Cal Must Play Role of Merciless Host

Love it or hate it, Cal plays Eastern Washington this weekend, but don't go RSVPing to your brother's wedding just yet (plus, I've already made that mistake)…because Saturday may be the most telling game on the Bears' schedule...

Ten months ago, would-be National Champion Florida had an opportunity for a let down.

A week before traveling to Tallahassee, Fl., to face Florida State, it's final competition before the SEC title game, the Gators played host to little known and vastly underappreciated Citadel.

But in a game that most Vegas odds makers wouldn't touch, Florida still showed up to play, demolishing the Bulldogs in 70-19 fashion.

Now, I've never been a fan of scheduling FCS opponents. There's something about paying a smaller school a bunch of money to come to your place and get demoralized that just doesn't sit well with me.

But it happens and, as long as teams continue to try to piece together schedules that they believe will provide optimal opportunities for wins, there will be no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Love it or hate it, Cal plays Eastern Washington this weekend, but don't go RSVPing to your brother's wedding just yet (plus, I've already made that mistake)…because Saturday may be the most telling game on the Bears' schedule.

While Cal has surely dominated its FCS opponents of late—beating Portland State (2006) 43-16 and Sacramento State (2005) 41-3—the Bears have yet to pull out that eye-popping win, the victory that makes people around the country gasp and yet, criticize.

With the fire-power that Cal—and the rest of the country—now know it has on offense, it's time to go for the throat. It's time to show a killer instinct unlike anything Memorial Stadium has ever seen.

Don't get me wrong, Eastern Washington isn't Sacramento State. The Eagles are among the FCS' elite, and their offense could be as prolific as any in the championship subdivision.

But unfortunately for EWU, one week after a bout with redemption, the Bears have got to make Saturday into a statement game.

With the emotional season-opener now behind it, and an early season upset bid looming on the horizon in Minneapolis, Cal could easily walk through Eastern Washington.

The Bears could hand it off to Jahvid Best five times and kneel out the remaining 50 minutes.

But while such a performance would undoubtedly help Best's status, such a win wouldn't help Cal, and it knows it.

And that's what makes this team different.

"You have to come out and get focused. It's a game to get better as a unit. It's another chance for us to go out on the field and get better, " quarterback Kevin Riley said. "It's a game we should win. It's about us being as perfect as possible."

This game isn't about putting up monster individual stats, it's about a unit achieving perfection. And if you ask Best, he'll tell you the same thing. In fact, ask any of the Bears' leaders.

The level of humility on this squad is astounding compared to years past, when Cal has looked ahead only to take a giant step back (Arizona in 2006, anyone?).

That said, the Bears marketing department was a year too early.

In 2009, with arguably its best defense under Jeff Tedford and offensive playmakers that rival the best around the nation, it is truly and "Every Game Matters" scenario for Cal.

And if the Bears ever want the respect from voters everywhere, they're going to have to do it all: beat USC, win the Pac-10 and yes, play the role of merciless host when expected to.

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