The Big Picture

I know this is not breaking news, but the implications of Cal’s loss at UCLA on Saturday was just another reminder that college football desperately needs a playoff system. What does it say to the players that the goals they have for a season can essentially be dashed before they reach November?

This is not to say that Cal definitely would even be included in a playoff this year, but listening to the players talk about playing for pride or playing the role of spoiler because they had lost two whole games just doesn’t seem right.

Our current system makes it so teams are knocked out of the national championship race after two losses, sometimes one. Cal could win its last five games and still have no hope of playing in the BCS title game. For a lot of teams, this argument is irrelevant. Many teams aren’t national championship-worthy to begin with and are simply trying to have the best season possible and go to the best bowl game possible.

Maybe Cal isn’t national championship-worthy either, but let’s not forget that two weeks ago the Bears were the No. 2 team in the nation. They’ve beaten quality teams such as Oregon and Tennessee. But because of the current system, their ultimate goal of playing for a national championship has been dashed.

That’s not saying the players still shouldn’t be motivated to have as successful a season as possible. The Bears could still get to 10 wins and perhaps finish the season in the top ten. But it just doesn’t seem right to see tears in the players’ eyes when the season is only about halfway over, because they know they can’t reach their ultimate goal.

This will be an interesting week for Cal’s coaches and players. We will see if they can re-evaluate their goals in a healthy manner. The challenge for the coaching staff is to make sure the players understand what is still left to play for. This is especially important because the Bears have another tough challenge ahead at Arizona State this week. Another loss there could really test the mental toughness of the Bears.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.