Stranger things have happened.
The Cal football team currently sits at 3-5 overall following its Big Game loss. The Bears need to win three of their remaining four games just to become bowl-eligible.
“That’s all we’re worried about,” said running back C.J. Anderson. “It’s pretty realistic.”
With each week, it is becoming more and more likely that the 2012 campaign will end in Cal’s second losing season in three years, and head coach Jeff Tedford’s job appears to be in jeopardy.
Adding to the bleak outlook is the caliber of the opponents the Bears have yet to face.
The squad’s last two games are against No. 2 Oregon and at No. 7 Oregon State, perhaps a more challenging two-game stretch than Ohio State and USC in September.
“We do have a tough schedule if you look ahead,” said cornerback Steve Williams. “Week by week, you never know what’s gonna happen in college football. It’s pretty random sometimes.”
A postseason berth is by no means impossible for Cal. Yet, despite the team’s struggles this season — and there have been many — the players remain confident in their postseason chances.
But they also recognize that the odds are not in their favor. Anderson said that the team is not “living in a fantasy world,” where just a few minor adjustments will turn their whole season around. What’s important, the senior said, is that the Bears zero in on this Saturday’s matchup with Utah.
“Maybe on paper it looks like one thing, but at the end of the day, two teams got to line up,” Anderson said. “Whoever’s the best that day, they’re gonna get the W. And that’s all we got. That’s as realistic as it’s gonna be.”
Cal has been in must-win situations before. The team was 1-4 after its home loss to Arizona State, and it looked like the wheels were falling off the wagon. Up next was No. 25 UCLA, a squad that had crushed the Bears a year before. The Bruins had the kind of mobile quarterback that has given Cal fits over the last few seasons.
The Bears put those worries to rest, dismantling UCLA in a 26-point blowout for their first FBS win of the season. The following week, they beat Washington State on the road behind a dominant ground game. But the winning streak came to a crashing halt against Stanford.
After tallying 318 rushing yards against the Cougars, Cal gained just three in Saturday’s 21-3 Big Game loss. The club’s anemic output against its rival does not inspire confidence in a strong finish to the season. There is no doubt that the Bears’ backs are against the wall. Some, including Williams, like it that way.
“I think that’s how we should play all the time,” Williams said. “You never know what’s gonna happen out there — it could be your last play. So we got to go out there and lay it all on the line. I think that’s what we do and what we’re forced to now.”
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]
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