The California Golden Bears return home Saturday, Sept. 29 to freshly renovated Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., for a 4 p.m. EDT matchup with the Arizona State Sun Devils that will be carried nationally on the FX cable network.
The Bears are off to a 1-3 start and have lost back-to-back games, including a 27-9 loss to the USC Trojans in their Pac-12 opener on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Worse, however, is that the Bears are 0-3 against competition in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their lone win was a lackluster 50-31 effort over Southern Utah on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Cal's offense sputtered against the Trojans, managing just 77 rushing yards, 173 yards through the air, and committing two turnovers. Quarterback Zack Maynard was also sacked seven times, running the total of sacks surrendered in consecutive losses to Ohio State and USC to 13. On the season, the offense has given up 16 sacks.
Those numbers don't bode well going up against a Sun Devils defense that leads the Pac-12 Conference in scoring defense at 12.8 points per game and total defense, surrendering just 274 yards a contest.
The Bears are young across the offensive front and that is a contributing factor in their struggles against the Buckeyes and Trojans. Center Brian Schwenke, the lone returning starter on the line, called out the younger players this week in the Oakland Tribune.
"We have some younger guys who don't have that confidence, and then we're going against USC," Schwenke said. "They've seen USC their whole lives, and they get there and they have that intimidation."
The Golden Bears have been to eight bowls in coach Jeff Tedford's 10 seasons on the Berkeley campus, missing only in 2002 when they were banned from appearing in the postseason because of violations that occurred under former coach Tom Holmoe and in 2010 after a 5-7 season.
But after recording a pair of 10-win seasons in his first five years at Cal, the Golden Bears are just 46-35 since 2007 and are definitely a notch below the power brokers in the Pac-12's North Division, Oregon and Stanford--both of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally. The Bears are one of only two programs in the Pac-12 that currently have losing records, the other being 1-3 Colorado.
If the Golden Bears are going to turn things around in 2012, it has to start Saturday against Arizona State. Starting 1-4 with Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State (also ranked in the Top 25) still remaining on the schedule makes the prospect of returning to a bowl game--any bowl game--a remote one, at best.
Phil Watson is a longtime sportswriter and fan who became a supporter of the Golden Bears after watching the infamous "Stanford Band Play" as a high-schooler in 1982.
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