Forum Spin Doctor
FOR FRONT-RUNNING BEARS, SIMPLEST PATH IS WINNING OUT
By Jay Heater
When Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said during his news conference Tuesday that ``every team in the conference is playing well,'' there weren't any belly laughs.
It was just Tedford being himself when being asked about Cal's Rose Bowl possibilities.
Certainly, Tedford knows that Stanford, Cal's opponent on Dec. 2, has lost 10 games in a row dating to last season.
He must know that Arizona, which hosts Cal on Nov. 11, has lost four of five.
He must have noticed that UCLA, which visits Berkeley on Saturday, has lost three in a row.
It might be Tedford's job to respect each opponent, but the fans probably have noticed something else.
The stars are aligning for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
In an age of computer formulas, Bowl Championship Series games and complex tie-breakers, Cal's Rose Bowl formula isn't very complicated.
Win out, the Bears go to Pasadena on Jan. 1, probably for a date with the loser of the Ohio State-Michigan game.
Lose one of the next three games but beat USC on Nov. 18 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and Cal still goes to the Rose Bowl. The Pacific-10 Conference's first tie-breaker for two teams tied for first is head-to-head competition.
Cal also goes to the Rose Bowl if it loses to USC but wins its other three games while the Trojans, losers to Oregon State last Saturday, drop another Pac-10 game. In that scenario, Cal still wins the Pac-10 championship.
If Cal (7-1 overall, 5-0 Pac-10) wins out and doesn't go to the Rose Bowl, it means the Bears will have landed in the national championship game. That's not likely, considering that eight of the nine teams in front of them would have to lose at least once before the end of the season, and the likes of Ohio State and Michigan might have to lose twice.
Cal's postseason possibilities narrow significantly if it beats UCLA and Arizona the next two Saturdays. Wins in those games guarantee Cal at least a Holiday Bowl berth, which goes to the No. 2 team in the Pac-10. Cal can finish no worse than second by beating the Bruins and Wildcats.
While fans love to discuss bowl possibilities, the Bears are concentrating on UCLA, a team that beat Cal 47-40 in Pasadena last season.
Cal quarterback Nate Longshore was asked how it feels to be in first place going into Saturday's game against the Bruins (4-4, 2-3) at Memorial Stadium.
``It's nice for now,'' he said. ``But it doesn't really matter. It's similar to preseason rankings. The only thing that matters is the ranking at the end of the season.''
• Tedford said UCLA's 37-15 loss to Washington State on Saturday was not an indication of the Bruins' ability to play defense. ``They ran into a hot quarterback (Alex Brink),'' Tedford said. ``He was throwing the ball up there and his wide receivers were making great plays, going up there and getting them. A week before that, they had Notre Dame beaten except for a kind of fluke play.''
• UCLA defensive end Justin Hickman leads the conference in sacks with 10 1/2 while defensive end Bruce Davis ranks third with 8 1/2.
• UCLA's rush defense ranks No. 1 in the conference at 82.1 yards allowed per game. The Bruins are No. 2 in total defense at 296.5 yards allowed per game.