Cal coach Jeff Tedford says high expectations don't bother him or his team. "We welcome it and embrace it," Tedford said. The Golden Bears have one of the best running backs in the country in Jahvid Best, who led the Pac-10 in rushing last season. Best is gritty enough to get the tough years, and explosive enough to strike from anywhere. Best is a known commodity -- assuming he stays healthy.
A bigger key to Cal's ability to challenge USC for the conference title probably will be Kevin Riley, the former Beaverton star high who figures to be the starting quarterback when the Bears open the season at home against Maryland. Riley has all the tools. Tedford says what he wants is "consistency." "We have to be more consistent in the passing game," Tedford said. The Cal coach said Riley -- who completed barely 50 percent of his passes last season -- has been working hard to improve himself.
The Bears could be good on defense, assuming the can fill the holes at linebacker. Their three starters completed their eligibility last season. The secondary returns intact. The Bears have a relatively easy nonconference schedule, with Maryland and Eastern Washington at home, and Minnesota on the road. Then things get serious with a road game at Oregon and a home date with the Trojans.