback for Cal, Vereen led the backfield in the opener with 67 yards and two touchdowns. Vereen, who did not play the whole game because of a large lead, also hauled in two passes for 28 yards and another touchdown.
Not to be overlooked was the performance of quarterback Kevin Riley. Riley, who had some inconsistencies last season, opened the new campaign by leading the Golden Bears to a 49-point victory.
The signal caller threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, but Riley still has to prove he can play to that level against the top teams in the Pac-10. Eleven different players finished with at least one reception, while Marvin Jones led the way with five. However, it was freshman Keenan Allen that turned heads in the win, as he finished with 120 yards and one score on four catches in his debut.
UC Davis is a mediocre FCS school, so the success of coach Tedford's defense should not be blown out of proportion.
Cal limited the Aggies to just 81 total yards, and held its much weaker counterpart to only four first downs. It is hard to find a flaw in this performance, but the Golden Bears only forced one turnover in the contest, and did not get much pressure on the opposing signal caller, finishing with just two sacks.
Last season Cal had major issues against the pass, and while the Aggies did not test this year's secondary, there will definitely be some schools on the schedule down the road that will challenge this unit.
Cal will have a much tougher time this weekend against Colorado, but the Buffs are still not a top notch team that is going to cause the Golden Bears too many problems. Look for another easy victory for coach Tedford's bunch, but the defense should be challenged a bit more.