BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Although Marshawn Lynch tore up most of
the Pac-10 during his first two seasons in the league, the
California tailback still hasn't done much to Arizona State.
The Golden Bears hope Lynch makes a devastating impression on
the unbeaten Sun Devils on Saturday in the No. 21 Golden Bears'
league opener. Lynch was a freshman backup when Arizona State got
shut out at Memorial Stadium two years ago, and the schools didn't
play each other last season when Lynch emerged as a star.
"This is for bragging rights, so the intensity in practice
picks up a little more," said Lynch, who averaged 7.2 yards per
carry in the Bears' first three games this season. "I don't know
what it is, (but) it's just different when Pac-10 time comes
Cal (2-1) is under pressure to prove its No. 9 preseason ranking
was justified, and Lynch -- who made a spectacular 71-yard TD run
last week against Portland State -- has been at the forefront of a
strong week of practice. The 22nd-ranked Sun Devils will be the
Bears' biggest home test so far, and the loser will be in an early
hole in the conference race.
Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter believes the Bears have the
league's most impressive collection of skill players, with
quarterback Nate Longshore directing Lynch, fellow tailback Justin
Forsett and three outstanding receivers: DeSean Jackson, Robert
Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins.
But until the Bears direct that talent into a victory over a
topflight opponent such as the Sun Devils (3-0), Jackson thinks
nobody will care.
"The first (Pac-10) game, that's the one we're worried about
the most," said Jackson, who already has caught five touchdown
passes this season. "You play games, you learn after every game,
and you get smarter. ... I think we're ready for this one."
Koetter's team faces its own reality check in Berkeley. The Sun
Devils' early season statistics were impressive -- a Division
I-leading 18 sacks and a 108-38 scoring advantage, for instance --
but quarterback Rudy Carpenter and a new-look defense haven't been
"It's been real solid, but let's not kid ourselves," said
Koetter, whose Sun Devils are winless in 10 trips to the four
California Pac-10 schools in his tenure. "Northern Arizona and
Nevada and Colorado are nowhere near what we're going to see from
Cal. They've got a lot of offense, and they're going to give
everyone they play fits."
Both teams also were ranked before their last meeting. Cal
blanked Arizona State and quarterback Andrew Walter 27-0 on the way
to the Holiday Bowl two years ago, and the Bears have won three
straight in the rivalry.
A near-sellout crowd is expected in Berkeley for the matchup of
two teams coached by former Oregon offensive coordinators. Koetter
sees many similarities in the schools' offenses, and Cal's
much-hyped use of the spread offense this season hasn't been
terribly dramatic, with the formations showing up in only about 20
percent of coach Jeff Tedford's plays.
"You grew up watching these teams play each other, so it's more
of a rivalry situation," Longshore said. "That's what makes
Pac-10 more interesting to everybody."
Longshore and Carpenter both grew up just north of Los Angeles,
and played together in the CaliFlorida high-school all-star game.
Both also won competitions for their starting jobs this season,
with Longshore beating out Joe Ayoob and Carpenter bumping Bay Area
native Sam Keller, who quickly transferred to Nebraska.
Carpenter leads the Pac-10 in passing with 280.7 yards per game,
but has thrown four interceptions that worry some fans. Cal's
defense also hopes to cause problems for him: The Bears knocked
Portland State's top two quarterbacks out of the first quarter of
their game last week with crushing hits.
"Coach is giving me a lot of chances to throw the ball down the
field and make plays," Carpenter said. "But also, I think people
are used to what I did last year, and I wasn't making as many
mistakes last year."
"Everybody is questioning Rudy right now, and Rudy is playing
fine," Koetter said.
Top 25 Overview
Since taking over the Arizona State program in 2001, Dirk Koetter is 0-10 in Pac-10 games played in the state of California (USC, UCLA, Cal and Stanford). Too late for the Sun Devils to make this a neutral-site game?
The Sun Devils will keep the game close thanks to their offensive balance. However, Cal's run defense is strong enough to put Rudy Carpenter in more third-and-long situations than Dirk Koetter would like to see.