Minnesota Chance to Prove '09 is Differrent

A friend posed an interesting thought to me the other day…

He was undoubtedly excited about Cal's early success, but in restraining himself, couldn't help but think back to 2007—and 2008 for that matter—when the Bears also started 2-0 in somewhat easy-looking fashion, before collapsing (in either the second half of the season or in College Park).

In the attempt to ease my colleague, I assured him that 2009 is different, and sent him on his way.

Perfection in the world of athletics—collegiate, professional, popwarner, whatever—is nearly unattainable.

At some point during a given season, that inevitable lull that, try as they might, no team can escape from, is bound to latch on and suck down anything in its path.

That said, 09 is different. And after two weeks, Cal has been as close to perfect as anyone could hope for.

Remember in 2007, Cal had convincing wins over Tennessee at home and on the road at Colorado State.

But in both victories, something seemed missing.

The Bears let both the Vols and Rams back in the game in the second half, and on multiple occasions, you wondered if both teams could make that big play and steal a win, particularly Colorado State.

But this season, Cal opponents haven't had a chance, and it's been because the Bears have done all the little things with surgical precision.

Cal has converted on third downs 56.5% of the time, good for second in the Pac-10, while scoring on 92.3% of their trips to the redzone, with a conference-leading 10 touchdowns from inside the 20.

The Bears' 524.5 yards per game and 55.5 points per contest also rank atop the Pac-10, with the latter ranking them third in the nation.

But wait, Cal's opponents haven't been that good, you say?

Well, most striking is Cal's seeming immunity to penalties, perhaps the only stat line that isn't directly affected by who you're playing.

The Bears have racked up just eight flags for 65 yards, with a whopping ONE coming on the offensive side of the ball.

That's mental preparation that the majority of the country can only gawk at.

Take the nation's top two teams, for example.

Both Florida (Charleston Southern and Troy) and Texas (University of Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming) have opened up their respective seasons with back-to-back cupcakes.

The Gators, though, have been whistled 18 times for 130 yards, only to be outdone by the Longhorns (a 2015-16 opponent of the Bears, by the way), who have notched 19 penalties for 146 yards.

In years past, Cal hasn't been short on talent, but more so than in any other year under Jeff Tedford, the Bears in 09 are mature beyond all means.

If you take a look at Cal penalties throughout the Tedford era, you find a fascinating correlation.

The Bears eight penalties for 65 yards is easily their top two-game total to open up a season under Tedford. The next closest was a 10 for 74 yard occurrence that happened in Cal's magical 2004 campaign, that saw the Bears finish 10-2 and ranked No. 9 in the AP poll (interesting, huh?).

The Bears ended the 04 tour with 20 less penalties for 163 less yards than they did in Tedford's opening season…one in which they went 7-5.

Now let's take a look at 2007, a season that, at one point, seemed most enchanting of all. The big problem? Cal committed 93 penalties that year (the most in Tedford's head coaching career) for 809 yards.

All told, in the three years Tedford teams have recorded less than 75 penalties (04, 05, 06), Cal has won 75.6 percent of its games. In years that the Bears have racked up more than 75 penalties (02, 03, 07, 08), they've won just 59.6 percent.

That's telling.

And with this Cal team perhaps as talented as its ever been before, take comfort in knowing that they're doing the little things—the most important things—even better.

Cal Sports Digest is the new home of lead writer Jon Doss' award winning Daily Cal column "Who's the Doss". Jon will weigh in on hot topics pertaining to Cal and the Pac-10 conference throughout the season.

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