If you had asked me about the state of Cal football after its 58-21 win over North Texas, I would’ve told you, “The Bears are running the table. Bring on Auburn, USC, the Kansas City Chiefs — whoever!”
Now? After Cal’s gut-wrenching, abysmal, frustrating 14-10 defeat to the Tigers, where over 40,000 fans watched a halftime drone show and still left California Memorial Stadium disappointed?
I believe Cal finishes its regular season at 11-1. Yeah, I said it.
Why, you ask?
Because it’s time to move on and believe again. It’s time for Week 3. It’s time for Idaho to learn a lesson in Berkeley, for the Bears to be hungry against the Huskies and for the season to roll on like it does every year. It’s simply time to be drunk on optimism.
Collegiate sports — or just college football, for that matter — are different from professional leagues in the best ways. The opportunities for teams to bounce back, make bowl games or give fans and students reasons to be excited are abundant — unlike the NFL, where starting a season 0-2 is a death sentence and time for brown paper bags.
Cal fans saw this dynamic firsthand as the pre-Deion Sanders Colorado Buffs and their fans stormed their home Folsom Field after beating the Bears in Colorado’s only win last season. They might as well have won the “natty” having finished 1-11.
Understandably, the loss to Auburn will haunt Cal fans, but the year isn’t over by any means. The Bears are barely entering Week 3 of 12, and there’s a lot of football left to be excited about.
I mean, Cal’s remaining schedule is purely magnificent.
Idaho, No. 8 Washington, Arizona State, No. 16 Oregon State, No. 12 Utah, No. 5 USC, No. 13 Oregon, No. 23 Washington State, Stanford and No. 24 UCLA, in that order.
While it’s fair to consider the slate as scary, I see nothing but opportunities — golden opportunities.
With Idaho this week, I see a chance for Sam Jackson V to get comfortable as a Bear, and for the rest of the team, specifically the offense, to get its footing against a strong FCS program.
In regard to looming conference play, I just envision the words “Cal” and “upsets” endlessly side by side.
The Pac-12, after a ridiculous period of realignment which is still not over (shoutout Washington State and Oregon State), is currently the best conference in college football. Eight of the 12 teams are ranked in the weekly Associated Press poll, a feat that the “Conference of Champions” has never pulled off. In its final season, the Pac-12 has taken over.
As the Bears are in the dumps ahead of Week 3, this is the perfect time for them to pounce. No one is expecting Cal to make any noise from here on out. And with a difficult schedule ahead, no one could be blamed for not keeping up with the blue and gold.
I believe that the Bears will make real noise in the Pac-12 because there is simply no pressure. USC and UCLA left Cal behind, abandoning their more than 100-year rivalries and history, and the other schools didn’t hesitate to follow suit.
In sum, the Pac-12 schools betrayed Cal, and ironically, Stanford emerged as an ally across the Bay, with the two institutions meeting somewhere along the Atlantic coast in 2024.
The gridiron gods have lobbed the Bears the opportunity of a lifetime: finishing off the Pac-12’s demise as champions. With Heisman candidates and historic rivalries being the strengths of the conference, I would love nothing more than to watch Cal send everyone packing at the top.
Roll on you Bears. I believe.