Thursday, September 24, 2009

SF Chronicle: Cal needs to thread the needle in Eugene

Ray Ratto

The compelling pregame issue from Eugene is what uniform the Oregon players will wear to play Cal, and as it turns out, the Ducks are going old school.  That is to say, their pre-Nike-fashionista-rolling-costume-party duds, and back to ones in which the numbers were easy to read and the helmets didn't cause your corneas to sear.  This is a big deal at Oregon, right up there with the fan who demanded a refund after the loss at Boise State, and got a personal check from head coach Chip Kelly, but still well below the LaGarrette Blount episode. Oregon, you see, has drama down.

Cal? Its drama takes place in the more staid PollWorld, where reputations are inflated and punctured at a whim. The on-field stuff - the blocking, the tackling, the running - that takes care of itself.  It should be said here that next to Oregon, Cal, another Nike client, has more costume changes than any other school in the Pac-10 Conference. That's in case you feel like making fun of your northwestern brethren - your team has the same disease, only in a slightly more treatable form.  But enough Inside the Theatre chat, and back to the bigger picture. The one beyond the game itself.

This week is beginning to shape up as the big moment in 2007 all over again - a good team, rated slightly better than it probably is, rising up the polls as those above them lose, or play poorly or schedule softly. The all-in moment is coming sooner than '07 did, in games 4 and 5 rather than games 6 and 7, but '07 will still be remembered as the year that Cal won its first five games and was the No. 1 team in the country for about 45 minutes. Then the wheels blew themselves apart in spectacular form, first at the end of the Oregon State game when Kevin Riley's eyes got bigger than the distance between himself and the goal line, and then when the Bears lost five of the six games thereafter.


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