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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- If DeSean Jackson had just kept his toes inbounds on that final catch against Arizona last season, the California star knows he could have run all the way to the Rose Bowl. Cal's current season has been all about settling year-old scores so far. The No. 6 Golden Bears (3-0) can get a measure of payback for last season's 24-20 loss in Tucson -- a defeat that cost Cal the outright Pac-10 title -- when the Wildcats (1-2) visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday for both clubs' conference opener. Despite several mistakes in last season's meeting -- and at least three head-scratching officiating decisions that all went against the Bears -- Cal could have won on a 63-yard TD catch by Jackson with 2:18 left. But video review revealed that the Cal speedster had stepped inches out of bounds. "They played us to the wire. It was a great game," said Jackson, who had 285 all-purpose yards against the Wildcats. "I honestly feel the outcome should have been different. ... We definitely think we owe Arizona (for) last year. We could have been at the Rose Bowl if we hadn't lost to them, but we were at their house, and they got a lot of good calls." While the Bears' season-opening victory over Tennessee was about redemption, this meeting with the inconsistent Wildcats is more about proving Cal's Pac-10 predominance.
Except for a Nov. 10 visit from USC, Cal's most dangerous conference games are on the road this season -- at Oregon, Washington, UCLA and Arizona State. Staying unbeaten at home, where Cal has won nine straight, is crucial to the Bears' hopes of finally cracking the Bowl Championship Series. Cal went 10-3 last year, earning a share of the conference title and winning the Holiday Bowl, but losses to Tennessee and Arizona haunted the Bears into this season. "It's not something we're going to talk about every day," Tedford said -- though he acknowledged mentioning the loss to Arizona in a team meeting just hours after last week's 42-12 win over Louisiana Tech. "I addressed it ... just to remember that feeling of last year," Tedford said. "We did some things in that game to beat ourselves, and we can't allow ourselves to do that. ... You have to take advantage of big plays against these guys, because you're not going to march the ball on them. It's not going to happen. They're just too solid." Arizona coach Mike Stoops doesn't share Tedford's optimistic assessment of the Wildcats' defense. His job security is a hot topic of discussion in Tucson after opening the season with losses to BYU and New Mexico, including last weekend's 29-27 defeat in which the Lobos chewed up Arizona's vaunted secondary. "I just don't think we've played very good up to this point," Stoops said. "I thought we played better last year than we have up to this point, for whatever reason. You really can't put your finger on anything. We're just not playing a team defensive game. The pass coverage has been suspect, and obviously that will have to improve going into this game."
The top matchup will feature Jackson going against Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason. The two were friends growing up in Long Beach, Calif., and they threw playful trash talk at each other before last season's game -- and again at Pac-10 media day this summer. "We know each other real well," Jackson said. "He's a great corner, and I respect him a lot. He's a great friend of mine, but when game time comes, there's no friends." The Wildcats installed a spread offense this season, but it won't bother the Golden Bears, who already have seen two spreads this season -- and go against three of the nation's top receivers in practice every day. Cal's biggest defensive concerns are injuries, since starting linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis and linebacker Zack Follett all seem unlikely to play. Tedford is hoping for four consistent quarters from his offense after tailback Justin Forsett carried an inconsistent passing game last week -- and with a visit to No. 13 Oregon looming next week, the Bears have only one more game to get it right. "A lot of guys are going to go out there and play hard, because last year was embarrassing," said receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who block-in-the-back penalty in last year's game nullified Marshawn Lynch's 79-yard TD run. "That messed up our Rose Bowl out there."