This is a critical nonconference weekend for the Pacific 10 and it starts with California's early-morning kickoff at Minnesota on Saturday. Cal fans can only hope it isn't a repeat of last year's early-morning kickoff at Maryland. Rise and shine?
Bears Coach Jeff Tedford is tired of people blaming last year's 35-27 loss to the Terrapins on the 9 a.m. PDT start. He says it had nothing to do with Cal flying in on Friday, or any body-clock adjustment issues.
"We didn't play well," Tedford said on Tuesday's Pac-10 coaches call, "but the announcers, all they could say is, 'It's early, it's early, it's early.' Everybody thinks it's early." Never mind that Cal fell behind by 14 points before rallying. Tedford: "We were sleeping, but it wasn't because when we flew in there or anything like that. I really don't believe it." Tedford has heard so much about last year's "wake-up call" he made it a point to note that his Cal teams are 4-1 in early-start road games. "But the one that we lost seems to be the one everybody remembers," he said. So, then, Cal will definitely be sticking to last year's travel itinerary by flying in Friday?
Well, um, no. Cal is flying in on Thursday. "I don't want be hardheaded about it," Tedford said. "I want to give it a shot and see what that's all about. See if it's better . . . if it is something that gives us an advantage, we'll take a look at it. Unless we do it I don't have anything to compare it to." Cal is ranked No. 8 in this week's Associated Press poll after cruise-control home victories against Maryland and Eastern Washington. The Bears need the win at Minnesota (2-0) to keep pace with No. 3 USC in anticipation of the schools' Oct. 3 showdown in Berkeley. The victory is also important for tailback Jahvid Best's Heisman candidacy and the Pac-10's ongoing fight for credibility. The league is 13-4 in nonconference games after last weekend -- not that it was easy -- as USC, Oregon and Oregon State pulled out squeakers against Ohio State, Purdue and Nevada Las Vegas.
The Pac-10's nonconference performance is also important in enhancing the league's status in the voter/computer components used in the Bowl Championship Series standings formula.