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Cal is ranked, but only beating Oregon proves they’re top 25 material

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Lots and lots of work ahead before the Bears prove they’re elite again.

NCAA Football: California at Brigham Young Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Political opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of anyone outside the author on CGB.

There are many archaic traditions that still exist in this country. Here are several of them that need to go.

  1. The Electoral College. This is not a political blog, but this is a California blog. A vote from Wyoming should not count three times as much as a vote from California, unless you’re allowing the animals to vote.
  2. The Oscars. Can you all name the five movies you watched the most the last 10 years? Then, can you sum up the number of Oscars they ended up winning? If that number is greater than ten, next drink’s on me.

(Excluding this one, which won an Oscar for this scene alone.)

3. The Pledge of Allegiance. One of many systems of control designed to indoctrinate a culture of children into flag-worshipping nationalism. And it’s been super effective! Just remember when you head down to Auburn, TCU and Ole Miss these next few years and see how many adults will be functioning with the Stars and Stripes adorned on their attire.

4. The college football Top 25 preseason rankings. And early season rankings. And any rankings system that doesn’t get kicked off in mid-October.

There is no sample size by the end of mid-September that proves anyone should be ranked anywhere. No one knows who is good and who is bad. Any win could be quality until proven otherwise by a mid-October funk or rise.

Texas looked on the verge of implosion—turned out they weren’t as bad as people thought. Michigan lost to Notre Dame Week 1 and the pitchforks came out; since then, it’s back to business for the Wolverines. Arizona State was in the top 25 for all of a week after a major upset before San Diego State flattened the Herm balloon.

Thus, the California Golden Bears being 24th means very little in the grand scheme of things statistically.

The Bears are 24th for a few reasons, and barely any of them have to do with voters tuning in and watching Cal football:

  • A bunch of voters suddenly remembered this week that Cal beat BYU, and BYU is ranked, and Cal is undefeated. So shouldn’t that Cal team be ranked too?
  • Voters probably want to have a top 25 matchup on the late-night docket, and Cal was close enough to the border to make the leap.
  • Not that many undefeated Power 5 teams left, and the Playoff Committee is favoring the power conferences more than ever. Enough upsets happened last week that pushed Cal back into the hot spot.

The ranking is meaningless. What IS meaningful is how Cal responds to it.

We’ve seen Cal teams before overreact to rankings or respond poorly to the spotlight. We’ve also seen other Cal teams embrace it head on and get better by the week.

The Bears have a decent win against BYU and two “should-have-wons” against North Carolina and Idaho State. None of those three compare to the test that comes this week.

Cal is going to face an angry Oregon Ducks team that blew a chance to enter the playoff picture in spectacular fashion. The Ducks for one half looked like one of the best teams in college football, then proceeded to dive bomb it all away in the second half. Stanford is a good team, but most Cardinal would agree they did nothing to deserve that win. This was a victory that Oregon should have had under most circumstances.

Still, it goes to show you this is not the Oregon we’ve grown accustomed to. They’re still scary, but more than beatable. They get even more beatable away from Autzen, where Oregon has lost nine of its last ten Power 5 road games. As good as Justin Herbert is, the Ducks take a step down as a team when they leave Eugene. That puts this game well into the toss-up category.

How Oregon reacts to this crushing defeat will be curious. But that’s entirely out of Cal’s hands. The Bears have to figure out how to adapt their makeshift offense to put up enough points, because Cal won’t win this game with defense alone. Oregon was on the verge of 40 against a good Stanford defense barring collossal errors. You’d have to imagine 30+ points will need to be what Chase Garbers, Brandon McIlwain, and the Cal offensive attack needs to produce to get a win.

If Cal really wants to prove bona fide top 25 credentials, the winning has to keep coming, and it has to start with these Ducks. Program momentum is defined by games like this one, particularly with an eminently winnable October (and honestly, the entire Pac-12) ahead of the Bears.

Cal just has to keep focusing ahead on the small things, execute effectively, coach the right way, and things like top 25 will start becoming expectations rather than dalliances.

Go Bears!