Cal looks to go 3-0 this weekend when they head to the great state of Texas, where everything is said to be a little bigger. Getting to 3-0 would be big for Cal, and doing so against the Texas Longhorns would add a little something extra to it, even if the Longhorns are going through a dry spell.
Series History: Texas leads 5-0
Texas and California have played five times dating back to 1959, and the Longhorns have held the upper hand each and every time. The most recent meeting between the two programs was in the 2011 Holiday Bowl, with Texas picking up a 21-10 victory. Before that, each of the four meetings took place when the Longhorns were part of the old Southwest Conference. Cal's last trip to Austin was also the last regular season meeting between the two, in 1970.
Cal does not play teams form the Big 12 too often. The last time Cal played a Big 12 team in the regular season was in the 2003 season opener, when they faced Kansas State in Kansas City for the BCA Classic.
Texas Head Coach: Charlie Strong (2nd year at Texas, 7-8; 44-24 all-time)
The Texas Longhorns are fresh into their second season with Charlie Strong as head coach. Prior to coming to Texas, Strong took over the rise of the Louisville program and built it back up from the remains of the first Bobby Petrino run in Louisville. Strong built the Cardinals into an annual Big East contender and led the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl victory with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Expectations and demands have been a bit higher for Strong at Texas, and so far the pressure continues to rise for the Texas coach to start moving the Longhorns forward. The defensive-minded coach is looking to set the discipline standard at Texas and getting players to buy in to the mentality while rebuilding the Texas program into a perennial Big 12 contender.
Texas At a Glance
Texas is facing an offensive crisis. The Longhorns rank 127th in the nation in total offense entering the weekend. Only Akron has put together a lower total offense so far. The Longhorns are ranked 113th in the nation in running the football and 119th throwing the football. As you can see, it's been rough for Texas, and this is a team that has already shuffled the coaching responsibilities on the staff.
Texas started the season with a bit of an unknown quarterback situation with junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard. Heard has been the more effective of the two in the early going, completing five of his eight attempts for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Swoopes has completed eight of 25 pass attempts for 101 yards with no touchdowns thrown. Heard also leads the team in rushing yardage, although Strong is trying to get senior running back Johnathan Gray more involved moving forward.
The Longhorns really struggle to sustain drives so far. Texas has converted just five of 22 third-down conversion attempts this season. The Longhorns also have not entered the red zone very often, although they have scored touchdowns on each of the two trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line that have had.
That puts a lot of pressure on the Texas defense, and that side of the football has not fared much better. The Longhorns are ranked 115th in the nation in total defense (111th against the run, 97th against the pass). If Cal's offense can make some plays, it may not require much to put Texas away. The Longhorns are simply not equipped to match score for score with Cal.
Historically speaking, Texas has been the clear favorite any time Texas and Cal faced each other. Times, however, have changed, and Cal enters this weekend as a road favorite in Austin. This does not happen very often, but it is legitimate. Cal's offense should be able to break some big plays against the Texas defense, and the Longhorns will struggle to keep pace.
This matchup takes place Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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