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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Opponent Analysis

    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas, center, gets sandwiched by two California defenders in a 45-27 Golden Bear win in Berkeley, Calif., on Sept. 22, 2007. The Wildcats take on Cal, which is in first place in the Pac-10, at Arizona Stadium Saturday night at 7.
    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas, center, gets sandwiched by two California defenders in a 45-27 Golden Bear win in Berkeley, Calif., on Sept. 22, 2007. The Wildcats take on Cal, which is in first place in the Pac-10, at Arizona Stadium Saturday night at 7.

    The No. 25 Golden Bears may have grabbed the top spot in the Pacific 10 Conference by default last weekend during their bye week as Arizona lost, but that doesn’t change the position they’re in.

    Despite a relatively easy schedule, speedy sophomore tailback Jahvid Best is the main reasons for California’s rise to the top of the Pac-10. Best is second in the conference with 105.2 rushing yards per game, but he’s missed the past two games after suffering a dislocated elbow in a 42-7 win over Colorado State.

    Not to worry. His backup, freshman Shane Vereen, tallied 144 yards from scrimmage on 32 touches in the next game, a 28-14 win over ASU.

    With Best likely to return to action this week, Arizona will have a big challenge on Saturday as it tries to stop the Golden Bear running attack, especially considering that the Wildcat defense gave up 286 yards to Stanford last weekend.

    “”I’m sure they’ll see that on tape and see, ‘Hey, we got to try and run the ball on them and get some big plays in the run game,'”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”We’re gonna have our hands full.””

    The California defense, ranked in the top 27 nationally in total yards allowed per game (290.6) and points allowed per game (18.0), also has a difficult job ahead.

    The Sonny Dykes version of the spread offesne creates favorable matchups for Arizona. It could be tough for the Wildcats this weekend, however, if Cal’s defensive line is as disruptive as in recent games. The Golden Bears have 13 sacks through five games. But Cal head coach Jeff Tedford sees this weekend’s Arizona game as a huge test.

    “”Their whole offensive group is probably the best that we have played,”” Tedford said in his weekly news conference.

    “”This is a very explosive offense,”” he added. “”I would say this is the best offense we have played so far.””

    Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Golden Bears will be erasing the memories of their last game at Arizona Stadium – a 24-20 Arizona win over then-No. 8 Cal. This year’s Cal team isn’t as talented as the 2006 version and Tucson is a tough place to play, Tedford said, so Cal will need perhaps its best effort of the season to get past the Wildcats.

    “”It’s a hostile environment. … The crowd really gets going there,”” Tedford said. “”If you go in there and you make mistakes, you’re not going to be successful. You need to make sure that you’re very efficient in what you do in all three phases of the game.””

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