If those in Trojanland are griping over their annual upset — or is it annual set-up? — in the Northwest, there may actually be another Pac-10 outpost where the news that Washington had beaten USC, 16-13, is not exactly welcome. That would be in Berkeley, because now that the Trojans have left the top 10, disappearing along with them is the cover they have provided the rest of the conference. That means that a lot more eyes now turn to Cal, which is 3-0, ranked sixth in the country and ready for ... well, just what?
Cal coach Jeff Tedford, hired to take over a one-win program, has taken the Bears to six consecutive bowls and their best run of success in a half century. But the nagging question is whether Cal can be anything more — such as a Rose Bowl team for the first time since 1959. "I really believe that right now they're very hungry," Tedford said of his team. "I have a lot of confidence that we're going to stay that way." Still, the Bears have been down this road before. After Aaron Rodgers quarterbacked Cal to an 11-1 regular season in 2004, its only defeat a 23-17 nailbiter to USC, the Bears have tripped every time they've been presented a chance to step up among the nation's elite.
The most calamitous case came two years ago when Cal was 5-0, ranked No. 2 in the country and poised to jump to No. 1 after top-ranked LSU was upset earlier in the day. But the Bears lost at home to unranked Oregon State and won just one more game the rest of the season.