Cal Bears Good, Still Not Great

Delete AccountCorrespondent INovember 3, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 03:  Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears lies on the ground against the USC Trojans at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

"When the boy began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher. His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air."

He gave the Cal football program wings, and taught them to fly.

Soaring to seven straight winning seasons, Jeff Tedford has seen his Golden Bears brave the heavens. He's watched them glide among the college football Gods. He's helped them to touch the tip of the conference's celestial ceiling—only to fly them too close to an unforgiving sun.

Icarus' blind ambition has been a hallmark of every Jeff Tedford team since he touched down in the Strawberry Canyon in 2002.

In 2004, the fourth-ranked Bears were burnt by Texas and then Texas Tech . In 2005, by the Bruins and then the Black and Orange . In 2006, by the Vols , then the 'Cats .

For all the press surrounding six straight losses to USC, it has been the winnable games that have kept the Bears at good, not great. The biggest blows have come a week or more before Pete Carroll has even crept into the picture.

Imagine the Bears kill the Wildcats in 2006. Pretend Kevin Riley throws a touchdown pass on the final drive of Oregon State-California in 2007. Daydream of a flip-flopped trip to Autzen in 2009, and even a loss to the Trojans might not keep Cal from a Rose Bowl berth.

The fact remains that the Bears have lost to an unranked team every year since Tedford's arrival—including this season. The Ducks were on the outside looking in before turning a 42-3 win over Cal into a five-game winning streak and a No. 7 national ranking.

At 6-2 and having already been embarrassed by USC and Oregon, Cal sits at No. 20. Four games remain, all against teams the Bears can (and should) beat.

After a wild win in Tempe, a 4-0 finish suddenly seems like a possibility with home games against their toughest two remaining opponents (No. 18 Arizona and Oregon State). Unfortunately, win out and it leaves the Bears back in the Holiday Bowl at best. They take a 10-2 record into a postseason game they likely win, and again are left somewhere in college football's elite limbo—good, but still not great.

Trouble is, drop one or more of their final four and there are grumblings surrounding even the former.

Not a good—or great—spot to be in.

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