Pac-12 opener will reveal what words won’t

It’s never a surprise when football coaches and players offer dry responses about an upcoming game because there is often not too much to say. Cal coach Jeff Tedford has always been reserved about what he says to the press mainly because he may in fact stand little to benefit from revealing his true thoughts, plans and schematics to the press.

It can be frustrating to hear the same responses week after week, but it is also understandable because it’s often difficult to find questions that won’t be met with the same stock answers.

But this week, even I had to scratch my head as a visiting television reporter asked every interviewee — Jeff Tedford, Marvin Jones and Sean Cattouse — about how the team was feeling now that they were really getting into conference play and how they felt about going to a stadium that would be really loud. How did the team really feel about Zach Maynard since he hasn’t played in a real conference game.

These types of questions seem to come up every week. But this time I was positively dumbfounded.

I remember the Bears already playing a conference game in a hostile road environment. Since Cal’s overtime win over Colorado doesn’t count in the conference standings, apparently the experience of winning that game didn’t count to this reporter.

The Cal football team has already won a difficult conference road game. So what if it doesn’t show in the standings? Colorado is a Pac-12 opponent that will host other Pac-12 teams at its home field over the course of the next three months.

The question is if the Bears can do it again.

Cal was positively awful on the road last season. In the one close game it played against a legitimate opponent (Arizona and no, I will not count 2010 Washington State as legitimate) the Bears found a way to blow it. In all the others (Nevada, USC, Oregon State), Cal lost by at least three touchdowns. The Bears trailed by five touchdowns — an insurmountable deficit — at both Oregon State and USC.

The Colorado game was an encouraging sign that the Bears’ road woes are at least partly solved from last season, but now the question of consistency will be addressed when they travel up to Seattle — a notoriously difficult road environment — this weekend.

Of the stock answers that have been delivered over the course of the first few weeks of the season, both the coaches and players have insisted that this is the “closest unit” that they have ever been a part of and that it is a team determined to prove doubters wrong.

The problem is that, last season, both coaches and players said the same thing before getting blown out whenever they left Strawberry Canyon. The chemistry was not strong and the coaches were not adequately preparing their sides.

On Saturday, we’ll see if the team is that much closer and if Tedford has improved his team’s ability to play road games. One win is nice, but to compete in the expanded conference, the Bears are going to need convincing road victories. Seattle would be a great start.

Win or lose, the team probably won’t say much. But we’re going to see this weekend if this Cal team really has what it takes to win on the road in the Pac-12.