Why to watch: The only game of the opening weekend featuring Top 25 teams is a rematch of last year's 35-18 Tennessee win that was even worse than the score indicated. If there's such a thing as a must-win situation in Week One, this is it for Cal, which despite blowing out Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl is still looking for national respect, at least from the SEC folk. Even without RB Marshawn Lynch, the Bear offense will again be prolific behind big junior QB Nate Longshore and one of the most dangerous receiving corps in America. After excelling as a spare part for years, 5-8 Justin Forsett gets a grand stage to show that he's not too small to carry the load in the running game. Cal won't be the only team with something to prove in Berkeley as Tennessee has to start showing it's Tennessee again. Without an SEC title since 1998 and with barely a hint of any noise in the national title race since winning it all almost a decade ago, the natives are getting restless. The Vols are light on star power in 2007, which is why plenty of first-year players will contribute and QB Erik Ainge is being counted on to have the best season of his up-and-down college career.
Why Tennessee might win: Cal can score, but can it stop a quality SEC opponent from going up and down the field? This is the Bears' first game without defensive stars Brandon Mebane, Desmond Bishop and Daymeion Hughes, something that won't be lost on Ainge as he begins implementing UT's new no-huddle offense. Cal is green at corner and suspect up front, which means lots of time for Ainge and enough running room for Arian Foster to keep the Bear offense in hibernation. This is still Tennessee, and there are still plenty of NFL caliber athletes, even if they're not household names quite yet.
Why Cal might win: Last September, Tennessee had the dynamite receivers and Cal had the secondary that was still in diapers. This year, the roles are reversed. The Vols' first test with three new starters in the defensive backfield comes against the quartet of Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan and tight end Craig Stevens, which combined for 168 receptions in 2006. Tennessee is also very soft in the middle, so look for Alex Mack to create space for Forsett and James Montgomery, while displaying why he's one of the nation's premier centers.
Who to Watch: Last September, then-freshman CB Syd'Quan Thompson became the poster boy for Cal's loss to UT, getting burned repeatedly by Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain. Today, he's one of the emotional leaders of the defense, who'll be on a mission to shut down a Volunteer receiving corps that's a far cry from last year's group. Also worth watching will be the matchup of Tennessee's Britton Colquitt and Cal's DeSean Jackson, the SEC's best punter and the nation's premier punt returner, respectively.
What Will Happen: After getting embarrassed and knocked down a peg a year ago, Cal will get revenge on Tennessee in one of the biggest wins of the Jeff Tedford era. The Vols will get their yards, making heavy use of TEs Chris Smith and Brad Cottam, but it won't be enough with the Bear offense clicking. Jackson will crank out a highlight-reel play that'll ignite the home crowd and earn him some early Heisman attention in a thrilling game that'll be as good as advertised.
Line: California -5.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can't because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 4.5
Fearless Prediction: California 30 … Tennessee 24