One of the compelling questions about Saturday’s game is whether it’s worth it to play such a highly regarded opponent in your season opener. Obviously, a win can create a boost of momentum moving forward and establish the Bears as a legitimate BCS contender. But just one loss can be so damaging in the current landscape of college football, even if it is to a quality opponent.
Of course, last year’s loss to Tennessee didn’t hurt Cal too much. The Bears rebounded with eight straight wins and were in position to reach the Rose Bowl had they taken care of business at Arizona. But teams who consider the national championship a realistic goal can’t afford a loss at any time, against any opponent.
Here’s Jeff Tedford’s take:
“It’s high risk, and I don’t know that there’s that much reward because the risk probably outweighs it. There’s still a long season there ahead of you. It’s definitelyi a different approach playing a top-20 team like Tennessee, who is a traditional top-10 team. It really tests you right out of the game.
“I think if you win and then you weren’t successful the next week, they would forget about that. If you don’t win, that stays with you for a long time. At least it did last year. Even if you win this game, you still have to win next week. If you don’t win next week, they’re going to forget about this week.”
A couple of other opinions:
–Right tackle Mike Tepper: “There is a risk and there’s a reward. It gives us a peak at what top-20 teams are all about. I wish we could play opponents that are a little easier for us to give us that confidence. But it’s definitely a challenge and it’s exciting.”
–Linebacker Anthony Felder: “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve been playing football my whole life. You can’t really put more emphasis on Tennesee because they are a top-15 team than you put on Colorado State or Louisiana Tech (the next two opponents). You have to respect your opponent equally because on any given day you can get beat by any team.”