Well, it's nervous time again - the Cal Bears are starting to get noticed, on a national level. SI's Stewart Mandel devotes a good portion of his College Football Overtime column to the Bears this week, going so far as to replace USC with Cal in his BCS forecast for the Rose Bowl.
Even I've begun to think, once again, that "this could be the year" - a hope that has been dashed every year since 2004 when the Bears have fallen to one team or another that they probably had no business losing to. But at the risk of jinxing them, this team does feel a bit different. The Minnesota game was far from perfect - Cal should have put them away in the third quarter, but in past years they might have lost that game, and last year they definitely would have lost that game. But against a decent team with a fired-up crowd celebrating a new football stadium, they hung in there and prevailed, taking control in the 4th quarter for a 14-point victory. I'm still not sure why Jahvid Best disappeared from the game plan for large stretches of the second half, but if it was all part of a grand scheme by Jeff Tedford to give Kevin Riley a baptism of fire, then I guess it worked.
All of my speculation is academic, because within two weeks we'll know exactly where the Cal season is heading. Beat Oregon and USC, and there could be legitimate talk of a BCS championship bid. Lose one, they've got a shot at the Rose Bowl. Lose them both, and we're probably looking at another 8-4 or 7-5 season. Now don't get me wrong - after nearly two decades of futility, an 8-4 or 7-5 season is nothing to sneeze at, especially if it includes a win over Stanford. But for this team, it would be a great disappointment.