BY Gerald Nicdao
• When the No. 6 Cal football team travels to Eugene, Ore., for a 12:30 p.m. tilt with No. 11 Oregon, it will be the first time all year that the Bears will not be favored to win.
Cal opened the week as a four-and-a-half point underdog, and as of Tuesday, the Ducks were five-and-a-half point favorites. But a few of the Bears players don’t mind the low expectations. “That’s good,” linebacker Worrell Williams said. “We like to think that we’re a team that is confident and explosive. To come into a game ranked higher than them and still be the underdogs gives us a little extra something to fight for.” One reason for the unfavorable odds may be the fact that Cal has not won in Autzen Stadium since 1987. Under coach Jeff Tedford, the Bears have been involved in tightly contested games, losing 21-17 in 2003 and dropping an overtime decision 27-20 in 2005. “We’ve had a chance to win up there both times we’ve gone up there,” Tedford said. “Twenty year streaks and stuff like that has nothing to do with these guys—some of these guys weren’t even born 20 years ago. It’s about this year. That’s what counts.”
• Autzen Stadium will likely be the most difficult and hostile venue Cal will travel to this year. Though its official capacity is only 54,000, it has been considered by many to be the loudest stadium in the Pac-10 for opposing offenses. “It’s very tough,” Tedford said. “The crowd there is unbelievably educated on when to be loud and when to calm down when they have the ball. It’s just a very tough environment with the noise and just trying to communicate.” This week, the Bears will try to prepare for the Autzen Zoo by amping up the simulated crowd noise in practice. “It’s obviously a tough atmosphere to play, but it also makes it a lot more fun for us as well,” offensive guard Noris Malele said. “It doesn’t seat a lot of fans as you would expect, but the noise is still there.”
• Progress is being made on the injuries that hit the defense two weeks ago in the Louisiana Tech game. Defensive tackle Matt Malele is expected to practice this week and linebacker Zack Follett participated in the walk-through Sunday. Malele—who is suffering from a sprained foot muscle—is listed as probable going into Saturday’s game. Follett, on the other hand, may take a little bit more time to recover from his neck injury. “It’s completely his decision (when to return),” Tedford said about Follett. “We’re not going to put him at any risk whatsoever.” Tedford also said that defensive end Rulon Davis, who sprained his foot against the Bulldogs, will be out for this game.
• After recovering from sprained ligaments in his left knee, fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou is hurt again. The junior partially tore his posterior cruciate ligament in the win over Arizona.
Tedford said that the team will rest Ta’ufo’ou this week. “There’s a possibility that he can play this week,” Tedford said. “He’s a tough guy. His pain level today wasn’t as high as it has been. If there’s any chance at all—if it’s just a pain issue—he’ll play.”
• ESPN College GameDay will be broadcasting live from Eugene before the start of the game Saturday. It marks the second time that Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso have traveled to Autzen Stadium. It’s also the Ducks’ third time being featured on GameDay. “In this day and age, it’s the mark of finally having arrived,” Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. “Certainly, just the hype alone is great. Obviously we want to play well. I’ve told our players to enjoy this.” This is also the second time Cal has been showcased on the college football pregame show. The last time GameDay was at a Bears football game was in 2004—before the Cal-USC game in Los Angeles. “That’s the fun part about it,” Williams said. “We’re serious about what we do, but when GameDay comes down and talks about you and the pros and cons about your team, it kind of stirs it up. It’s kind of fun to get caught up in it, but we know where our focus is.”