Coach Jeff Tedford doesn't want Cal players to hide from prognosticators' predictions for the program.
By Myron Medcalf
Jeff Tedford hated to see those numbers next to his team's name. In his early years at California, he told the Golden Bears to ignore the preseason polls, rankings and all of the ballyhoo tied to them. Cal knows well that it's far easier to earn a high ranking than to keep one. Under Tedford, Cal has climbed to the top of the polls multiple times, only to drop out of the national title picture as the season progressed. The greatest fall came in 2007, when the Bears won their first five games to get to No. 2 in the nation, only to lose six of their next seven.
"The expectation had kind of run out of control by being ranked No. 2," Tedford said. "And I think it just magnified everything." But as Tedford prepares No. 8 Cal for its first road test of the year against the Gophers on Saturday, he is taking a different approach to the early hype that has followed his team this year. As expected, Cal has all of the tools to make a run at the national title this season. Jahvid Best is the nation's top returning rusher (1,580 yards in 2008) and probably its fastest. Kevin Riley passed for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns against Maryland in the season opener.
And the defense brought back eight starters from a year ago; Cal held Eastern Washington to 14 rushing yards Saturday in a 59-7 victory. Now, Tedford uses rankings to show players that pundits and pollsters alike believe in their potential -- and it's up to them to play up to it.