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Cal Football Preview Box: Bears Open Season Vs. Nevada Saturday Night

Fans can attend Cal's home game against the team picked to win the Mountain West Conference

Cal opens its 2021 season with a nonconference home game against Nevada Saturday night, and for the first time since 2019, fans will be allowed into the stadium to watch. Fans are strongly advised to wear face coverings. (More spectator information is provided at the bottom of this preview box.)

Here are the important facts for Saturday night’s contest:

CAL (0-0) vs. NEVADA (0-0)

SITE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.

WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: FS1 -- Alex Faust (Play-By-Play), Petros Papadakis (Analyst)

RADIO: KGO 810 AM - Joe Starkey (Play-By-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (sideline reporter).

BETTING LINE: Cal is favored by 3 1/2 points (as of Friday); Over/Under – 52 1/2 points.

WEATHER FORECAST: Saturday will be partly cloudy with a high of 76 degrees during the day and dropping to 56 degrees Saturday night. There is an 11 percent chance of rain Saturday afternoon and 7 percent chance of rain Saturday night.

CAL-NEVADA HISTORY: Cal leads the alltime series 32-6-1, but Nevada won the only two meetings this century – 52-31 in Reno in 2010, when Colin Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes and rushed for 149 yards for the Wolf Pack, and 31-24 in the 2012 season opener in Berkeley, when the Wolf Pack scored the go-ahead touchdown with 36 seconds left.

CAL STORYLINES: Cal was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 North in the preseason media poll, and the game against Nevada is considered pivotal in the Golden Bears’ hopes of landing a postseason bowl berth . . . Chase Garbers is beginning his fourth season as the Bears' starting quarterback. His quarterback matchup with Nevada's Carson Strong will be closely watched. . . . Cal went just 1-3 in the pandemic-shorted 2020 season . . . A win against Nevada would give Justin Wilcox a winning overall record as Cal’s head coach. He is 21-21 at the moment. . . . Cal is looking to be more productive offensively in the second year under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The Bears have finished last in the Pac-12 in total offense each of the past three seasons, and were last in scoring in two of those seasons before inching up to 11th in 2020 . . . Cal appears to be healthy for the opener, although the Bears staff does not disclose injuries that may have occurred in the final week of practice . . . Two position items of note: 1. This will be Kuony Deng’s first game as a starting outside linebacker after being an inside linebacker the past two seasons. 2. Damien Moore is scheduled to start at running back. Christopher Brooks (formerly Christopher Brown Jr.) has been the Bears’ No. 1 running back the past two seasons, but he is listed as a backup on the depth chart for the opener. . .. Virtually every Cal starter is expected to be available for this game, although outside linebacker Patrick Hisatake, defensive lineman Brett Johnson, inside linebacker Blake Antzoulatos and safety Craig Woodson are among the significant players who are out for the season. Nose guard Aaron Maldonado is not on the depth chart this week, and the status of tight end Jake Muller is uncertain. 

--Click here for videos of Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon talking about Nevada--

NEVADA STORYLINES: Nevada has been picked to win the Mountain West Conference title this year after finishing 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the conference last year . . . Nevada is not ranked in the preseason top-25, but it did receive votes in the AP media poll, so a win over Cal could push them toward a ranking. . . Nevada runs a version of the Air Raid offense developed by Mike Leach and Hal Mumme, and the Wolf Pack figures to pass a lot. The Wolf Pack threw the ball 103 more times than it ran it last year, and the disparity may be greater this season with the passing-game talent it has. Nevada's offensive coordinator is Matt Mumme, Hal's son. . . . The Wolf Packs returns 10 starters on offense and 10 starters on defense. . . . Jay Norvell is in his fifth season as Nevada’s head coach. He has a 25-22 record and has led the Wolf Pack to bowl games each of the past three seasons. Before he came to Nevada he was the passing-game coordinator at Arizona State . . . The Wolf Pack returns three 2020 first-team all-Mountain West selections in its passing game – quarterback Carson Strong, wide receiver Romeo Doubs and tight end Cole Turner. Nevada adds wide receiver Elijah Cooks, who had 926 receiving yards in 2019 but missed virtually all of 2020 with an injury . . . Carson Strong is from Vacaville, Calif., and attended a lot Cal home games growing up . . . Kicker Brandon Talton was a first-team all-conference selection last season and made a 56-yard field goal in 2019. . . Nevada added several defensive backs as transfers in the offseason, and they should help its pass defense.

--Click here for a Nevada beat writer answering five questions about the Wolf Pack--

CAL PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Chase Garbers (fourth year as Bears’ starting quarterback); OLB Cameron Goode (27.5 career tackles for loss); OLB Kuony Deng (played inside linebacker the past two seasons); RB Damien Moore (Cal’s leading rusher in 2020, named a starter this year); WR Nikko Remigio (dangerous on punt and kick returns); S Elijah Hicks (fifth season as a starter in Cal’s secondary); DL Luc Bequette (fifth season as a starting Division I lineman, spent 2020 season at Boston College).

NEVADA PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Carson Strong (2020 Mountain West offensive player of the year); WR Romeo Doubs (1,002 receiving yards in 2020); TE Cole Turner (2020 first team all-conference, 49 catches, 9 TD receptions); DE Dom Peterson (32.5 tackles for loss in three seasons); WR Elijah Cooks (926 receiving yards in 2019, missed nearly all of 2020 with an injury); LB Lawson Hall (team-high 65 tackles last season, including 8.5 tackles for loss; K Brandon Talton (first-team all-conference, made 15 of 18 field-goal attempts in 2020).

CAL NOTES, DEPTH CHART: Click Here

NEVADA NOTES, STATISTICS, DEPTH CHART: Click here

JAKE'S PICK: Cal 27, Nevada 25

JEFF’s PICK: Cal 28, Nevada 24

---Click here for Part 1 of the Cal preview: Strengths and Weaknesses---

---Click here for Part 2 of the Cal season preview: Five Questions That Need Answers---

---Click here for Part 3 of the Cal season preview: The Bears' Stars---

---Click here for Part 4 of the Cal season preview: Best-Case and Worst-Case Scenarios for Bears---

FAN FACE COVERINGS: Fans are strongly encouraged to wear facial coverings in outdoor areas when in attendance at home events. Facial coverings are required at all times in indoor spaces (i.e., restrooms, club levels) for people ages 2 and up regardless of vaccination status, unless eating or drinking. Masks will be available at all club entrances and at each gate for fans upon request.

TICKETS: Click here for ticket information. Cal will use mobile ticketing at Memorial Stadium starting this year. All Cal athletic tickets will be distributed through mobile delivery and accessed by ticketholders through digital wallets and smartphones.

PARKING: Click here for parking information. 

PROMOTION: Saturday's Cal-Nevada opener will be a Gold Out. Fans are encouraged to wear their favorite gold gear. The first 10,000 fans will receive a free swirler flag.

TAILGATING: Tailgate Town is back at Maxwell Field. It opens three hours prior to kickoff (4:30 p.m. PT for the Sept. 4 Nevada game), Tailgate Town will feature live bands, a beer garden and other activities.

Cover photo of Romeo Doubs is by Jason Bean, RGJ, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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