Cal Must Grind a "Big" Win

Cal must prepare for arguably the most important Big Game in the Jeff Tedford era. For the just the second time in seven years, the Cardinal enter the Big Game with a chance to become bowl eligible. Furthermore, Tedford cannot afford a consecutive loss in the storied rivalry. Last season's 20-13 loss capped a dreadful 6-6 season, a loss this year would certainly send Cal down the same path.

Last season was the first time California Head Coach Jeff Tedford lost the Big Game. The 20-13 loss to Stanford was insult to injury on an utterly disappointing 6-6 campaign that saw Cal start the season 5-0 and rise to No. 2 in the nation. This season the Bears have been unable to sustain their spot in the polls. Three times this season the Bears earned a spot in the AP top 25. Nevertheless, all three times they dropped out of rankings the following week after a loss. Therefore, entering this week's contest with Stanford unranked just might give the Golden Bears an edge.

Prior to Coach Tedford taking over the Cal football program in 2002, the Bears had lost seven straight Big Games. The 1994 season also marked the last time Cal won back-to-back games over Stanford, 1993 (46-17) and 1994 (24-23). In fact, those were the only wins the Bears had over the Cardinal in the 15 years prior to Tedford's reign in Berkeley.

For the first time since 2005, the Big Game means something beyond a rivalry win. That season, Cal and Stanford entered 6-4 and 5-4, respectively, with bowl berths on the line. This year, a Cardinal win will earn the program its first bowl since 2001. As well, a victory would eliminate Cal from Holiday Bowl contention and could possibly knock the Bears down to Hawaii Bowl – the sixth choice of the Pac-10 plays Hawaii or another WAC opponent. Cal was the sixth Pac-10 bowl choice last season, beating Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The Bears will not lose this Saturday!

There is too much on the line. Another bowl game against a non-BCS opponent, save Las Vegas, will not fly in Berkeley. Sure, the quarterback play is suspect. Moreover, despite Coach Tedford naming Kevin Riley the starter last week, his choice this week is still a huge question as of Sunday evening. Do not be surprised if senior Nate Longshore gets his fourth start of the season. Regardless, the Golden Bear defense has been the strength all season and this week should be no different.

Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart averages 93.91 rushing yards per game, which paces nation's 20th best rushing offense. He gained 101 yards against USC – the Pac-10's best defense – last week, which was half of the Cardinal's total rush yards.

The Bear defense has allowed at least 173 rush yards in each of the last three games. But that came against Oregon, USC, and Oregon State, the No. 1, 2, and 3 offenses in the conference, respectively. Cal also allowed 179 rush yards to the No. 4 ranked Pac-10 offense in Arizona as well. However, the Bears losses have not been because of its run defense. The losses fall squarely on the offense's inability to score points and the special team units giving up huge plays.

Whether it is Riley or Longshore, he must hand the ball to Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen religiously. Cal is 1-4 this season when it has rushed for 110 yards or less, but 5-0 when it has rushed for at least 130 yards. The Bears are averaging 165 yards rushing per game at Memorial Stadium.

Plain and simple, if the Bears can run the football successfully and control the clock, they will win the Big Game no matter who is behind center.

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