Bears Have Yet to Prove They Can Beat 'SC


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And now, the moment you've all not been waiting for.

It's the one in which the Cal football team doesn't get over the hump and knock off USC for the first time since 2003.

It's the one where the Bears are unable to prove that last weekend's loss to Oregon was a complete and utter fluke.

It's the one in which coach Jeff Tedford can't make this the year that the Pac-10 is won by a team other than the Trojans.

Those are the moments for which Cal fans will still be waiting when the game clock runs out tomorrow evening at Memorial Stadium.

And this was the season during which their patience was supposed to pay off.

Throughout fall camp, this Cal team was billed as a group that finally possessed the talent and the experience to start walking the walk in conference competition.

And before the Bears ever took the field for their season opener less than a month ago, they were seen as the squad that could not only challenge but change the Pac-10 hierarchy.

But here and now, five weeks into the collegiate football season, the Bears haven't done much to make people believe they can beat a team like the Trojans.

Against Maryland in their first game, they looked impressive. But they looked that way against a Terrapins squad that wasn't nearly as talented as the one they faced a year earlier.

Against Eastern Washington a week later, they won another lopsided game. But they played like any nationally ranked team should against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

In its third game at Minnesota, Cal emerged victorious in its first road test. But it did that after finally figuring out an opponent that boasted only one serious offensive threat.

Facing Oregon last Saturday at Autzen Stadium -- where the Bears got their first true chance to show they deserved the high praises that were bestowed upon them in the weeks leading up to the opening kickoff -- what did they do?

Nothing, really.

That 42-3 thrashing prompted the Wall Street Journal of all papers to publish a piece this week on the long history of Cal as a not-quite-there affair.

That truth is all the more magnified against USC.

And although they don't have much evidence, players and coaches alike have stressed all week that they feel they have the tools to conquer coach Pete Carroll's team.

"Right now is a perfect opportunity for us to come in and stop this routine from happening," junior defensive lineman Derrick Hill said. "It's on us."

Indeed, the Bears might see this year's matchup as a golden chance after all that has been made of the Trojans' weaknesses in 2009.

But are they really that weak?

Not even taking into account a near-decade of dominance in collegiate football, USC's current roster is loaded with athleticism.

Even in what has been called a down year for the powerhouse in Downtown Los Angeles, Carroll and crew aren't at a loss for top-tier talent.

Their true freshman quarterback engineered a game-winning drive against Ohio State on the road in the hostile Horseshoe. Their stable of running backs is a perennial problem for Cal. Their defense has held opponents to an average of just 10 points per game. And their coach, one way or another, just finds a way to win.

Until a Pac-10 squad stops them from taking the conference crown, the Trojans are the team to beat.

For all we know, the Bears might have the potential, the skill, the drive and the know-how to cause the fall of Troy tomorrow.

But we haven't seen it yet.


Do the Bears have what it takes? Tell Jeff at [email protected]

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