Kansas State meets California in college football opener

Updated: August 22, 2003, 8:45 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - The so-called "preseason classics" no longer are part of the college football landscape, but at least one remains.

The 2003 season begins Saturday night with the Black Coaches Association Classic between fifth-ranked Kansas State and California at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Past years have featured numerous preseason "classics," a trend that began with the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey two decades ago. But the NCAA, responding to the bloated schedules caused by the addition of conference title games at the end of the year, decided to eliminate the preseason contests.

The Black Coaches Association Classic, however, was allowed to continue two more years in order to fulfill a pre-existing television contract.

About 43,000 tickets for the game were sold as of last week and those in attendance will see Kansas State seek its 14th straight win in season openers. The streak goes back to 1989, when the Wildcats lost to Arizona State in Bill Snyder's first game as coach.

Kansas State won its last six games last season, including a victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.

With the rest of the country waiting at least another week before opening the season, Saturday could serve as a showcase for quarterback Ell Roberson, who is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate. A better runner than passer, Roberson rushed for 1,032 yards last season.

Saturday marks the first meeting between the schools. It is also is the earliest start in history for both clubs.

"The biggest disadvantage is it makes it such a short summer for everybody, but particularly our players," said Snyder, who does not have a problem with the long schedule. "It's no big deal to them. They love to play the game. It's another opportunity to do what they love."

California made huge strides in its first season under Jeff Tedford, improving from 1-10 to 7-5. But Tedford will have to be a miracle worker again since the Golden Bears lost 24 seniors from last year's squad and lost almost every key player, including quarterback Kyle Boller.

Tedford will chose between either Reggie Robertson or Aaron Rodgers as his starting quarterback. Robertson, a junior, has played in six games, including two starts as a freshman.

One other game is scheduled for Saturday as San Jose State will host Division I-AA Grambling in the Literacy Classic. San Jose State was given permission to host the early game when another opponent dropped the Spartans from their schedule.

A full slate of games is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Defending national champion and second-ranked Ohio State will host Washington in its season opener on August 30. Top-ranked Oklahoma plays North Texas the same day.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index