Georgia Street is a steep incline near Jahvid Best's Vallejo, Calif., home. The neighborhood pavement has been as good as any track or personal trainer for the West's best Heisman candidate. Nature's elements are always in play and Best also has to dodge cars, but Georgia has rewarded Cal's tailback. Since high school, Best has periodically attacked the incline with a series of 60- and 70-yard uphill sprints. The work he puts in doesn't feel good at the time, but as Best puts it, things get easier in the fourth quarter when those lithe calves and solid thighs allow him to slip out of the grasp of a tackler.
That's where the fun really begins. Defenses best stop Best early in his runs, because letting him going can be deadly. That's another way of saying that Best might be the fastest running back in the country. The nation's leading returning rusher put himself in that Heisman conversation by rushing for 1,580 yards and averaging 8.1 yards as a sophomore. As for Best's training tool, might as well call it Metaphor Hill. It's one thing running up a street in your neighborhood, it's another climbing a mountain in the Pac-10.
And there is quite a Matterhorn in Berkeley. The clock is at 50 years and running on the Bears' last Rose Bowl appearance. It's seven years and counting on USC's complete domination of the Pac-10. Maybe, with Best's help, the stars have aligned to end both streaks. Cal will start the season ranked in the top 15 and is expected to challenge USC for the conference title. Cal gets the Trojans at home on Oct. 3. Meanwhile, the league has gotten tougher, if you count a shift to more physical, ground-based offenses. Best is one of five returning 1,000-yard Pac-10 rushers (a conference first). "Our expectations are so high, and I feel like we're going to live up to them this year," the tailback said.