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September 2, 2011

The EDGE: Cal vs. Fresno State

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BearTerritory.net publisher Ryan Gorcey and BulldogReport.com publisher Christopher Aguirre break down Saturday's match-up between California and Fresno State, unit-by-unit, and predict the final outcome in this week's version of The EDGE, a game-week feature which debuted last season.

Don't forget to check out BT's Q&A with Chris HERE.

Senior safety Sean Cattouse leads a secondary which ranked No. 21 nationally in pass defense (187.00 ypg) in 2010. Though safety Chris Conte departed for the Chicago Bears and cornerback Darian Hagan graduated, senior D.J. Campbell and speedy sophomore Steve Williams return with a lot of snaps under their belts. Derek Carr will lead the way for the Bulldogs' passing attack. Fresno State has three starting receivers returning from last year's team, and will rotate between six or seven receivers, each of whom could make plays. Look for the Bulldogs to air it out against the Cal secondary.
With youngsters Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside waiting in the wings at OLB, rising stud David Wilkerson and highly-touted senior Mychal Kendricks, the Cal linebacking corps is one of the deepest units on the team. The Bears have lots of speed, plenty of experience and oodles of depth. Fresno State has been known for its ground and pound method over the years. This year will be no exception, with all three running backs returning to team from last year and the addition of UCLA transfer Milton Knox, the Bulldogs will keep pounding the ball.
The Cal DL is easily the deepest unit on the team. Beyond starters Ernest Owusu, Trevor Guyton and Kendrick Payne are back-ups who could easily start on most other Pac-12 teams like DeAndre Coleman, Gabe King, Mustafa Jalil and Aaron Tipoti. And that's before you factor in highly-touted NT Viliami Moala. The offensive line is in rebuilding mode as the Bulldogs are replacing nearly every player. Coach Hill is hoping the early test against the Bears will help his O-line build for the season. The results are up in the air on this unit, led by senior LT Bryce Harris.
Junior QB Zach Maynard is starting his first game after a year off since transferring from Buffalo. Although he has little brother Keenan Allen to go to should things get rough, and can make plays with his legs, he's had decision-making issues in the past. Fresno State has what it calls its best secondary in years, with senior Isaiah Green leading the way. Look for Fresno State to have a few more interceptions this season, as they have been working hard at attacking the ball.
Since 2004, the only TB to come in and start for the Bears with fewer than Isi Sofele's 81 career carries for 420 yards was Jahvid Best. Each of the rest of the backs surpassed Sofele's career numbers in the one year prior to taking over the starting gig. Expect Fresno State linebackers to blitz a lot more this season as they feel that they have some of their best athletes at that position. Travis Brown has improved every year and has looked great in fall camp.
Though depth is thin, the front five are strong. Center Dominic Galas is a plus run blocker, and veteran OTs Mitchell Schwartz and Matt Summers-Gavin are very solid. Under coach Jim Michalczik, expect the unit to be more technically sound than the one which allowed 23 sacks and 67 TFLs in 2010. Outside of senior Logan Harrell, this unit is a question mark for the Bulldogs. They will have to replace three linemen -- two of which are on NFL teams. Look for Nat Harrison and Matt Akers to try and replace those big bodies Fresno State had up front.
Punter Bryan Anger is one of the best punters in the nation, and in a game where field position will be key, his leg is going to play big. Giorgio Tavecchio has improved his kickoffs each of the past three seasons from a 56.6-yard average to 64.8 in 2010 with four touchbacks. Fresno State senior Kevin Goessling is a candidate for the Lou Groza Award, and Devon Wylie and Jalen Saunders will handle the return duties for the Bulldogs. Fresno State leads the nation in blocked kicks over the past decade in college football.
The Pac-12's top defense in 2010 is going to make life difficult for Carr. The question marks that litter the offense are tough to ignore, but I think the defense keeps this thing close and you can't count out the deep corps of WRs headed by Allen and Marvin Jones. Cal 21, Fresno State 14. Fresno State is trying to go from "Good to Great" this season and with Derek Carr now under center the Bulldogs offense will be explosive. They have a good chance of winning the opener against Cal. Fresno State 27, Cal 24.

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