After suffering an unexpected loss in their season opener against Nevada, the Golden Bears will look to this weekend’s game at the Horseshoe.
The Ohio Stadium is by no means an easy place to play, its inhabitants having played in front of 100,000-strong audiences for the past 72 matches.
Ohio State heads into this encounter as considerable favourites, but California has the weapons to stage an upset that few will be expecting.
Regarded as a five-star asset in his recruitment, Keenan Allen is a victim of position with the Golden Bears, who have a more seasoned running platform.
Cal is relying heavily on freshmen input in the passing game, making Allen’s Junior experience all the more vital to the team.
Allen has been decent so far this season, but there is certainly more that the 20-year-old can bring to the table, and Ohio State would be the prefect time to unlock that kind of potential.
OSU has been offensively inspired in the current campaign and is currently averaging about 43 points a game.
As a result, this weekend’s meeting will almost certainly not rely on preventing points as much as both teams will simply strive to outscore their opponent. This sport isn’t so complex after all.
In last week’s fixture against Southern Utah, Allen showed what he’s capable of from the punt return, and will need to put that kind of show on again against Ohio State.
The 6’3”, 210-pound receiver is bound to be one of Cal’s main attacking options, and OSU isn't going to sit on their laurels around the starlet, making it all the more important that he reaches his peak on the day.
Another vital component in the Golden Bears offense will be Isi Sofele, who needs to show his superior experience and lead from the front against OSU.
The 21-year-old Senior averaged over 5.4 yards per carry against Southern Utah, scoring one TD in the process.
While those kind of numbers might sound quite impressive, an Ohio State defence that has allowed just 26 points this season will require an altogether stronger performance to unlock.
Sofele rushed for more than 1300 yards in the last campaign, telling us that he’s got the ability to explode when the occasion calls for it.
In this first meeting between California and Ohio State in 40 years, the occasion will undoubtedly play on the minds of the younger players.
MercuryNews.com report senior linebacker, Rob Mullins, as saying:
"Getting caught up in the hype can be kind of venomous for some guys," Mullins said. "The first priority is to play. Hoo-rah has never gotten anyone a tackle or a touchdown.
"Be excited, be very excited because it's going to be a really great atmosphere. But understand what's important."
This merely emphasises just how important it will be that the Golden Bears veterans play to their optimum, of which Sofele is one.
Of course, Zach Maynard is always going to feature on a list of this variety, considering there won’t be a game this season where he won’t threaten the opposition.
On his day, the Golden Bears’ leader-in-chief can be very effective—it’s just a matter of finding those days.
Inconsistency is a blight that has plagued the careers of many a quarterback, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark for suggesting that Maynard falls into that category.
You can bet that Braxton Miller will be doing his bit for OSU, so it’s important that his opposite number steps up to the plate if the Golden Bears are to have any luck on Saturday.
In Cal’s final two regular season games of 2011, Maynard completed over 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 517 yards and three touchdowns.
If the QB can rediscover that kind of form, he’ll surely cause trouble for OSU, who have built one of the best front seven units in the country.
With the aforementioned Allen likely to figure largely for the visitors, it’s just a matter of Maynard getting the ball to him.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomSunderland_
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!