It was a strange football season in Berkeley. California began 2009 touted as the team most likely to knock off USC, and the Bears were dominant in their first three nonconference games. Then the Bears went to Oregon. Splat. Then USC visited Berkeley. Mush. Yet, just when it seemed reasonable to write them off, the Bears won five of six, including a surprisingly convincing effort in the Big Game against rival Stanford. At that point, a nine-win regular season and perhaps a Holiday Bowl berth were possible.
Then Cal went to Washington and got stomped 42-10. Like we said, a strange football season.
Offensive MVP -- Running back Jahvid Best
Perhaps Best should share this award with backup Shane Vereen, who filled in admirably when Best went down against Oregon State on Nov. 7, but Best was the Bears leading rusher with 867 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Defensive MVP -- Linebacker Mike Mohamed
Mohamed led the Pac-10 with 105 tackles. He also had seven tackles for a loss with three picks and a forced fumble.
Turning point -- The Bears ranked sixth in the country and looked like national title contenders when they visited Oregon on Sept. 26. They lost 42-3. Things didn't feel the same thereafter.
What's next -- California won't have to worry about being a Pac-10 frontrunner in 2010, but there are a good deal of starters returning, particularly on offense, even if Best, as expected, enters the NFL draft a year early. Quarterback Kevin Riley and the offensive line will need to take another step forward, while the defense will need to replace a couple of key starters.