Pac-10 Week 5 Notes and Observations: Cal Bears
Cal Bears 3-2 Overall (0-2 Conference)
This Week’s Score: USC 30 – Cal 3
Next Week’s Opponent: BYE
Where to even begin…
We’ll start at the beginning of the season, when Cal was chosen to finish second in the conference almost unanimously by the media, and the Washington State Cougars were unanimously picked to finish in dead last.
Both teams have faced the USC Trojans and the Oregon Ducks over the last two weeks. The Cougars got completely crushed by a combined score of 79-12. The Bears, ironically enough, fared about the same; losing both games by a combined score of 72-6.
Keep in mind that the Cougars had to play both games on the road; Cal got one of them at home.
I’m not saying that Cal is as bad as Washington State, obviously; I’m merely pointing out how completely inexcusable the last two games have been. Blame falls everywhere; Jeff Tedford and the coaching staff as well as the players. Putting together two straight unmotivated and unprepared performances in the two biggest games of the season was embarrassing not only to the school, but to the conference as well.
Sure, I’m being harsh, and I don’t mean to take anything away from Oregon or USC. But the simple truth is, on paper, position-by-position, California is arguably the most talented team in the conference. On paper, they really don’t have any glaring weaknesses.
There is a reason why this team was picked to compete for and potentially win the Pac-10. There were national championship whispers and Jahvid Best Heisman Trophy discussions. The team has championship-level talent; and to underachieve so drastically is a massive disappointment.
The bye week couldn’t have come at a much better time for the Bears, who clearly need to re-group. Defenses are going to continue to send the house at Kevin Riley, and he is going to have to start making the plays to open up the running game for Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen again. The defense needs to regain its confidence and start making plays after giving up nearly 1000 yards over the last two games.
But the concern moving forward for Cal is finding some reason to get excited about the rest of the season. With over half the season still remaining, Cal is all but eliminated from winning the conference, needing to run the table from here on out AND have Oregon and USC both lose three in-conference games. If this team couldn’t get motivated to show up and play when they had so much on the line, what reason do they have now?
It will be very interesting to see how Cal responds for the remainder of the season. They have the talent to win every game from here on out, and finish with a respectable 10-2 record which could be enough for a trip to the Holiday Bowl. But do they have the mental toughness?
They have an extra week to find it.