Must See: Football vs. Oregon State, Nov. 12

No, the Cal football team won’t technically have any home games in 2011, what with Memorial Stadium hosting an array of cranes. And yes, it’s rather slim pickings for any fan not eager to make a road trip to AT&T Park (The Bears scheduled Presbyterian College, for God’s sake!).

So the highlight for home crowds will be, by process of elimination more than anything else, Oregon State. If you’d rather buy tickets to the Thursday night USC game (Oct. 13), that’s a fair choice. The Trojans are a perennial draw on any schedule, but just remember that Matt Barkley threw for five touchdowns against Cal last year — in the first half.

The Beavers have haunted Cal as of late, and 2011 could be a chance to exorcise some demons. In 2007, Kevin Riley ran out what would have been a No. 1 national ranking. In 2010, his collegiate career ended with a knee injury in Corvallis. Jeff Tedford is 2-6 against Mike Riley, and has lost the last four. Curiously, both his wins (41-13 in 2006, 49-7 in 2004) were at Reser Stadium.

2011’s installment will likely pit two evenly matched teams fighting for position in the middle of the Pac-12 North. Both squads finished with 5-7 overall records in 2010, although Oregon State had four Pac-10 wins to Cal’s three. In Jacquizz Rodgers and Shane Vereen, both teams lost running backs that carried their respective offenses.

Both teams will likely need breakout performances from their quarterbacks to have winning seasons. Assuming Zach Maynard maintains his hold on QB1 for the Bears, he’ll play opposite the mercurial Ryan Katz. Katz isn’t as quick on the ground, but owns one of the strongest arms in the country. Maynard, who hasn’t played competitively since 2009, should have the benefit of bigger and more athletic receivers: half-brother Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones have the potential to become the conference’s best wideout tandem.

Cal’s defense, the best in the Pac-10 in 2010, are set up well for a repeat performance. Then again, that ranking didn’t matter much when OSU gashed it for 392 yards of offense.

Oregon State did fade a bit last season, logging its first losing record since 2005. However, it’s worth noting that the Beavers have made a habit of heating up late in the season after scheduling heavy non-conference hitters. Last year, it was TCU and Boise State. This year, it’s Wisconsin. If recent history holds, they’ll be sharp by the time they visit San Francisco.

The Cal football “home” schedule (plus a little extra) for reference:

Sept. 3 — Fresno State @ Candlestick Park
Sept. 17  — Presbyterian (If the student store runs discounts for Cal touchdowns again, take advantage after this game.)
Oct. 13 — USC
Oct. 22 — Utah
Nov. 5 — Washington State
Nov. 12 — Oregon State
Nov. 19 — Big Game @ Stanford

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