Frosh WR Allen raising expectations for Cal

While fans tend to swing with toward wild extremes -- we're awesome! we stink! -- you get a sense that California fans are trying to be measured about what happened last weekend.

Keenan Allen.

Sure, any 52-3 win feels good, but UC Davis didn't offer much of a test.

Keenan Allen.

And the Bears have been here before with a fast start. They were an impressive 3-0 last year and ranked sixth in the country before consecutive blowout losses to Oregon and USC stuck a needle in high hopes.

Keenan Allen.

They were 2-0 in 2008 before an inexplicable flop at Maryland. And they were 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in 2007 before a home loss to Oregon State triggered a swoon that included six losses in seven games.

Keenan Allen.

Would you stop it with the Keenan Allen stuff!


"He's pretty special with the ball in his hands," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.

Allen is the 6-foot-3, 195-pound true freshman receiver who caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown against UC Davis. He also rushed three times for 38 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown. It doesn't matter who the competition was, Allen's performance was impossible to ignore.

When you consider that most bits of preseason punditry centered on whether quarterback Kevin Riley would break through his senior year, a question that on a deeper level hung on the apparent lack of quality among Cal's receivers, you then can start to see dots connecting that lead toward... what?

Well, hope. And the possibility the Bears are better than the seventh-place spot they were relegated to in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.

Allen's presence means defenses can't gang up on junior Marvin Jones -- and vice versa -- as well as tight end Anthony Miller, so suddenly there are passing game weapons that will stop defenses from solely focusing their attention on running back Shane Vereen. That could be a game-changer for Riley and the Bears offense, which has been wildly inconsistent the past few seasons.

"You've got to be very aware of where they are at all times," Riley said of Allen and Jones.

Colorado, fresh off a surprisingly easy whipping of rival Colorado State, will offer a far stiffer test Saturday than UC Davis, particularly for Allen and Jones. Buffaloes cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown are both returning senior starters who are over 6-feet.

In fact, with 17 returning starters, more than a few folks -- including Phil Steele -- are projecting a Buffaloes turnaround in embattled coach Dan Hawkins fifth year in Boulder.

An added level of intrigue: Either next year or in 2012, Colorado will leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-12. This is a preview of a future conference game.

Riley said Cal has no plans to be terribly welcoming in Strawberry Canyon.

"You definitely want to show them what they're going to come to in the Pac-10, show them what type of conference we are, how we play football," he said. "I feel the Pac-10 gets a bad rap every single year, West Coast football in general. We've just got to show them what Cal football is all about and what the Pac-10's all about. That's all you can really do, and it's exciting because it's kind of a preview."

Hawkins doesn't see things the same way. Coaches often adopt tunnel vision, and what the Buffaloes do this season likely determines whether Hawkins ever coaches a game in the Pac-12.

“I think we just look at it as a game against Cal," he said. "We’re not in that league now. We’re still in the Big 12, so for us it’s not so much that we’re trying to make a big statement in the Big 12. It's that we’re trying to make a statement this weekend in this game.”

Cal fans are hoping for a statement, however. It goes something like this: "There's a new sheriff in town. And his name is Keenan Allen. So y'all be cool. Right on."