Cal’s win over UCLA sets up a huge game this Saturday against Oregon. There are now just four teams left with only one loss in Pac-10 play, and the Bears and the Ducks are two of them. The loser obviously will have an uphill climb to win the conference championship, although that team can be comforted a little bit by the fact that each of the past two Pac-10 champs finished with two losses.
Still, it will be tough for whichever team loses Saturday to still win the conference. USC, tied with Oregon atop the standings at 4-1, has only one conference game left against a team with a winning record (Cal). The Trojans also play Washington, Stanford and UCLA.
Oregon St., which like Cal is 3-1, also has a favorable schedule with Arizona State, Cal and Oregon all at home. The Beavers do have to go on the road to face Arizona, as well as UCLA.
After Saturday’s game, Oregon has home games against Stanford and Arizona then at Oregon State.
The Bears simply need to win Saturday because they must go on the road against USC and Oregon State, two games which will stiff challenges. Assuming Oregon State beats Arizona State this week, there will be only three one-loss teams left after the weekend, and Cal and USC will meet the next Saturday. The Bears would be well-served to still be one of those one-loss teams for the game against the Trojans.
One thing is for sure: The Bears are going to have to get their offense in gear to continue to contend. Yes, they ended up putting up 41 points Saturday, but that wasn’t a true reflection of the offense. First downs and and passing yards were hard to come by until Kevin Riley’s touchdown pass to Nyan Boateng on the flea-flicker early in the fourth quarter. The Bears racked up some yards and points after that, but it was garbage time.
Cal simply needs one or two receivers to emerge. Boateng can be that guy, but he needs to be better. Otherwise, it looks like the Bears will pin their hopes on Verran Tucker or Jeremy Ross to provide another consistent option at wide-out.
it better happen immediately, because as good as the Bears’ defense has been for most of this season, they will be hard-pressed to completely silence the Ducks’ high-powered offense on Saturday. Cal’s defense can play well and still give up some points, so the Bears will need to score some themselves.
Cal will need to shore up its offensive line. It remains to be seen if right tackle Chet Teofilo will be back this week. He was in a boot Sunday after spraining his ankle. I’d look for Donovan Edwards, who ended the game playing right tackle, to be the man there if it comes to that. Edwards held his own after No. 2 right tackle Matt Laird also got injured.
And now for a couple of finishing touches:
–Cal crept close to returning to the Associated Press top 25 in the new poll released today. The Bears received 42 votes, good for No. 27. Here’s something good for the Bears’ strength of schedule: Maryland debuted at No. 25, meaning two of Cal’s three nonconference opponents are currently ranked (Michigan State checks in at No. 22)
–Here’s the slideshow from Saturday’s game by staff photographer Jose Carlos Fajardo.