Save the date: The best fall home games

Cal vs USC Best Games Feature
Emma Lantos/File

Football: Sept. 17 vs. Presbyterian

I know, I know — why would you want to watch a game that Rivals.com listed as 2011’s most embarrassing matchup between the Big Six and FCS?

Barring Tedford-fired-on-the-spot catastrophe, Cal is going to win.

Presbyterian College is a school of 1,300 people. Its Wikipedia claim to fame is having the world’s largest bronze statue of a Scotsman. Its football team has played west of the Mississippi only twice, and every player hails from four states in the southeast corner of the United States.

But free wins aren’t going to come often for this year’s Bears. Coming off a 5-7 season, this is exactly the sort of game fans need. For one day, it’ll look like the NCAA granted Aaron Rodgers extra eligibility and injected rose-scented air freshener all around San Francisco. You might even forget that Andrew Luck’s still across the bay.

By the way, is the student store still giving out touchdown discounts this year?

— Jack Wang

Football: Oct. 13 vs. USC

After the Cal football team defeated No. 1 USC in 2003 and came nine yards away from upending the Trojans again in 2004, every subsequent year as seemingly been “the year” for the Bears.

The exception may be last year — and this year. Cal hasn’t been within one touchdown since 2007, unless you count winning the second half in 2010 (after a 42-0 whipping in the first half). Needless to say, this year probably isn’t the year for the Bears to finally beat USC again. Cal won’t be favored; in fact, another blowout is very likely.

But the Bears have one thing going for them: revenge.

Revenge for 2010. And 2009. And so on.

As fierce as its rivalry is with Stanford, Cal’s rivalry with USC in football is not far behind.

Defeating USC on national TV on a Thursday night could just restore the universe.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

Women’s soccer: Sept. 23 vs. ASU

For the last three years, the matches between Cal and Arizona State needed overtime to settle the scores.

In their annual dogfight against the Sun Devils, the Bears won once in 2009, thanks to a golden goal from Lisa Kevorkian, and tied the other two.

Despite the slight upper edge Cal has in the record books, the match on Sept. 23 could go either way.

A perennial mid-table team in the Pac-12, Arizona State pulled off upsets against top-25 teams Ohio State and USC last year. This season, the Sun Devils won their first two matches, including against then-No. 21 South Carolina.

With a dark horse coming to Berkeley, it won’t be surprising to see another dogfight that takes more than 90 minutes to end.

— Seung Y. Lee

Women’s soccer: Oct 9 vs. USC

Last year, Cal had a golden chance to upset Pac-12 rival USC at its home ground. When Alex Morgan scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to put the Bears up 4-3, the match looked all but over.

But the Trojans pulled off  an 89th minute goal to tie the game, and a golden goal in the 94th minute to win the contest in one of the most exhilarating matches in collegiate soccer. This time, USC is marching into Edwards Stadium on Oct. 9, and Cal is looking for retribution.

This season, both teams have taken a step backwards, falling out of the top 25. The Trojans, who won the 2007 National Championship, have lost their first match of the season to unranked Kansas. Cal also have yet to find a replacement for Morgan, who carried the team on her back last season.

With the match around the midpoint of the season, both teams will likely be looking for a key win to build momentum for the second half. And if goals erupt like they did last year, this match could be another firecracker.

— Seung Y. Lee

Field hockey: Sept. 11 vs. Indiana

After Cal’s upset victories against No. 16 Louisville and No. 13 Michigan State, the Indiana Hoosiers look to be the toughest non-conference test remaining on the Bears’ home schedule. In recent history, Cal has struggled against this Indiana team, losing matchups in each of the last two seasons. Over the past few years, the Bears have had success in their inter-conference play but have been subpar in their non-conference schedule.

A victory in this match against a tough non-conference opponent in one the most competitive conferences in the country, the Big Ten, would prove that the Bears’ two upsets against nationally ranked teams was no fluke and that they would make a formidable opponent in the NCAA Championship.

— Eric Lee

Field hockey: Oct. 16 vs. Stanford

Yeah, this is always the obvious choice at this school, but let’s put aside the centuries-old rivalry for now.

Over the past four seasons, the Bears have dispatched their early-round opponents in the annual NorPac Tournament and advanced to the finals only to see the Cardinal waiting there each time. In those four final matches, Cal is 0-4 and has been outscored 2-10, with the last two being shutouts. And it’s not like Stanford has been the obviously dominant team over this time period — the Bears are actually 5-3 versus Stanford over the regular season.

Once again, the Cal and Stanford are early favorites to meet in the NorPac final. While all of their matches mean the same in the record books, this specific one — the second-to-last of the regular season — will definitely mean a little extra to the Bears.

— Eric Lee

Volleyball: Sept. 13 vs. Stanford

When the Cal volleyball team opens its conference season on Sept. 13 against Stanford, there will likely be more than just bragging rights on the line.

As it stands right now, the Bears are boasting a No. 1 national ranking, and the Cardinal sit just off that mark at No. 6.

Both teams were picked to finish in the upper-half of the Pac-12, as Cal was predicted to finish second and Stanford was picked to finish fourth. And with six teams in the conference currently sitting in the Top 25, including four in the Top 8, neither team will be able to afford a loss.

In 2010, the Bears beat Stanford in both regular season matchups for the first time in 31 years, using the second matchup as a launching pad to grab first place in the conference — winning the first game will be a strong step in that direction.

— Connor Byrne

Volleyball: Oct. 29 vs. USC

The Pac-12 coaches predicted USC to finish first in the conference, and the Trojans ranked second nationally in the AVCA preseason poll. The Cal volleyball team was picked right behind USC in both polls, despite embarrassing the Trojans in the Final Four.

USC was projected to be a contender largely due to the fact the squad returned all of its starters from last year. Now, the Trojans are one piece short.

Outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana, last year’s Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, was declared academically ineligible for 2011. Fonoimoana and then-junior Alex Jupiter were considered the best outside hitter tandem in the country last year, and plagued the Bears in the regular season.

Now, it appears Cal’s Tarah Murrey and Adrienne Gehan could compete for that distinction. It’s hard to imagine a more stacked Pac-12 matchup than between these two squads.

The Bears lost twice to the Trojans in the conference season before obliterating them in the postseason, so there will be some added fuel for both sides to best the other.

The match could decide the Pac-12 championship, and more importantly, it will affect seeding for the NCAA tournament.

— Christina Jones

Men’s water polo: Oct. 15 vs. USC 

When it comes to a USC rematch, the Cal men’s water polo team is looking for something along the lines of sweet vengeance this coming season. The reigning NCAA champions three years running edged out the No. 2 Bears, 12-10, in an overtime bloodbath in the NCAA championship match last year. In fact, Cal and USC have a habit of meeting in the final round that traces back to Cal’s consecutive NCAA crowns in 2006 and 2007.

While Cal lost key talent in graduating seniors Zach White and Brian Dudley this past spring, USC returns all its starters. That is bound to make the Oct. 15 home match more of a mirror dance to last year’s performances.

As coach Kirk Everist said, it all starts and ends with USC.

 — Annie Gerlach

Men’s water polo: Nov. 11 vs. Pacific

As far as potential goes, Pacific has been the dark horse of the MPSF for the past few seasons. In 2009 the team finished off the season with a 13-8 record; the next year it increased its record to 17-11.

While the Bears topped the Tigers in both matchups last season, Pacific never handed Cal a breakaway win; in the second match of the season, the two teams sat at a 2-2 tie until Cal managed to outscore in the second quarter before winning, 11-8.

Despite losing four senior athletes, the Tigers return experienced upperclassmen — many of them redshirts — this season.

The Bears definitely have the upper hand in this Nov. 11 face off; after all, the team has climbed to No. 2 in preseason rankings and is looking to making that place one better by the end of the season. But it will certainly be interesting to watch the No. 5 Tigers try.

 — Annie Gerlach

Men’s soccer: Nov. 6 vs. San Diego State

With a fair share of underclassmen Bears on the roster, the team will need its more experienced players to lead the way and hope it comes out of the prior tilt — against UCLA — unscathed.

The face-off with San Diego State always proves to be a tricky encounter for Cal as the pair seem to trade off winning the spoils or come to a draw in recent meetings. The Aztecs are a rejuvenated side after having a strong off-season in the spring and will be looking to settle the score. However, the Bears will once again be able to call the shots from Goldman Field. The tilt will be crucial in that mentally Cal will want to end that weekend well and take the win into the Cardinal battle.

Coach Kevin Grimes will want to avoid battered bones and bruised egos at all costs.

— Camellia Senemar

Men’s soccer: Nov. 11 vs. Stanford

In the final game of last year’s season, the Cal men’s soccer team played rival Stanford and not only won the match in overtime but also claimed the Pac-10 Championship title, too.

This year, fans can anticipate a similar level of hype and excitement as the Bears have the added benefit of being on their home field again. The 2011 season has once again slated the two ancient foes up against each other on the final day.The two Bay Area teams already possess enough tension between them, but it is likely that this November matchup will be another D-day with the league’s first-place tag on the line.

Cal had then freshman Alec Sundly to thank for a thrilling 3-2 overtime win, after the rookie scored two goals to send his squad to a prideful campaign finish.

— Camellia Senemar

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  • Better not miss the Presbyterian game, Cal fans; it might be our only shot for a W this year.  Then again, nothing is certain.