Simple: Title for winner of Cal-USC

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
There was a November chill in the air at Memorial Stadium on Sunday night. In the not-so-distant past, that might have meant the Cal football team was more concerned with staying warm than playing football.
Not on this particular evening, when Coach Jeff Tedford was preparing his 17th-ranked team for the school's most meaningful November game since 1949, when the third-ranked Golden Bears beat No. 12 Stanford 33-14 to win the Pacific Coast Conference title and clinch a Rose Bowl berth.
Tedford was having a hard time understanding the significance of Saturday's showdown against No. 4 USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- that the Pacific-10 Conference championship goes to the victor.
``No,'' said Tedford. ``We still would have to beat Stanford.''
Actually, Coach, no you wouldn't. If the Bears (8-2, 6-1 Pac-10) win Saturday, it would give the Trojans (7-1, 6-1) two conference losses.
Even if Cal lost to Stanford in the regular-season finale and USC won its finale at UCLA, the teams would finish tied at 7-2 in conference play, and the Bears would go to their first Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1959, because they would own the first tiebreaker, which is head-to-head competition.
The only thing separating Cal from the Rose Bowl is a victory Saturday.
This is the kind of math that Tedford can understand. No BCS polls, no computer rankings, no opinions. Win and go to the Rose Bowl. Cal's fate is in its own hands.
``It's nice to have the opportunity to play for the Pac-10 championship,'' Tedford said. ``That's what we play for.''
Saturday's game might have lost some of its luster when the Bears fell from the top 10 after a 24-20 upset at Arizona. But though the loss might make Cal a bigger underdog at USC, it doesn't change much else.
``Obviously, it stings losing to Arizona,'' Tedford said. ``But we made sure we told our players what's ahead.''
What's behind Cal is a lot of futility and not many big November games.
The Bears needed to beat Stanford in 2003 -- which they did, 28-16 -- to earn an Insight Bowl berth and eventually some national respect with a victory over Virginia Tech. However, Stanford had a 4-5 record entering the Big Game.
Cal was ranked sixth when it lost 38-21 to a No. 21-ranked Stanford squad in 1991, but Washington already had locked up the Pac-10 title.
In 1975, Cal finished in a tie for the Pac-8 title with UCLA at 6-1. The Bruins won the showdown between the teams, 28-14 on Oct. 25.
In 1958, the last time Cal won a conference title outright and earned a Rose Bowl berth, the Bears beat second-place Washington State in early October.
In terms of games that ultimately decided the Rose Bowl participant, Saturday's game compares to USC's 23-17 victory over the Bears in Los Angeles in 2004. The Oct. 9 matchup pitted No. 7 Cal against top-ranked USC; the Bears had a first-and-goal at the Trojans' 9 late in the game but turned over the ball on downs.
In 1991, the conference title was basically decided when third-ranked Washington beat No. 7 Cal 24-17 on Oct. 19.