Jahvid Best and California entered this season with high expectations. After a dominant opener, they seem to be prepared to meet those lofty goals.
The Heisman Trophy hopeful and 10th-ranked Golden Bears look to take advantage of their first meeting with Eastern Washington on Saturday.
Best, who had 1,580 rushing yards and averaged a team-record 8.1 per carry last season, is considered a Heisman candidate this year. The junior running back lived up to those expectations last Saturday, rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries to help power a 52-13 win over Maryland.
Best has 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 85 rushes over the last five meetings with unranked opponents - all wins.
With Best carrying the running game, the Bears also look to continue getting strong play from junior quarterback Kevin Riley, who had a career-high four touchdowns last week while completing 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards to nine receivers.
California finished with 542 yards and five players scored touchdowns.
“Everybody knows we can run the ball,” Riley said. “A lot of close games are going to come down to if we can make plays in the passing game. (Last Saturday) we did some good things.”
Cal, which hasn’t appeared in the Rose Bowl since 1958, has won eight consecutive home games by an average of 23.0 points since losing to then-No. 12 Southern California on Nov. 10, 2007.
The Golden Bears are likely to continue that run against the Eagles after their defense sacked Maryland’s Chris Turner six times while keeping the Terrapins out of the end zone until midway through the third quarter.
Eastern Washington will see a massive leap in competition after opening its season with a 35-14 win over Division II Western Oregon.
The Eagles have lost their last two games against Top 25 opponents, falling 49-24 to then-No. 12 Texas Tech on Aug. 30, 2008.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but we’re excited for it,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “I’m confident that our veterans aren’t necessarily going to be in awe by the situation, which is sometimes what you worry about. But as far as the talent level of Cal and the challenge it’s going to be, they are the real deal.
“Last year we went into games with the approach that we’re going to win these ballgames. We’ll take that approach even though I know we’re underdogs. Our mindset will be to go down there and put ourselves in a position to win. We’ll see where we are at the end.”
Eastern Washington is led by Matt Nichols, who was 20 for 30 for 286 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against the Wolves.
The senior quarterback held his own against Texas Tech last season, completing 36 of 61 passes for 335 yards while throwing for a touchdown and running for another, but he was also picked off three times.