Tedford, 48, will say he learned his lesson two years ago, when the Bears started 5-0 and then lost six of their final seven regular-season games amid rampant locker-room moping. Cal players say Tedford's transformation helped them avoid a similar plunge this season, after blowout losses to Oregon and USC. They since have won four of five entering the Big Game.
"I've noticed he's really more fiery this year - my first year here (2006), you didn't see too much of that," linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "He's more of an offensive guy, but he's also trying to get more involved with the defense, just so everyone feels like we're one big team and everyone can trust him.
"The yelling he's done this year, good yelling, some guys have said, 'OK, this is a new Tedford.' We get fired up because it's a side of him we really haven't seen before."
But as cranes hover over the west side of the stadium, and the facility begins to rise from a giant hole in the ground, other not-so-encouraging elements converge. Some fans grumble about Tedford's troubles in important games. They question his play-it-safe strategy and lament his inability to coax quarterback magic out of Riley, the way he did with Aaron Rodgers.
Then, on another level, an entirely different problem: Cal professors recently recommended the school stop subsidizing the athletic department's annual shortfall, given the bleak economy. That's especially relevant when the football coach will earn more than $2 million this year; Tedford's guaranteed salary is $1.82 million, and he pocketed another $500,000 in bonus money in January.
It seems fair to expect big results for big money. So has Tedford reached a crossroads at Cal? Will the Bears reach Rose Bowl/BCS glory under him, or will they stay stuck in the pack of good-but-not-great teams?
This much is certain: The Bears will be held to a high standard in the coming years. Offensive tackle Mike Tepper, on the verge of completing his sixth season in the program, flatly predicted that Tedford "will win a national championship at Cal, without a doubt."
After the yump we look at Sports Illustrated's Pac-10 fan survey, practice notes (Hill is back!), Ludwig's response to the UNLV rumors, post-Syracuse quotes from Randle/Montgomery, and instant recap, quotes, and analysis of today's loss to Ohio St.
Before we continue, let's take a moment to remember Uga VII, the University of Georgia mascot who died prematurely at age four (!) this week. May he be succeeded by more glorious Ugas who will rest comfortably on bags of ice and bite at Auburn players.
- Sports Illustrated released its 2009 fan survey results. Among Pac-10 teams, Cal is last in "biggest conference rival" (3.3%), fifth in "favorite stadium to visit" (8.8%), third in rudest fans (I blame the tree-sitters) (9.2%), and, paradoxically, third in most polite fans (8.2%).
- JO's practice notes: Derrick Hill will return in a limited role Saturday. After missing the last practice with a deep quadriceps bruise, Marvin Jones was back in action last night at full capacity. Tedford addressed the issue of kickoff coverage, particularly since Cal will be responsible for slowing down Chris Owusu. Tedford says he has no idea where the axe is kept throughout the year, as he only sees it during Big Game Week. If Tedford himself doesn't know where the axe is, whoever is in charge of it should consider putting it in a more prominent location.
- Ludwig says no one has contacted him about the UNLV job. He says he has no interest in it at this point in his career anyway, he just wants to beat Stanford.
- Tedford downplayed the fact that this is his 100th game. He says 100 wins would be a bigger milestone, and said this week is about the players, particularly the seniors, and their accomplishments.
- Gregory and the defense talk about what is needed to stop Stanford's offense this weekend. They have to stop Gerhart and play smart to avoid letting Luck beat them through the air. Last week's performance seems to have given Gregory and his crew some confidence.
Farudo's game thread is a good recap of the game. Turnovers, fouls (questionable or not), and blocked shots killed Cal in the first 25 minutes before their rally fell short in the last few minutes. ESPN recaps the game.
- CalBears.com has post-game quotes from Monty and Randle. Monty says the zone defense and the blocks huge in determining the outcome. Randle was pleased with the effort, particularly during the attempted comeback.
- CCTimes recaps last night's loss to Syracuse. Without Robertson and Kamp, the Bears didn't have much of an inside presence and instead had to rely on jump-shots and threes. Unfortunately, the shots weren't falling. It sounds like the team is discouraged and lost its confidence. Monty hopes his team can bounce back Ohio St.
- Monty and Randle have some post-game comments. Monty knew Syracuse's size and 3-2 zone defense would give Cal trouble, and he said some things they worked on in preparation for the game did not show up on the court. It didn't help that Syracuse hosted a block party in the paint. Monty said that really discouraged and shut down the inside game.