Thursday, September 10, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Bigger weekend than it might appear for Bay Area teams

Jon Wilner



Cal's challenge is different. The No. 10 Bears should squash Eastern Washington — in fact, they need to squash Eastern Washington.  Their toughest stretch begins next week with a trip to Minnesota, followed by Oregon, USC and UCLA. A dominating first half against Eastern Washington would give coach Jeff Tedford a chance to get his reserves, particularly backup quarterback Brock Mansion, valuable experience.

If starter Kevin Riley gets banged up in the next month, Cal would need Mansion to play like a veteran for a few snaps or even a few quarters. Yet he has thrown all of seven career passes.  The more experience he gets this week, the more prepared he will be to handle the coming crucible.  Whether they win or win big, the Bears should be showered and dressed in time for the second quarter of Saturday's marquee matchup: USC's first trip to Ohio Stadium since 1990. With a victory, the No. 3 Trojans would remain squarely in the BCS title hunt. (A loss wouldn't eliminate them, but it makes the task considerably more difficult.) If they jump into the championship game, it could open up a second January bowl slot for a Pac-10 team — perhaps Cal, if it doesn't win the conference title.

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