BearTerritory publisher Ryan Gorcey and SilverandBlueSports.com's AW Prince break down Friday's match-up, unit-by-unit.
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
NEVADA WOLF PACK
With three tackles and a 13-yard pick to his credit, senior CB Bryant Nnabuife is quietly having a solid start, and has been like a wet blanket on opposing WRs. Senior Darian Hagan is thriving in Clancy Pendergast's new D, with six tackles and an 82-yard fumble recovery TD.
Nothing like having experience, and Nevada, which has a multitude of upperclassmen also has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Colin Kaepernick. At the recent Manning Passing Academy, Kaepernick, a 6-foot-6 slinger, stole the show. Favorite targets are Brandon Wimberly and Virgil Green.
Cal's LBs have been stout against the run this year and seemingly live in the backfield. They have accounted for seven of the Bears' 14 TFLs and 4.5 of Cal's eight sacks. Run support was a strength last season, and is even better so far this year.
Nevada boasted three 1,000 yard rushers, plus the top rushing game in the country in 2009 out of the Pistol offense. Two of those players, including Kaepernick and senior Vai Taua, are back. Cal will also see some of Mike Ball and Lampford Mark.
The Bears' DL is moving fast and free in Pendergast's new scheme, and has a ton of depth, with six guys on the two-deep who could start at any BCS program. All six have at least one TFL, with Cameron Jordan and Trevor Guyton combining for three sacks.
Nevada's front-five, long-dubbed "The Union," is a source of great pride for the Pack. Everything in the Pistol offense starts and stops with the boys up front, and this year's group is once again solid. The leader is big John Bender, a 6-foot-8, 325-pound monster.
Cal has rattled off seven plays of 20 yards or more, and four of at least 45. The Bears are loaded with big downfield threats, from the 6-3 pair of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones to senior Jeremy Ross and junior transfer Coleman Edmond waiting in the wings.
Nobody has given up more passing yards in the country the past two seasons than the Wolf Pack. However, the group is finally starting to improve here in 2010. With a new scheme under DC Andy Buh, who came from Stanford, the Pack look better.
It's been a rough early going for the always-vaunted Bears running attack, with an offensive line constantly in-flux and the fact that Shane Vereen missed a lot of camp with hamstring issues. Cal has only one rushing play over 20 yards, and that was an end-around by Jones.
Three juniors man this group, including MLB James-Michael Johnson, who is one of the best athletes on the Nevada roster. They are quick and strong, learning the new scheme implemented by Buh starting in the spring. Top reserve Albert Rosette reminds me of Mike Mohamed.
Continues to be a question mark for the Bears, as there is still shuffling as last year's starting RT Matt Summers-Gavin climbs back up the depth chart. The line has some holes, though the right side has shown improvement despite MSG's absence.
Giorgio Tavecchio is averaging 65 yards per kickoff and junior Bryan Anger has landed three of his seven punts inside the 20, averaging 48.6 yards per boot. PR Jeremy Ross is averaging almost 18 yards per return, including two of more than 20 yards.
The Pack welcome back senior kickoff specialist Ricky Drake this week, plus feature a talented senior punter in Brad Langley. Sophomore Anthony Martinez, who is similar in height to Tavecchio, has been perfect so far in field goals and extra points.
RYAN GORCEY'S PREDICTION
AW PRINCE'S PREDICTION
For the first time this year, the Bears D will face a true test, but I think they have the speed up front to negate the rushing attack and at least contain Kaepernick. Allen and Jones will allow breathing room for the running game to come around. Cal 35, Nevada 17.
As many Cal fans know about me, I got out of the prediction business a long time ago. Knowing both teams as well as I do, with many young men that I have great admiration for on both sides of the ball, I'm simply looking forward to a great night of football.