Dickey: Cal vying for Pac-10 supremacy

As Cal begins the defining three games of its schedule Saturday, there is a growing feeling that the Bears are the best team in the conference.

Now, they have to prove it.

Each game provides a special problem. Saturday’s game against Oregon in Eugene puts the Bears in Autzen Stadium, regarded as the most hostile environment for visiting teams.

But the Bears won the last time they played there, in 2007, and coach Jeff Tedford has been preparing his team by playing loud crowd noises over the loudspeakers at practice. And the Bears won a tough road game in a hostile environment at Minnesota last Saturday with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Most important, the Bears match up well with the Ducks, with speedy linebackers who can control the Oregon running game. It was the play of these linebackers in both spring and summer practices that made me think this could be Tedford’s best team.

Even Oregon’s quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, is more of a running threat. Officially, he’s gained 145 yards on 33 carries because the NCAA idiotically deducts yards lost on sacks from running totals. A better measure of his running ability is his long gain of 33 yards and four touchdowns.

Passing is a different matter. Masoli, who starred at City College of San Francisco, has completed only 45 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown for a touchdown.

The biggest test for the Bears in this three-game stretch will be USC, despite the Trojans’ upset at the hands of Washington last Saturday. This is the fourth year in a row that USC has lost an early-season conference game, giving credence to Pete Carroll’s frequent statement that the Trojans’ toughest games are always within the conference.

Does this mean that USC is vulnerable this year, or that the Huskies are much better than anticipated? I’m leaning to the second conclusion — we’ll know more after Saturday night’s game between Washington and Stanford — because Tyrone Willingham recruited some talented players at Washington, though he didn’t coach them well.

After missing the final eight games last season, quarterback Jake Locker is back, and he’s a special talent.

Cal’s third hurdle, UCLA, will be tough, too. Rick Neuheisel’s history suggests that he will eventually do something really stupid and get fired, but for now, he’s got the Bruins on the road back.

So, it won’t be easy, but it never is in the Pac-10, which doesn’t get the recognition it deserves because national writers are obsessed with the SEC and Big 12 conferences.

The good news is that the Bears are well-equipped to deal with their tough conference schedule because they are so well-balanced.

It starts with the defense, which is capable of stopping both the run and the pass. Receiver Steve Decker gave them fits last Saturday, but he does that to everybody.

The offense has shown equal balance. Jahvid Best is the top running back in the country and has been the focus of the offense, but when he had to, quarterback Kevin Riley stepped up big time in the fourth quarter last Saturday, especially on two deep throws to Jeremy Ross that were right on the money. For the season, Riley has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions, and he’s the top-rated quarterback in the conference.

So, the Bears may well be the best team in the conference, but they have to start proving that Saturday.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

Cal vs. Oregon

WHEN: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
TV: ABC (Ch. 7)
RADIO: KGO (810 AM)
LINE: Cal favored by 5½

CalGlenn DickeyOregonsports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A man holds a sign at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

"We are on the road to recover. We are on the road to building a stronger San Francisco. And that gives me hope for the future,” said Mayor London Breed at the news conference in Civic Center, San Francisco.  (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Main Public Library to reopen May 3

San Francisco’s Main Public Library will reopen with limited indoor service on… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Roger Marenco, president of operators union TWU Local 250-A, speaks at a news conference outside the Muni Kirkland Yard announcing Muni will not be increasing fares on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s union leader encourages riders to say ‘thank you’ to their Muni operators

A conversation with Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250A

Most Read