Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
While many teams employ spread offenses, or at least have adopted zone blocking schemes -- you know, finesse schemes -- Michigan State is a throwback. California will play host to a true power-running team Saturday, and it will be a test to see of the Bears new 3-4 look on defense avoids getting put through the Ringer.
That's Spartans tailback Javon Ringer.
(Feel free to borrow that line and impress folks at a cocktail party this weekend).
While Ringer, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound spark plug with outstanding speed, finds himself obscured by the massive Big Ten shadow of Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, he's an All-American-type talent after rushing for 1,447 yards in 2007, with an impressive 5.9 yards per carry average.
"He's a guy who has great balance, vision and he's tough," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He'll run between the tackles, and you better make sure you rack him up or he can bounce out of there and make some great plays. He's an elusive guy. It's going to take gang tackling, it's hard to bring him down with just one guy."
He also runs behind a line that averaged 308 pounds and features with three returning starters. The Spartans blocking style is engage and knock over.
"We're going to get a true test," Tedford said. "When you line up, they're not a spread team. You're playing a downhill, physical football team, we better be ready for it."
That means Cal's corps of linebackers will need to live up to its preseason hype.
If the Bears manage to stop -- or slow down -- Ringer, it will be interesting to see how Spartans senior QB Brian Hoyer responds. He was solid in 2007, but tossed four interceptions in a 24-21 loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Tedford was asked about the Bears 46-22 win at then-No. 15 Michigan State in 2002, his first season in Berkeley. "We've had some big wins here over the years but I think that was one of the biggest," he said. "We jumped out to a lead and they responded and came back with a couple touchdowns. And at that point right there, I thought it was very important how are we going to respond to this? Are we going to let them go or are we going to respond to their challenge and we did. I felt like when we left the field that day, there was a different confidence, a difference belief that our guys had. I felt that that was a big, big game in our time here." It's worth noting that Cal, 1-10 the season before, earned a No. 23 ranking after that win -- and then promptly lost consecutive games to Air Force and Washington State.
Cal fans: You have been called out. Here's a question from Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's press conference: "Folks from Cal have told us that they're expecting probably 15,000-16,000 Spartan fans. It's not traditionally a loud stadium. How do you use that in recruiting?" "Not a traditionally loud stadium." Ouch.