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By Joe Davidson
BERKELEY -- Cal nearly settled in at No. 1 of the national rankings after a whirlwind Saturday without playing a single down. Not that anyone affiliated with the Bears wasn't glued to his TV and suddenly preaching all that is good and honorable with Stanford football. While the Cal players admit to being excited about being ranked No. 2, coach Jeff Tedford said he is only thinking about the next opponent, Oregon State, whom the Bears host Saturday with the kickoff set for 4:07 p.m. Athletes revel in such news and rankings and hype. They live for it, with linebacker Worrell Williams, formerly of Grant High School, proclaiming Sunday that "this is exactly why we compete -- for a chance to be No. 1, because you just don't get a chance too often to be No. 1 in the country." As for Tedford, he'd downplay winning a $100 million lottery, per his calm and calculating nature. The coach insists he doesn't pay attention to anything outside of his own program. But he did acknowledge that Cal alums, fellow coaches and friends he forgot he had called his cell phone after Stanford's stunning 24-23 upset of USC.
The Bears, for a spell Saturday night, had visions of creeping all the way up to No. 1 -- by default -- as LSU had to rally to down Florida 28-24 to hold onto the top spot. Still, they aren't complaining. The Bears haven't been ranked this high since 1952. Cal hasn't been No. 1 since 1951 -- an honor that lasted a week before falling to USC. "I didn't even know (where we were ranked)," Tedford insisted. "I don't worry about the rankings. I'm worried about the next game. ... I'm worried about third-down offense." And right now Tedford said he is fretting about Oregon State, which has beaten the Bears the last three times at Memorial Stadium. If Tedford knows anything about the Pacific-10 Conference, it's this: hold onto your helmets. It gets bumpy from here on out. USC has had moments of mortality this season before the Stanford encounter, with Washington nearly upsetting the then-No. 1 Trojans earlier. Now it's Cal's turn to ward off all manner of great expectations.
"It just goes to show that you have to be prepared; there are no off weeks playing in this conference," Tedford said. The players said their coach has made that a critical theme. Cal is in position to reach the BCS championship game -- a ludicrous thought not too many years ago -- as long as it doesn't drop in the rankings. After Oregon State, Cal has games at UCLA and unbeaten Arizona State, now ranked No. 14, then it plays host to Washington State and USC before concluding conference play at Washington and at Stanford on Dec. 1. "We know we're in a great spot," Williams said. "I was watching that Stanford game and started calling my teammates and told them that starting now, we really have to up our game. We have to really go to work now. We're loving it." Said former Grant teammate Syd Thompson, a Bears starting cornerback: "I think this is why we play college football at this level, for a chance to get to this point. It's exciting."