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September 1, 2006

Experts' insight on the big games

Week 1 big games
Preseason Top 25
The College Football Wire

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The Week One schedule has only two games that match top-25 teams, so it seems only reasonable to seek information from our experts at the schools involved.

The Cal-Tennessee game is an intriguing intersectional matchup. The ninth-ranked Golden Bears are touted as a dark-horse national-title contender. The 23rd-ranked Vols are regrouping after a season in which they were preseason No. 3 in The Associated Press poll and finished 5-6.

Both teams have much to prove, and there is some conference pride on the line.

The other big game of the week is a traditional rivalry for bragging rights in Florida. It takes place Monday night, when No. 12 Miami plays host to No. 11 FSU.

Chris Huston, publisher of BearTerritory.net talks about California:
Is QB Nate Longshore ready for Neyland Stadium and 100,000-plus orange-clad Vols fans?
I don't think anyone can ever be ready for a crowd like that. Longshore has never been in that situation before and this will be a baptism by fire. I do think Cal's focus will be to quiet the fans early, so look for some intricate early scripts coming from (coach Jeff) Tedford's offense.

How has new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar tweaked things and has he jelled with head coach Jeff Tedford?
The Bears are not completely over into spread-offense territory. They have just used things that already overlapped with Tedford's existing philosophy. You will see more shotgun, obviously, and more passes to the backs. The two coaches appear to have jelled well. I think you will see the spread more often between the 20-yard lines and the basic Tedford offense once the end zone is within reach.

What is Cal's biggest concern about taking on Tennessee?
I would say the expectation level. This is the biggest opener for Cal in a generation and the Bears need to prove they are ready for prime time. Will they wilt under the spotlight and the national pressure? If they can mentally survive this game, they will emerge as dark-horse title contenders.

Brent Hubbs, publisher of Volquest.com talks about Tennessee:
How long is the leash on QB Erik Ainge?
I don't think it is as long of a leash as it was at the start of fall camp because of the way Jonathan Crompton has played. However, it should be noted that Tennessee has no desire to play two quarterbacks, so there won't be a quick switch. But if Ainge is putting the ball in harm's way then I think they will make a switch.

What has been the net effect of the return of David Cutcliffe on the Vols' offense?
The net effect of Cutcliffe's return has been attention to detail. Doing the little things is demanded by Cutcliffe. I think that is a big difference, and as a result I think you will see a more efficient offense.

What is Tennessee's biggest concern about taking on Cal?
The biggest concern aside from depth is how will this team handle adversity - specifically Ainge. He has not performed well in adverse situations.

Gene Williams, publisher of Warchant.com, talks about FSU:
All indications are Drew Weatherford has improved greatly from the last time Miami saw him. What's your assessment?
When Wyatt Sexton left the team last summer, Weatherford was thrust into the starting job before he was ready. He made the best of the opportunity and got progressively better as the season went on, but was probably on the field a year before he was ready. His real improvement has come in the offseason. He has developed into a complete quarterback and a team leader. With an improved offensive line and plenty of weapons to throw to, his redshirt sophomore season could be a special one.

Can a revamped FSU defensive line that's generating a lot of buzz get the best of the Hurricanes offensive line?
In a word, yes. Every year the Seminoles' front four reloads and this year is no different. Andre Fluellen has emerged as the next in line of great defensive tackles following Brodrick Bunkley, Travis Johnson and Darnell Dockett. He has been dominating in practice and should have a breakout season. Next to him on the line is arguably the most promising rookie on the team in Paul Griffin. The junior college transfer is already the strongest player on the team and has been unblockable in practices. Kamerion Wimbley was lost to the NFL, however there is still plenty of experience at the position with Alex Boston and Darrell Burston - but second-year players Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett could be even better.

It's the Miami game, so it begs the question: How is FSU's place-kicking situation?
Some things never change. At the end of last season it looked like the 'Noles found a pretty good kicker in Gary Cismesia, but then came the Orange Bowl. Against Penn State he missed a key extra point in regulation and two field goal attempts in overtime, allowing Joe Pa's squad to steal away the win. Cismesia has been inconsistent at best in preseason practices. If the game again comes down to a field goal attempt, it's hard to be optimistic about FSU's chances.

Gary Ferman, publisher of CaneSport.com , talks about Miami:
How desperate is the situation at receiver and how will it impact UM's game plan?
Very desperate. Recruiting here has been awful for the past several years. Miami's best receiver will be true freshman Sam Shields. Lance Leggett must catch the football. He still drops too many balls.

Where do you see FSU trying to attack Randy Shannon's defense?
Right up the middle and on the outside. I would think they would want to test the defensive tackles and cornerbacks.

Are you projecting another tight, low-scoring game?
Absolutely. I will be surprised if FSU scores a lot of points in this game. The onus is on the Miami offense to execute.

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