Cal football ranked No. 24 in AP Poll heading into week five

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Cal football’s weekend off from competition got a little sweeter on Sunday morning, as the program re-entered the AP Top 25 rankings for the first time in nearly three years.

As announced by the Associated Press rankings released following Saturday’s slate of games, the Bears (3-0) will enter their week five showdown with No. 19 Oregon (3-1) as the No. 24 ranked team in the country.

The last time the Bears were nationally ranked was week nine of the 2015 season, when future NFL star Jared Goff led Cal to an 8-5 overall record and a victory in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Cal begins Pac-12 play against Oregon at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, after reeling off nonconference wins against North Carolina, BYU and Idaho State earlier this month. The team’s conference schedule also includes home contests with UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Colorado.

The Bears are also ranked No. 34 in the weekly Coaches Poll, while the Ducks are ranked No. 20 in the same poll. Oregon was on the verge of a marquee upset over then-No. 7 Stanford on Saturday night, but fell in overtime after surrendering a 17-point lead in the second half.

Cal’s season began with a stout defensive showing at home against UNC, accentuated by two interceptions from safety Jaylinn Hawkins and a pick-six from linebacker Cameron Goode. The team’s 24-17 win over the Tar Heels, however, was overshadowed by Goode’s lower body injury late in the fourth quarter, and the redshirt sophomore was recently ruled out for the remainder of the season.

A week later, the Bears traveled to Utah and faced an upstart BYU team, where the defense shined in redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Garbers’ first career start. Redshirt sophomore Brandon McIlwain also played an integral role in the offense, while redshirt junior Kanawai Noa recorded his first touchdown catch of the year.

In last week’s 45-23 showing against Idaho State, Garbers passed for a career-high 224 yards, while junior receiver Jordan Duncan posted two touchdown catches for the first time in his collegiate career. As a team, the Bears’ defense ranks second in the nation with seven interceptions heading into week five.

Josh Yuen is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.