In five-and-a-half seasons at Cal, Jeff Tedford has rebuilt an atrocious program, won 70 percent of his games, made the Bears a top-10 team, won three bowl games, beaten USC, beaten UCLA, dominated Stanford, beaten Oregon at Oregon, beaten Tennessee on national TV and been named conference coach of the year twice. The two things he has not done are win the Pac-10 title and win a game in Southern California. And yes, one has everything to do with the other. Tedford is 0-3 at USC and 0-2 at UCLA. The games have been very close — four of the five decided by a touchdown or less — but time and again, the Bears have failed to make the plays that win games. Often, they have made the plays that lose games, especially on special teams. Those losses, especially to USC in 2004 and 2006, kept the Bears out of the Rose Bowl.
So here we are again, with the Bears making their annual trip to SoCal. They must win at UCLA to stay in the Rose Bowl race and the BCS title chase. And they probably aren’t going to win without major contributions from their SoCal kids, especially quarterback Nate Longshore and receiver DeSean Jackson. Both players were M.I.A. last year at USC.
Longshore was ineffective (17-of-38 for 176 yards and two INTs). Jackson had one catch in the second half, for five yards. If Longshore (sprained ankle) doesn’t play Saturday — and play well — and if Jackson doesn’t make the kind of big plays he made at Oregon, it’s tough to see the Bears winning. And if they come up short in L.A. (again), they aren’t going to the Rose Bowl (again).