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Power Rankings – week 11

(Remember my personal criteria (If the team were to continue playing to the level they did last week, here is where they would end up at the end of the season in the conference standings))

  1. Stanford: It took Stanford until late in the 3rd quarter to distance itself from Oregon State, so I considered dropping them, but in the end decided against it. Any 38-13 win in the conference for a team that’s been on a roll shouldn’t be held as a negative.
  2. Oregon: Oregon took a half to pull away from a strong Washington squad. They’ll have their shot at leapfrogging Stanford this weekend.
  3. USC: Colorado was no match for USC, so it’s no judge of how they’re playing. Washington will be a better judge this weekend, although I expect USC to win that one too. The real judge and their chance to move up in the rankings will be in 2 weeks when Oregon comes to town. They may even leapfrog Oregon in my power rankings next week seeing how close USC played Stanford.
  4. Washington: UW is a spot higher in the poll because ASU laid an egg whereas UW played reasonably against someone above them in the standings/rankings.
  5. ASU: Here’s the problem: UCLA beat ASU last weekend, but I think ASU still wins the south title, even playing the way they did last Saturday. Why? Because ASU has WSU, UA and Cal left whereas UCLA has Utah, Colorado and USC. Even if UCLA continues their hot streak and wins the first two, they don’t beat USC. ASU could stumble and let UCLA have a game of breathing room, but based on how they’ve been playing, they beat all three remaining teams.
  6. UCLA: I’ve got to give UCLA credit, they did what nobody thought they could do. I didn’t see any of the game, but it didn’t sound like ASU played terrible, so UCLA must have done something right. They don’t leapfrog ASU yet for the reasons listed above and I think a letdown against Utah is prossible, but for now, this is where they belong.
  7. Cal: The ping-pong Bears are as infuriating as ever. One week they look horrible, the next week they look great. I think this team has the talent to win 7, but in practice will only win 6 and that in part is because OSU comes to Cal.
  8. Utah: Utah won their 2nd game in a row after starting so horribly. I expect them to get 4 conference wins, one more than the Bears above them, but that’s in part because of their easier schedule. With them in different divisions I don’t think it’s out of line to not have conference wins be the sole criteria.
  9. Oregon State: Oregon State showed some fight against Stanford and nobody should ever take them lightly. However, they’ve dug too deep a hole to rise much from here considering the three tough games on their schedule (@Cal, UW and @Oregon).
  10. Arizona: The post Stoops high finally came crashing down in a beat down at Utah. What happened? I didn’t see any of the game, so I can only guess, but there’s no way to sugar coat the rest of the season.
  11. WSU: Maybe Cal has something special going on inside AT&T because the last two teams the Bears faced there have looked TERRIBLE. WSU would hope to have as good post-Cal luck as Utah did however, because they’ve won two in a row since, both against teams that had looked to be on the rise. That said, it’s not a trend I can believe in and they take this lowly position.
  12. Colorado: Poor Colorado. 13 games in 13 weeks against too many good teams. Colorado’s one shot at a win is this Saturday against reeling Arizona. They just might be able to get out of the basement with that win.

Power Rankings – week 10

Updated power rankings after this weekend. Remember my personal criteria (If the team were to continue playing to the level they did last week, here is where they would end up at the end of the season in the conference standings):

  1. Stanford: Stanford won a signature game against an ever improving USC in a place where very few teams can beat USC. Hard to come up with any reasons not to put them on top, since they’ve beat the other key contenders in the conference minus Oregon. That showdown in two weeks appears to be for the top spot.
  2. Oregon: Oregon continues to under perform a little bit compared to what was expected of the returning champion. True, they are undefeated in conference play, but based on how they’ve been playing the last few weeks, I don’t expect them to beat either USC or Stanford.
  3. ASU: The only reason ASU is this high is because they already beat USC and don’t play either Oregon or Washington, at least one of which I expect they’d lose to. Based on how they’re playing right now, they’d be 2nd in the south and 4th overall, but with the schedule and already having beat USC, I can’t put USC above them.
  4. USC: USC continues to get better and I expect them to win out at this point, including over Oregon. I’m sure they’d like to get a second shot at playing ASU because the way they’re playing right now, I’d fully expect them to win.
  5. Washington: UW is stuck all the way down here because I have to put ASU above USC. Otherwise I’d have ASU and UW in a dead-heat, although their relative performances last week would probably put ASU on top… at least for one week.
  6. UCLA: UCLA is officially back from the dead and in theory is still a strong contender for the Pac-12 south title. But let me put that idea to rest. In practice there is NO WAY. Even if they were to pull the upset over ASU, based on their remaining schedule I’d still expect ASU to win, as UCLA still has USC on the docket whereas ASU’s toughest opponent is likely Arizona.
  7. Arizona: Arizona continues to play much stronger than before Stoops was fired, which frankly continues to surprise me. But whether or not it does, it moves them substantially up the list. I’d put them even higher except for their remaining schedule, which includes USC and ASU (likely losses) and they dug themselves too deep of a hole with the early season struggles.
  8. WSU: WSU played Oregon strong and that is a big reason for their rise in the standings. One has to believe they’ll beat Cal just based on last week’s results (although I have more hope than some in the Bears being able to rebound). With that win, they’d end up 3-6 in conference play and that loss to San Diego State should weigh heavily on the Wougs minds. In either case, 3-6 should be enough to save Wulff’s job, particularly considering how competitive WSU played in their losses.
  9. Cal: Based on how they played on Saturday, you’d have to think the Bears didn’t have another win in them. However, OSU played just, if not more, miserably in losing to a team the Bears demolished a week prior. While I think both teams can play much better, and OSU might just beat the Bears, based on that recent performance the Bears would have to come out on top. And since they’ve also recently beat Utah I have to put Cal as the top 2-win (at end of season) team.
  10. Utah: Utah actually played the best game of the 3 teams in this grouping last week, but for the reasons stated in the Cal line, Cal has to go on top.
  11. Oregon State: Just when I thought OSU was coming out of their early season funk, they laid a HUGE egg in Salt Lake City. Their loss was even worse than the Bears and they’ll have to get much better to eek out another win in conference play.
  12. Colorado: Poor Colorado. 13 games in 13 weeks against too many good teams. To make matters worse, while their schedule looked to be getting lighter, just about everyone they still have left is showing signs of improvement right now (Arizona, Utah, UCLA and USC (who they wouldn’t have had a shot at in any case)).

Power rankings – New in week 9

I don’t know why, but something tells me I want to wade in to the water of weekly conference power rankings… but to do it, I need to have a more precise definition than what is generally out there. Frankly, I tried to find a consistent definition and couldn’t. The closest meta-definition is “how good the teams are right now”.

I’m going to modify that slightly. Here is my definition: If the team were to continue playing to the level they are right now, here is where they would end up at the end of the season in the conference standings.

And to the first rankings we go:

  1. Stanford: Hard to argue with how they’ve been playing. They’ve thoroughly destroyed every team they’ve played. Up until now the criticism was that they haven’t played anyone even remotely good. But as Washington demonstrates, perhaps that’s because everyone they’ve beat looks bad after having had to play the Cardinal.
  2. Oregon: Oregon is a little bit crippled right now with both Thomas and James out. Their ability to win despite those short-comings says very good things about both their depth and Kelly’s system. However, it makes them crippled enough that as they’re playing right now, I doubt they’d beat Stanford in Palo Alto.
  3. ASU: Arizona State has the schedule necessary to win out. That’s not so much because they’re a great team but due to a favorable schedule. Not having to play either Washington or Stanford from the north is definitely to their advantage. Despite still thinking less of them than where they land, With my definition of power rankings, it’s hard not to put them in 3rd place.
  4. USC: USC looked pretty mediocre earlier in the season. But their victories over the Bears and now Notre Dame would put them at the top of the 2nd Tier if it were not for ASU’s easy back-end schedule. My feeling is that if they got another shot at ASU, they’d win that game. The good news for them is they’ve got a chance to move up even further with Stanford on tap at home for Saturday. The bad news is there’s not enough reason to believe they can pull it off.
  5. Washington: I would have had this team up in the #3 spot before the weekend, but one of two things is true: either Stanford is incredibly good or Washington is not the top of the 2nd tier. Particularly with Oregon and USC (in LA) still on the schedule, this is an 8-4 team.
  6. Cal: Last week Cal would have been further down on the list. But after their performance against Utah, I think they’re on top of the “also rans”.
  7. Oregon State: This team is getting better every week. If they didn’t have such a tough end to the schedule they could be much higher on the list. They’re going to be dangerous to Cal when they play in 3 weeks, but that’s about their only chance to move up the list.
  8. Arizona: It could be just a one-week bump, but this team is playing a lot better with Stoops out of the way, which is a bit surprising to me. The difference between them and UCLA is pretty big and while I have confidence Arizona will beat both Utah and Colorado, UCLA is a different story.
  9. Utah: I think Utah will beat UCLA and that’s the key to their ranking as high as they do despite being 0-4 in conference play. They’ll get their turnover problems under control and have a shot at 3-6 in conference and bowl eligibility.
  10. UCLA: UCLA is in a free-fall, and if it weren’t for the fact that they got Oregon State before they came back from near-death and they already beat WSU, I’d have them lower. This team could even get to 4 conference wins if they can beat both Utah and Colorado, although I doubt they’ll win both those.
  11. WSU: I had expected much better things from WSU this year, but their close loss to UCLA (in what might have been UCLA’s best game of the year) and now getting bludgeoned by a resurgent Oregon State, I can only see one more possible win on the schedule (Utah). Even that game I expect them to lose. That said, I won’t be extremely shocked to see them come up and bite someone they’re supposed to lose to.
  12. Colorado: Poor Colorado. 13 games in 13 weeks against too many good teams. The non-conference slate of Hawaii, Cal and Ohio State were too much for them (the win versus Colorado State was the only good thing going). The misses in the Pac-12 North were the two lowest teams (WSU and OSU). And they don’t get the weaker teams in the South until the end of the season. The upside of that is that they have some upward mobility in the conference. The downside is there might not be any team confidence left by then.

Top-10 favorite games

Continuing on from the depressing Bottom-10 worst games, I give you the Top-10 favorite games. Let’s be clear about what this list is. It’s MY favorite games. It’s not the best games the Bears played. It’s not the most important victories. It’s the games that I carry close to my heart and was very thankful to be a part of (similar to how the Bottom-10 are the ones that pain me the most, which were not necessarily the games that were the worst for the program).

You’ll notice that all of the games were games I was in attendance for. That’s because no game, no matter how special, can rank well against the emotions that go along with being there in person. Luckily I’ve been in attendance for just about every meaningful game during the Tedford era (the 2003 USC game and the 2003 Insight Bowl being the most notable exceptions, both missed because of a recently born son). So without much further adieu, here’s the list:

#10 – 2008 ASU game

Something about ASU always gets under my skin. Maybe it was their constant over ranking in the last decade. Maybe it was the personalities of their key players and coaches. Even still, the 2008 edition particularly got under my skin, what with their undeserved 2007 esteem (that was one of the most schedule aided over-ranked teams in history), Carpenter’s whiny yet cocky attitude and Erickson’s smugness. Add in their completely undeserved victory over the Bears in 2007 and I couldn’t have disliked them more. So, despite them being 2-2 when they headed to Berkeley in the fall of 2008, I was more than ready to watch ASU take a soul-crushing loss at the hands of the Bears. And boy did the Bears deliver. Of course Follett’s sack of Carpenter was a high point, but the Bears gave me a warm feeling inside all afternoon with their dominating play.

#9 – 2006 UW game

The 2006 Washington game is a cautionary tale to anyone who is considering missing an “unimportant” game. The Bears were supposed to cruise to victory that day. Instead the crowd in Strawberry Canyon were treated to an epic thriller. The Bears trailed for most of the day but Marshawn was unwilling to let the Bears lose. Between his halfback pass play that was busted up and turned into a cross field romp down to the 1 yard line and the final drive of regulation that put the Bears in front, he was unstoppable. The 2-point conversion to make that touchdown a 7 point lead and the ensuing Hail Mary that tied the game turned what was already an exciting game into an overtime thriller. Toss in Bishop’s interception that ended the game in overtime (after another Marshawn TD) where he was unsatisfied with taking a knee and tried to run it back the length of the field for a touchdown, followed by Marshawn jumping in the equipment cart to go pick up Bishop who ran out of gas before he got to the endzone and you’ve got one of the most enjoyable and memorable games in Berkeley.

#8 – 2005 Las Vegas Bowl

After such a disappointing 2nd half of the season in 2005, it was so nice to see the Bears finish of the season on a high note. The Big Game of course got it started in the final game of the season, but had the Bears lost to BYU in LV, I suspect the 2005 Big Game would have an emotional asterisks attached to it. Add in that it was the first bowl game I attended in person, and it’ll always hold a special place in my memory. That I had a great vacation on the back end of the game visit my Uncle’s desert ranch in Arizona after the game only makes the game that much more memorable. Not to overlook the game, Marshawn was in as fine form as he was in the UW game the following year and DeSean had his coming out party gaining him plenty of national attention that he took with him into his banner year in 2006. What a great game!

#7 – 2006 Oregon game

This day could properly be titled “The Day Memorial Came To Life”. Up until then, Memorial was a enjoyable place to watch a game, but it wasn’t feared by most opponents. Tedford had once or twice admitted he was a bit jealous of the home field advantage teams like Oregon (his old stomping grounds) and USC had, so he challenged us fans to bring the vocal heat that Saturday evening. Boy did we and boy did Oregon find themselves surprised by it. Ever since then, Memorial has been a place that opponents had to prepare for. Again, not to overlook the game itself, the interception on the first play of the game, the resulting TD on a classic Tedford TE slide out, the DeSean punt return for a touchdown, the hard hits on Dixon… another game with more great memories on the field. But really what sticks out in this one was it was the day us Bear fans realized there could be a 12th man in Berkeley. I remember thinking to myself, “This can’t be good for my young children’s eardrums and I’m loving every moment of it.”

#6 – 2006 Holiday Bowl

Obviously this is Cal’s biggest achievement as far as bowl games go and it was a great game. While TV viewers likely remember the end of game mutiny by Levy, for those there that was a non-incident. What was clear was watching a Cal team that hit harder, ran faster and made quick work of Texas A&M’s 300 lbs. running back who was supposed to be something special. All I saw was how hard 300 lbs. can fall. Also interesting is that despite going to only one of the three bowl games in San Diego, I picked the one the Bears actually won. Minus that aside, it was really the pinnacle of the Bears success. Everything since has been a bit more humble.

#5 – 2009 Big Game

The best games are the games that you REALLY want the Bears to win but fear the Bears won’t have what it takes. The top-5 with the exception of the 2002 Big Game fit that criteria. I was among the more optimistic about the Bears chances in Palo Alto last fall but I was enough of a realist to know that predicting a win was trouble. Then to watch the Bears quickly go down 0-14, all of our worst fears had come true. But how the rest of the 50 minutes of that game played out, oh what a sweet comeback. Add to it the end of game interception that sent me into a level of cheering that I doubt has ever been matched in my lifetime of Cal fandom. I think it was the first moment my kids realized that their father was just a little bit crazy.

#4 – 2000 UCLA game

While I have been a Bear fan my whole life, raised the son of an alum in Oakland, I didn’t go to my first game until I was out of college and got season tickets for myself. That was 1999. It was the depth of the Holmoe era. A new non-donor season ticket holder got tickets in section E, albeit in row 60. The bleachers were not packed and one could spread out a bit. The first two games I attended in 1999 were actually wins (one thing Holmoe did that kept him around longer than he otherwise would have been was he won a fair number of games at home to keep the home crowd happy), but by the time mid-2000 and UCLA came to town, any delusions of grandeur I had as a season ticket holder were long since erased. The Bears were 1-4 when UCLA came to town with a 4-1 record. We were going to get crushed and everyone knew it. But the Bears put up what was perhaps their best performance of the Holmoe era. While the details of the game escape me what I remember most was overtime. Overtime rules were relatively new to college football so there was a novelty there, but in addition the half full stadium created an environment that likely will never be seen again. As overtime started the ENTIRE fanbase slid out of their seats and down into the end of the stadium where the first overtime was held. All of us were on one end of the stadium. For the second overtime everyone slid down to the other end and then they came back again for the third overtime to the other side. In addition to getting in some extra walking in, it also was a special environment. We as fans were in this together. Seat assignments meant nothing. And we were rewarded for being a part of it with a thrilling triple overtime victory.

#3 – 2007 Tennessee game

There’s been no game in the last 10 years that had the magical and unique environment that existed on September 1st, 2007. It was opening day of what looked to be a promising season, the treesitters were in full force in the grove, the Cal game was nationally televised and we were playing the most prominent non-conference opponent of the Tedford era. The game could have crushed our souls, but instead we were treated to a wonderful performance by our Bears. Who can forget the Follett forced fumble on UT’s first drive and the ensuing scoop and run for a TD by Williams? Who can forget that punt return by DeSean, what was unquestionably his best punt return of his career? Remember Jahvid running stride for stride with him into the endzone? The Bears played a great one that day and it will not be forgotten.

#2 – 2002 Big Game

This is the only game in the top-5 that the Bears were “expected” to win. But nothing about the Big Game, particularly in those days, that could be called “expected”. The Bears had been favored other times in the 7 year losing streak. It was far too close to games like the 1990 game from the Bottom-10 to be anything but nervous. For those of you who are relatively new to the Cal Bear football scene, the games of the last decade have been some of the most predictable Big Games in the history of the series. 2007 to 2009 are more close to how things have gone over the history. ’75, ’82, ’86, ’90, ’91, that’s the norm. Add in the reality that for all the years from when Snyder left until Tedford arrived, the only way Bear fans could hope for success was to pray for a Big Game win. God knew that there was no hope of winning seasons or much less bowl games, the Big Game was all we had to rest our hopes on. So despite the rebound during the rest of the season, nothing about what happened in 2002 would be complete until the losing streak to Stanford had been ended. All of that is a long way of saying there’s only one word to describe the resulting beat down: cathartic. It to this day marks the only time I’ve run onto the field after a game and I intend to save my next time for a similarly momentous occasion.

#1 – 2007 Oregon game

I hemmed and hawed over whether this belonged above or below the 2002 Big Game. But in the end it has three qualities that make it unique and thus put it over the top: It was a road game, I was working it as a reporter, and the teams were very highly ranked. For those who don’t know/remember, I ended up working this game as a mere coincidence. After working the 2006 season I had been relegated to analysis articles in 2007. Rivals wasn’t sending reporters to away games at that point. But I had an opportunity to go to the game with my brother and his friend Angel but I needed to get a ticket. Since I could do it on the cheap I called AW and asked him if he’d like me to work it for free, thus getting me into the game, and that’s how I ended up at the biggest road win of the Tedford era. The Bears were in top form that day and it was REALLY hard to keep my emotions in check in the pressbox where anything more than a tortured smile was not allowed. But what a game it was and I looked like an epileptic trying to keep my reflexive desires to jump up and down in check. Of course the highlight of this game was the Oregon fumble at the goal line and the ensuing long review, but there was so much more. It was DeSean’s best day of his career with a number of key grabs and one juke and run that left Oregon’s corner searching for his shoes while DeSean celebrated in the endzone. Longshore was at his best and Forsett gave a strong effort as well. It was something very special to be a part of, so special that it was the motivation for my proposals to to work road games for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. More than anything this game defined my path as a sports reporter and for that I’m truly grateful for how the Bears played that day. But even ignoring that, it was something special to be a part of and I’m thankful that I was there to witness it. The day ended with trying to interview Tedford and the team on the field while the small but loud Cal contingent partied in the stands. I knew the audio was going to suck and I probably wasn’t going to get many good quotes from being unable to transcribe the tape, but I didn’t care, let them cheer. It was probably the greatest moment of their Cal fandom for most of them too.

(Honorable mentions: 2008 Emerald Bowl: Would have made the cut if I didn’t have the flu, might have even still made the cut if I wasn’t working the game with the flu. 2005 Big Game: Great highs, Steve Levy at his peak, last Big Game with my brother at Stanford stadium, but a little too much like shooting fish in a barrel in retrospect, 2005 WSU game: A nail biter the Bears really needed to win on cold October night and I never felt more like a family with my fellow fans as that night, but in the end it was more relief that euphoria, keeping it off the list. 2008 Oregon game: Probably the closest of the honorable mentions to making the cut, I never had so much fun in the rain as the “standing water bowl”, but somehow 2008 ASU ranks a little higher. 2009 ASU game: Has the virtue of being the only game I was on the field for the game winning play and a great trip overall, but doesn’t cut it in the end for similar reasons to the 2005 WSU game.)

Bottom-10 personally soul-crushing games

Over at CGB they’ve been doing some game lists, the most recent being ranking the Big Games of the decade. I’ve always been one to think that emulating a good idea is nothing to be ashamed of so I decided to make a couple lists myself. I wanted to put a personal touch on it, so I’m picking games that mean a lot to me. The first one, this one, will be the games that when I think about them I want to cry the most. The next post will be the games that carry a special place in my heart.

So, to get the bad out of the way, I give you my Bottom-10 personally most soul-crushing games:

#10 – 2004 Holiday Bowl

There are only two moments that are candidates for the high point in modern Cal football. One was when Cal was ranked #2 mid-season in 2007. The other was just before the 2004 Holiday Bowl started. I was slated to go to the game with my brother and uncle, but my wife was due with our 2nd baby in early January (if I’m remembering correctly the due date was January 7th). At my wife’s weekly prenatal checkup the week before the game, I waited with anticipation to hear the answer the question “how soon?” and found my hopes of going to the game crushed with the answer “any day now”. I’ve since learned that the medical profession’s ability to predict a due date ranks second only to the weather forecast in accuracy. In the end, even though Andrew wasn’t born until January 17th, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t there as this game would be much higher on my list if I had been forced to watch it in person. Nevertheless, deep in my subconscious, the question “where is the secondary?” continues to rattle in my brain to this day.

#9 – 2005 UCLA game

If there was an upside to the 2005 UCLA game it was that I was ahead of the curve in picking up Jones-Drew in my NFL fantasy league when he turned pro, but watching that game on TV and seeing the defense and special teams abused over and over by him makes that upside of little comfort. It took another 4 years for it to happen, but this was the day Alamar, the long loathed special teams coach, officially went on the hot seat. To add injury to insult, if my memory serves, this is still the largest 4th quarter lead blown (12 points) by Tedford’s Bears.

#8 – 2001 Arizona game

I know for those of you who’ve ramped up your fandom after Tedford’s arrival, this game probably seems like a random pick. But for those who were there, this was a disastrous loss. Arizona shared the bottom of the Pac-10 with the Bears on that fateful day, both being win-less in conference play. The fan base in those days had much lower expectations and the Bears being able to keep out of the cellar, while not exactly comforting, was at least something to build on. Win that one, pull off a miracle against Stanford and win at the 9-11 delayed game at Rutgers and the Bears could turn 0-7 into a then-respectable 3-8. Instead the Bears got owned that day with Holmoe showing off his patented “Let’s run it into the middle of the line on 3rd and 8. They couldn’t expect us to do that AGAIN!?! could they?” strategy. Somewhere mid-third quarter when it was clear that any halftime adjustments would not be saving the day, I completely lost it. I stood up and yelled out, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE!” Then I walked out of the stadium. It remains the only time I’ve left a game early.

#7 – 2009 USC game

What can one really say about this one? We all remember all too well what happened. This was co-blogger Jason’s turn to walk out of the action and I think that speaks as much about the game as my walking out of the 2001 Arizona game. What a dreadful game that was. I think what makes it worse is that our pre-game hopes, that USC was weak that year, turned out to be every bit as true as we had hoped. What we didn’t expect is that the Bears would play their worst game against USC since Gilbertson was head coach and lost 61-0 to USC. (Caveat: the Bears lost 55-14 to USC in 2001, but that game, while the score was worse, was less of a blowout in principle IMHO.)

#6 – 2000 Big Game

All of the last 3 of Holmoe’s Big Games were a disappointment and I toyed with which of them would be the representative in the list. ’99 had the distinction of the being the game where all of the scoring came from one of our cornerbacks (one INT for a touchdown and one kickoff for a touchdown), but in the end 2000 takes the cake because it went to overtime. After so many years of weak performances the Bears managed to get to overtime in the only overtime Big Game in history (there are number of ties in the series from the days before overtime). Sadly overtime was more reminiscent of the previous Big Games than it was of the previous 60 minutes and the game was over before we knew it.

#5 – 2008 Maryland game

In the big picture, this game wasn’t a horrible loss, but when you’ve traveled across the country and you aren’t used to humid heat, a loss like that sticks with you. Of course the storyline was that the Bears didn’t wake up in time for the game with the 9 AM PDT kickoff, but for those who were there, the heat was the key. Whenever the cloud cover grew thicker or the wind blew a bit it made a noticeable difference in the game. In the end, why the Bears lost is irrelevant because it was a REALLY long way to go to watch them show up so flat and yet again re-affirm both the East Coast idea that the Bears are a joke and so is the Pac-10.

#4 – 2007 Big Game

It’s interesting that two of my top 10 are games immediately before the birth of one of my boys. In this case it was my youngest, who was due a mere 5 days after the game (he was also late – 12/14). But in this case, two things had me going to the game anyway: One, it was driving distance from the hospital so I’d be unlikely to miss the birth, but just the first couple hours of the ordeal. Two, none of my kids have ever missed a Big Game in their lives and I intend to keep it that way. (I even had plans for my brother to take the boys to the game if labor arrived shortly before the game.) In any case, everyone knows what happened. The team that had been in a free-fall, but one that in everyone’s mind had to come to an abrupt stop with suck a weak Stanford in their way. Instead we were treated to another poor effort albeit against a stronger than expected Cardinal. Just like the 2004 Holiday Bowl, the depression of this loss was only ended when I was able to welcome a new son in to the world shortly thereafter.

#3 – 2006 Arizona game

At the time the game was a bit disappointing, but in retrospect this game eats at me like almost no other game. At the time, win or lose that game all the Bears had to do to get to the Rose Bowl was beat USC. But if the Bears had beat Arizona, it turns out they wouldn’t have needed to beat USC to go to the Rose Bowl. What a terrible fate. What horrible officiating. What a bad break on the size of DeSean’s shoe. What a terrible trip by Hawkins at the 1 yard line. What bad play calling on those failed goal line conversions. What ill advised passes by Longshore in those interceptions. What an amazingly depressing game.

#2 – 1990 Big Game

I’ll admit it, before I went to college I was a bandwagon Cal fan. My Dad’s alum, but he wasn’t (and isn’t) that into football. So when the Bears were good, I’d pay attention, but when they weren’t, I didn’t much care. I didn’t listen to the miraculous 1986 Big Game and I missed a lot of heart breaking losses during those poor years of the 80’s. But the late 80’s and early 90’s were good years and I was watching the 1990 Big Game on TV (one of the few in those days that was on TV). I still can’t believe they lost that game. I mean, it was just unbelievable, Stanford touchdown with 12 seconds left -> 2 point conversion that failed (hurray!)-> fans rush field and resulting 15 yard penalty -> onside kick recovery -> roughing the passer call -> 40 yard field goal and a win for the Cardinal. WRETCH! I’ve never felt so sick in my life as that night.

#1 – 2007 Oregon State game

The top two share the same essential elements: Highly regarded team and last minute melt down. Poor Riley to have to be the one who made the mistake, to get tackled with no timeouts and 13 seconds left when in field goal range to tie the game. To make matters worse I had brought my friend who’s an OSU alum to the game (what could it hurt to let him watch his team get beat, right?) and the memory of him jumping up and down going nuts while the rest of us hung our heads will pain me forever. It makes it even worse to have seen the team fall so far after that.

Honorable mentions: the 2003 Utah game that got 2003 off to a bad start, the 2004 USC game that prevented a national title run, the 2002 Air Force game that ended the great start to the Tedford era, the 2001 Big Game that made it 7 losses in a row, the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl that made 2009 so mediocre, the 1999 Big Game that mostly consisted of Stanford keeping the ball out of Delta O’Neil’s hands, the 2006 Tennessee game that only missed the list because of how good the 7-game win streak that followed was, the 2006 USC game that officially ended Cal’s runs at the Rose Bowl, the 2009 Oregon game that made me regret making the trip, and the 2007 ASU game that made me hate Dennis Dickson and his robot-celebration for life.