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Football: How much will history matter Saturday? Or, how long since Top-5 nonconference win?

By Jeff Faraudo
Thursday, September 12th, 2013 at 2:08 pm in Football.

They are questions worth pondering for a moment.

Yes, this is a new Cal football team with a new coach, so what the Golden Bears have — or have not — done in the past perhaps has no direct influence on what might happen Saturday against No. 4 Ohio State.

On the other hand, can a virtual mountain of history easily be dismissed?

Which leads us to this staggering fact: Cal has not won a nonconference game against a Top-5 team since . . . get ready . . . Jan. 1, 1938.

Honest. You could look it up. I did.

That’s more than 75 years ago. FDR was president in 1938, gasoline was 10 cents a gallon, Hitler was Time magazine’s Man of the Year (no kidding!) and DC Comics introduced the world to Superman.

Zoom ahead to Saturday, and Cal’s game against the Buckeyes will be played against this daunting backdrop: The Bears have lost 18 consecutive nonconference games vs. Top-5 teams.

The opponents include Miami, Colorado (in 1972 before joining the Pac-12), Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska (twice), Oklahoma (twice), Notre Dame (twice), Iowa (twice), Michigan State (twice) and Texas (three times).

The Bears’ most recent — and only — win over a nonconference Top-5 team was its 13-0 shutout of No. 4 Alabama in the 1938 Rose Bowl. Cal entered that game as the nation’s second-ranked team.

So you’re wondering, what is Cal’s record against Top-5 teams from within the Pac-12?

Well, it’s a little better, but still feeble. Cal is 4-50 all-time against Top-5 competition, meaning it has a record of 3-32 against teams ranked that high from within the conference.

The Bears’ most recent win against any Top-5 team: Their 34-31 triple-overtime conquest of No. 3 USC in 2003. That aside, you have to go back to 1975 to find one. And 1951 to find one before that.

 How much will this mean to Jared Goff and Bryce Treggs and Stefan McClure when they walk onto the field Saturday afternoon?

Probably not a thing. They are free to write their own history. 

But 75 years constitutes a trend by any measure, and one that may not easily be reversed.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo 

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  • Fire IT Up!

    We can only hope.

  • rollonubears

    a big part of this is that we seldom schedule top5 teams at home, because top5 teams don’t have to travel. they pay other teams to come visit. beating a top 5 team on the road is next to impossible. i’m not too worried about breaking this streak at some point, perhaps at home against texas in a couple years, but winning saturday will take nothing short of a miracle, and/or a lot of mistakes by the buckeyes.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Rollon — Sorry to rain on your theory, but those 18 losses vs. nonconference Top-5 came in 8 home games, 9 road games and 1 neutral (the 1959 Rose Bowl).

  • BlueNGold

    No one expects this to be easy, or just a fairly even match, for Cal. The key is going to be how well they compete against a top 5 team. The D needs to be ready and aggressive or they will be run over. The O needs to play solid mistake free ball. They have offensive weapons, but they just can’t give up lots of points. Should be interesting to watch.

  • Mallrat92204

    “But 75 years constitutes a trend by any measure, and one that may not easily be reversed.”

    I don’t know, there are some small sample size issues with n=19 nonconference games against top-5 teams

  • southseasbear

    What is the overall record of non-ranked teams (I’m assuming we were not ranked for most of those 18 losses vs. non-conference top-5 teams) against top 5 teams? I’m willing to bet that in the overwhelming majority of cases the top-5 teams beats the non-ranked team, particularly if it is a non-conference (non-rivalry) game.

  • Raf

    Wow, before this article I was convinced we’d lose. Now expecting win for sure. We’re due.

  • 707 Bear

    History schmistory!

    A woundd Bear is dangerous. Pull up the safeties, stop their run, and throw, throw, throw.

    Sunset in Strawberry Canyon.
    A full house.

    Go Bears!

  • Alaska Bear

    I love Cal fans. So you’re saying we have a chance. Rock Memorial and rewrite history.

  • BlueNGold

    75 years seems like an eternity in today’s world, but lets not forget that about 40 years of that period followed the free speech movement and the turmoil of the 60′s. It really was not until JT was hired that Cal started acting like football mattered.