Ted Miller continues to run through his "Most Important Game" series, which is looking more and more like "Everyone's success is predicated on a victory against Cal." Today we have two more whose seasons will be made or broken after a trip to Memorial Stadium. As they are our two California rivals, let us hope we break their seasons with extreme prejudice. First up are the Lobsterbacks.
The visit to Cal feels important because it something more approximating a "must-win." Start with the fact that Stanford, Washington and California seem like a troika that falls together -- in that order -- below Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division pecking order. This could serve as a separation game for the Cardinal, which will have already visited Washington on Sept. 27. Stanford has dominated the Huskies lately, so a win over Cal may be enough to ensure at least a second place finish in the North -- with a puncher's shot still remaining in Autzen Stadium. So this is a rivalry game with significant North Division ramifications.
But it's even more than that. Stanford has won two Big Games in a row and played in two consecutive BCS bowl games. It has taken over the Bay Area after years of struggling versus Jeff Tedford and the Bears. Some Cal fans might try to write off the Cardinal surge as something produced by a serendipitous aligning of the college football planets. As in by the flash-across-the-sky tenures of charismatic former coach Jim Harbaugh and a once-in-a-generation quarterback. If Cal wins this game, it could claim exactly that with justification. "Ah, the Bay Area pecking order has been righted," Bears fans might say. "Stanford's reign of terror is at an end. Ad perpetuam memoriam! Or not. And ad victoriam!"
But wait, there's more! UCLA at Cal was tabbed as the Bruins' most important game.
Not counting Nebraska in Week 2 -- which falls under the category of we won't know much about the Bruins -- Cal is UCLA's toughest opponent in the first half of the season. And it's on the road.
Tevin McDonald had the game of his career last season with three interceptions in a 31-14 win over Cal, so there is some internal confidence that this is a winnable game. Plus the Bruins rushed for 294 yards on Cal. Don't expect those kinds of numbers again with Cal's talented defensive line. But if UCLA and new coach Jim Mora want to make a statement, this is the game to do it.
After the jump the Bears pick up a linebacker commitment and several teams shake up their coaching staffs.
- Larry Scott and the Pac-12 are candidates for awards from the Sports Business Journal. The Pac-12 was nominated for "Sports League of the Year" and Scott was nominated for "Sports Executive of the Year."
- "Love to Hate" week continues at ESPN as Uncle Ted looks at coaches who left Pac-12 programs with less than ideal timing. He mentions Bruce Snyder and Steve Mariucci for the Bears.
- Jon Wilner ponders which Week 1 game the Pac-12 Network will select after ESPN selects its #1 choice.
- Three-star Texas LB Chad Whitener committed to the Bears.
- Cal hosts Washington in this weekend's Super Regional. It will be televised on ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday.
- Valerie Arioto is one of three finalists for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
- Danna Durante resigned after one year of coaching the Bears. The Bears made progress on the field and in the classroom under Durante's short tenure.
- The top-ranked women's team looks to build on their fifth consecutive conference title with their first national title since 2006.
- Coach Dave O'Neill was named CRCA West Region Coach of the Year.
- CalBears.com talks with senior Tanya Wolfram about her time at Cal.
- After spending 10 season as an assistant at Dartmouth, former member of the US National Team coaching staff Andy Smith will join the Bears.