THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL season began with Jeff Tedford making a curious confession. The man who once avoided outside estimations of Cal's program was now acknowledging them. Inventorying them, in fact, and using them to broach with his players the concepts of goal-setting and addressing expectations.
Just a hunch: Those conversations were a lot more enjoyable in September, when Cal was ranked 12th in The Associated Press preseason poll, than they are in the wake of Wednesday's Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah. Cal met few, if any, expectations this season. Certainly not AP's — the Bears disappeared from the Top 25 even before their bowl game beatdown. Nor did they validate the preseason forecasts of ESPN (also 12th), The Sporting News (16th), CBSsports.com (17th) or Sports Illustrated (20th).
During a season in which the Pac-10 race was as wide open as ever, Cal lost its first two conference games and was never a factor. While the Bears participated in a bowl game for the seventh consecutive season, the Poinsettia qualified as a tumble down the cellar steps. And there they got spanked. As a result, Tedford finds himself in another curious position. For the first time during his tenure at Cal, he's on the clock. Not on the clock in the "Gentlemen, start your buyout cash call" sense. There still is a lot to like about his work, starting with the school-record streak of bowl appearances. He's also produced eight consecutive winning seasons, tying the school record set from 1918-1925.