Pac-10 Clearing Up, Cal Has Tough Road Ahead

UCLA continued to struggle offensively versus Oregon, Stanford comes down to earth after trip to Corvallis, Washington closes the deal late this week against Arizona, and the two of the Pac-10's worse teams battle it out. With a bye this past weekend, Cal faces a must win at UCLA on Saturday, if the Bears have any dreams of playing in a bowl game beyond Christmas Day…

What once looked like a not so daunting California football schedule in mid-September has become very tough.

Collectively, Cal Sports Digest predicted no worse than 10-2 in 2009, with Jon Doss drinking too much of his concoction saying the Bears would run the table on its way to the Rose Bowl. Now, if Cal can win four of its final seven, it may be considered an achievement.

The Bears chance to turn this season around begins this weekend in Pasadena. UCLA continues to look like their pedestrian selves on offense. However, that defense is very stout.

Misleading Score

Oregon's high-powered offense that scored 94 points in its last two contests was held to just 10 offensive points in Saturday's 24-10 win at UCLA.

Kenjon Barner's 100-yd kickoff return to start the second half erased a 3-0 Bruin lead. Talmadge Jackson returned a Kevin Prince interception 13 seconds later for a 32-yard touchdown. Two snaps later, Kenny Rowe forced a Prince fumble, the Ducks recovered at midfield. Nate Costa, making his first career start in place of injured Jeremiah Masoli, hit Jeff Maehl on a short screen that he took 20 yards for a touchdown to cap the eight-play drive.

Oregon gained only 303 yards of total offense and had only three drives that set up scoring opportunities. Part of the reason of the Ducks lack of success had to do with Masoli's absence, but the UCLA defense had much to do with it.

UO was still able to rack up over 200 yards rushing against the Bruins. Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen should be able to match that next week for Cal. And just as ineffective the Ducks were, the UCLA offense also suffered from its own ineptness.

UCLA scored its only offensive points on a Kai Forbath 52-yard field goal after a 16-play, 64-play drive stalled midway through the second quarter. The Bruins drove 53 yards on their previous drive but were stopped on 4th-and-goal at the 1.

The UCLA offense and quarterback situation is in disarray. Prince was pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of true freshman Richard Brehaut. Prince threw for just 82 yards on 13-of-25 passing, after missing the last few games with an injury. Brehaut looked promising at times completing 5-of-10 passes for 64 yards but was picked once and looked, well, like a freshman.

The Bruin offense is the perfect remedy for a Cal defense that has given up 72 points in its last two games. Still, Bear head coach Jeff Tedford has never won a game in Los Angeles, and the Cal offense hasn't scored a touchdown since Sept. 19 in Minneapolis.

They Are Who We Thought They Were

All the talk of Stanford leading the conference with a 3-0 record and marching to a Rose Bowl berth came to an abrupt halt in Corvallis on Saturday.

Sure, the Cardinal are much improved from a year ago but after witnessing Oregon State jump out to a 31-3 lead at the half, it was evident Stanford is just another middle of the road Pac-10 team.

Let's be real, most Pac-10 teams would have been 4-1 with the Cardinal's schedule. At 4-2, they must travel to Arizona this Saturday and have games against Oregon, USC, and Notre Dame left on the docket.

But you can't sell the Beavers short either. As usual, they are hitting full stride mid-season. OSU is a tough physical team that is 3-0 versus Cal under Tedford in Berkeley.

With that said, Stanford still looks much better than Cal midway through 2009. The Cardinal have arguably the most physical offense in the Pac-10, which is an attribute the Bears tend to struggle with defensively. While Tedford is 6-1 all-time against the Cardinal, he is just 1-1 versus Jim Harbaugh.

Regardless if Stanford is still considered a Pac-10 title contender, the game in Palo Alto in November could be the difference between the Bears going bowling or staying home for the Holidays.

Playing Worse than the Bears

Thus far, only two teams in the Pac-10 are playing worse than California and most won't argue the point if you agreed. And both played each other on Saturday.

Arizona State is 3-2 after beating Washington State (1-5) 27-14. The Sun Devils haven't laid an egg like Cal, but ASU hasn't played Oregon or USC. Furthermore, Danny Sullivan ranks just below Kevin Riley at this point in effective quarterback play.

The Cougars have showed some recent life since true freshman Jeff Tuel took over the quarterback duties. But WSU is easily the worse team in the conference and among the worse in the nation. The Oct. 24 contest versus the Cougars is the only one to chalk up as a Cal should-win the rest of way.

Arizona State isn't exactly impress too many after getting beat handily by Oregon State at home on October 3 and turning the ball over six times in Pullman on Saturday.

The Halloween trip to Tempe may be Cal's second best opportunity at another victory this season. One stat to keep note, Tedford is just 4-8 in October road games in Pac-10 play, but he is 2-1 at ASU.

Huskies are Formidable

The win over USC raised eyebrows but considering the Trojans have had a tendency to lose one Pac-10 game every year they shouldn't coupled with the fact Washington's coaching staff is filled with former USC coaches, in hindsight it wasn't too surprising.

And the Huskies were humbled the following week at Stanford. But it was expected after a huge emotional win. However, on Saturday, the Huskies probably put on their best performance.

After a draining overtime loss in South Bend on October 3, UW had to host one of the Pac-10's hottest teams, Arizona. No one would have faulted the Huskies if they stumbled at home. The Wildcats moved the ball up-and-down the field and held a 13-point lead in the second half. But the Huskies found a way to win.

UW's Mason Foster intercepted a deflected pass off Arizona's Delashaun Dean's foot and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 remaining in the game. The subsequent two-point conversion gave the Huskies a 36-33 win.

While the Wildcats will have to travel to Berkeley, where they haven't won since Tedford's first year in 2002, UW hosts the Bears in the season finale. It looks to be toughest road game left on Cal's schedule and not the win most penciled in back in August.

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