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September 21, 2006

Cal-ASU Preview

The No. 21-ranked Golden Bears look to extend their winning streak to four games over the 22nd ranked Sun Devils in the Pac-10 opener on Saturday.

The teams have not met since 2004, when California blanked Arizona State, 27-0, at Memorial Stadium. The Sun Devils have not beaten the Golden Bears since a 30-10, victory in 2000 at Sun Devil Stadium.

The Sun Devils (3-0) are playing their second straight road game after crushing Colorado, 21-3, on Saturday. Arizona State is led by sophomore Rudy Carpenter, who improved to 7-1 as a starter and comes off an average performance, by his standards. He was just 21-for-37 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and was picked off twice.

Carpenter, who led the nation in passing efficiency last season, has not been as sharp as he was last season and will have to improve his accuracy if the Sun Devils are going to snap their three-game losing streak to the Golden Bears. The redshirt sophomore is 55-for-87 for 842 yards with nine touchdowns, but has been intercepted four times over the first three games.

The Sun Devils, who are looking to go 4-0 for the second time in the last three seasons, bring an improved defense into the game. They lead the nation in sacks with 18 (only four fewer than they had all of last season) and are ranked second nationally with 32 tackles for loss. Arizona State has been at its best in the second half this season, allowing just seven points and an average of 98.3 yards.

Arizona State has yet to allow a rushing touchdown, and comes off a performance in which it held Colorado to three points and 219 yards in total offense. The Sun Devil defense will face its first real test on Saturday as California brings a balanced attack and a trio of offensive stars in sophomore quarterback Nate Longshore, junior running back Marshawn Lynch and sophomore receiver DeSean Jackson.

Cal (2-1) has won back-to-back games (following a season-opening loss at Tennessee) including Saturday's 42-16 rout of Division I-AA Portland State.

The Golden Bears and Lynch will test the Sun Devil rushing defense. Lynch, who brings a rare combination of power and speed, enters the game well-rested after sitting out the second half of Saturday's win. Lynch rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on just six carriers in the first half. This followed Lynch's 139 yard two-touchdown performance in the team's previous victory over Minnesota.

Longshore comes into the game red hot himself, completing 37-of-54 passes (68.5%) for 525 yards and six touchdowns, while tossing just one interception, over the last two games. He and Jackson have formed one the best pass/catching duos in the nation. Jackson has 16 receptions for 304 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Longshore, Jackson and Lynch should all have opportunities to make plays against the Sun Devils aggressive defense, which has been susceptible to the big play. Arizona State has already surrendered passing touchdowns of 60 and 80 yards respectively.

For its part, California must not only put pressure on Carpenter, but also must slow down Arizona State's two-pronged rushing attack of sophomore Keegan Herring and junior college transfer Ryan Torain. The two have combined for an average of 103 yards per game and three touchdowns over the first three games. If the Golden Bears can make the Sun Devils one dimensional on offense, it could be a long day for Carpenter.

Notes: Arizona State leads the all-time series 13-12. Jeff Tedford is 3-0 against Arizona State as the head coach of California. Dirk Koetter (0-10) has never won a Pac-10 game in the state of California.


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