The California Golden Bears have never won a national championship in college football.
The closest the Bears ever came to the elusive title was all the way back in 1937, when coach Stub Allison's charges finished 10-0-1 with a 13-0 win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl played on New Year's Day 1938.
That was good enough to get the Golden Bears up to No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll. The only blemish on Cal's record was a scoreless tie against Washington on Nov. 6, but that was enough to drop it one place in the AP poll from No. 1 to No. 2, where it stayed the rest of the season.
Instead, it was 9-0-1 Pittsburgh that won the national title, rising from No. 3 to No. 1 when Cal tied Washington.
Pitt's only non-victory was a scoreless tie at Yankee Stadium against Fordham on Oct. 16 but when the Panthers beat Notre Dame 21-6 on the same Saturday Cal had tied, that was enough for the AP voters to move Pittsburgh to the top of the charts and leave it there despite the Panthers not playing in a bowl at season's end.
Even though the Bears haven't played in a Rose Bowl since the Joe Kapp-quarterbacked 1958 squad lost in Pasadena to Iowa, that's not to say California hasn't enjoyed some monumental victories over the last 30 years, a period beginning with the 1982 season and going through 2011.
Here are the five biggest victories by the Golden Bears in that time:
1. California 17, Wyoming 15 (Dec. 31, 1990, Copper Bowl at Tucson, Ariz.)
The Golden Bears, under coach Bruce Snyder, capped a remarkable season with a win over the Cowboys. Picked to finish 10th in the Pac-10 in 1990, the Bears instead went 6-4-1 in the regular season and qualified for their first bowl since the Garden State Bowl in 1978. Fullback Greg Zomalt rumbled into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a 17-9 lead, and they hung on for the win. It was California's first bowl victory since a win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl following the 1937 season.
2. California 34, No. 3 USC 31 (Sept. 27, 2003, at Berkeley, Calif.)
Tyler Fredrickson kicked a 38-yard field goal in the third overtime, and the Bears posted a huge upset over the No. 3-ranked Trojans, the highest-ranked opponent California has beaten in the last 30 years. The win ended USC's 11-game winning streak.
3. California 46, No. 15 Michigan State 22 (Sept. 14, 2002, at East Lansing, Mich.)
The Golden Bears improved to 3-0 in Jeff Tedford's first season as head coach, coming off a 1-10 disaster in 2001, getting four touchdowns (two through the air, one on the ground, and one on a reception) from quarterback Kyle Boller to shock the Spartans. California broke out to a 25-0 halftime lead and cruised to the win on the road.
4. No. 14 California 37, No. 13 Clemson 13 (Jan. 1, 1992, Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla.)
In Cal's first back-to-back bowl appearances in more than 40 years, quarterback Mike Pawlawski and tailback Russell White led the Golden Bears to a romp over the Tigers in the heart of ACC country. White ran for 103 yards on 22 carries, and Cal finished the season 10-2.
5. California 25, Stanford 20 (Nov. 20, 1982, at Berkeley, Calif.)
This game usually ends up being ranked higher on the list of big Cal victories, but not so much because of the importance of the win as for the surreal nature of the finish. This is, of course, the game that ended with Kevin Moen crashing through the Stanford band into the end zone to complete a 57-yard, five-lateral extravaganza. But the win didn't propel the 7-4 Golden Bears into a bowl game. However, it did prevent John Elway of Stanford from going to one.
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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