By Jon Wilner
Was trying to get a handle on this lil’ old tussle in Eugene (latest weather forecast: cloudy and 65). Trying to get a handle on just how big it is — as big as the hype, bigger than the hype … dramatically overhyped? And then it hit me: It’s not the biggest game of the Jeff Tedford era at Cal, but it would be the biggest win. There have been a bunch of big games, games with Pac-10 title and BCS repercussions. And the Bears have lost them all, except the Tennessee game to start this season. But that was at home. And Tennessee might not be that good. And it had no impact on the Pac-10 title and only a moderate impact on Cal getting to the Rose Bowl. So it was a big game, yes, but not a huge win — not now, not yet. But think about the other “big” games in the Tedford era:
* At USC in 2004 (for Pac-10 supremacy/Rose Bowl/BCS) — 23-17 loss
* At UCLA in 2005 (Cal was unbeaten and ranked 10th) — 47-40 loss
* At Tennessee in 2006 (Cal was No. 9 and thinking BCS title) — 35-18 loss
* At USC in 2006 (Rose Bowl at stake) — 23-9 loss
All on the road, all losses. Which brings us to Saturday, in Eugene, against the No. 11 Ducks, with ESPN GameDay there and ABC’s cameras rolling. No, the Rose Bowl is not on the line. There are too many games left, and USC is standing in the way. But for the Bears, this is the first in a series of games they must win to get to USC, to make that Nov. 10 home date with the Trojans something consequential, something enormous. If they lose Saturday, then this was another important road game that ended in defeat — like the ones listed above. But if they win, it’s big … the biggest road win of the Tedford era, for certain. Not because of what it does, but because of what it could enable Cal to do.