Cal's football players periodically partake in a chant while participating in post-practice stretching. A popular one this year has a player shouting "Pac-10 champs!" with the rest of the team responding "That's us!" As the sixth-ranked Bears prepare to begin Pac-10 play Saturday at Oregon, there are many who believe the chant will prove accurate. Cal kicks off the conference slate as the highest-ranked Pac-10 team in the national polls. With USC's loss at Washington on Saturday, some observers believe the Bears are the favorites to capture the Pac-10 championship.
"People say Cal is the favorite to win the Pac-10 now, but people are going to be gunning for us," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We just have to be even more prepared now." Many projected the Bears to contend for the conference title before the season, but the Trojans' loss to the Huskies has increased support for that hypothesis. It's not just that USC lost, but that it fell to a team that went 0-12 last season. The Bears, meanwhile, notched a respectable road win at Minnesota on Saturday to improve to 3-0. "There may be even a little more of a target, but the biggest thing is to block it out," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "Just take it week by week. If you start listening to all that, that's when it can come back and bite you and you're going to get in trouble. In our minds, USC has been and still is the (cream) of the crop until somebody knocks them off. But we're not really worried about that."