You’ve never heard of Presbyterian College before, because — let’s be honest — very, very few people have. So let’s get some basic facts out of the way first.
Location: Clinton, a town of 8,915 in northwestern South Carolina. Student population, 1,200.
Nickname: Blue Hose, as in blue socks or stockings.
Mascot: Scotty the Scotsman, whose new, full-bodied suit was unveiled in January.
And that’s all you need to know about the Cal football team’s third opponent, which on Saturday will be the first to visit the Bears’ new digs at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
What about the Blue Hose’s personnel or schemes, you might ask? Well, they aren’t exactly recruiting guys who Cal would ever take a look at, so there’s not too much to worry about there if you’re betting on a Bears victory.
They’re finishing up a five-year transition into the Big South, a conference you’ve probably also never heard of.
You don’t need to know any more because the Bears themselves don’t seem concerned with knowing any more. All week long, Cal head coach Jeff Tedford has stressed the usual coach-speak line of the game being only about what Cal can do.
The Bears didn’t perform well last week.
It’s not often that you can allow 474 passing yards and still win, and it’s probably even rarer that you can do it allowing 284 receiving yards to a single wideout. Both these things happened at Colorado.
That Tedford’s team gutted out its first-ever overtime road win is admirable, but it still doesn’t cover all the holes that better Pac-12 teams will stretch painfully wide.
So if this game is all about what Cal can do, what exactly is it that Cal needs to do?
Tune up, and play just about everyone it has.
On defense, true freshmen such as Mustafa Jalil and Viliami Moala should get plenty of burn on the line; the two have already been used off the bench, and they could use the experience heading into Pac-12 play.
The game presents a great opportunity to use someone like C.J. Anderson, who picked up 33 yards and a touchdown in Boulder. The junior transfer from Laney College is built like a bowling ball and is a potential complement to Isi Sofele, who has toted all but seven of the Cal running backs’ 51 rush attempts. As big as Sofele’s heart is, he’ll need someone to spell his 5-foot-7 frame in a long season. Tedford has said to expect more of Anderson this week, along with true freshman Brendan Bigelow.
You can even include Zach Maynard in this group. Maynard is already one of the better quarterbacks Cal has seen in a while — the last Bear that was clearly ahead would be a healthy Nate Longshore, circa 2006 — and has somehow cobbled together the school’s fifth-best pass efficiency rating all-time. He has also been, however, either deceptively bad or deceptively good, depending on whether your glass is half empty or half full.
Big third-down plays have partially covered up the fact that he’s one completion below 50 percent, a number he’ll likely flirt with all season. Saturday will be a game where he needs to up that percentage substantially.
A week from now, Cal will head up to Washington to face the team that dashed its bowl hopes in 2010. You can put your life savings on them being 3-0, but it’s the fourth that will truly matter.
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