The California Golden Bears get to show off renovated Memorial Stadium in front of a national television audience on Friday, Nov. 2, when they host the Washington Huskies in prime time on ESPN2.
With a record of 3-6, coach Jeff Tedford is under scrutiny that is unprecedented during his 11-year tenure in Berkeley. The Golden Bears obviously need to win the game in order to remain in contention for a bowl bid, but the matchup with the Huskies goes much deeper than that.
For starters, there's the matter of two members of Steve Sarkisian's staff at Washington. The Huskies' offense is run by offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and the defensive line is coached by Tosh Lupoi.
Kiesau and Lupoi were both members of Tedford's staff at Cal last year. Their departure to a conference rival created a huge uproar among the Golden Bear faithful as it was perceived as a big blow to recruiting.
Lupoi left the program two weeks before signing day last year and was considered to be Cal's best recruiter. Some players, most notably Shaq Thompson-now a starting cornerback at Washington, switched their commitments from Cal to Washington when Lupoi left Berkley.
So having Washington come in and beat Cal with two former members of the coaching staff playing a big role would be unpleasant, to say the least, for the embattled Tedford.
A loss would also be the third in a row for California and would drop them to just 2-5 in conference play with games remaining against nationally ranked Oregon and Oregon State.
That, in turn, could open up a very feasible scenario by which California would lose its last five games, finish 2-7 in the Pac-12 North Division and have a 3-9 season which would be the program's worst since 2001-the year before Tedford came to Cal.
It's almost hard to envision Tedford surviving such a disastrous ending.
Further complicating matters is last week's ugly loss at Utah. The Golden Bears looked listless, disinterested and totally overmatched against a Ute team that had lost four straight games before hammering Cal 49-27 for its first conference win of the year.
So how the Golden Bears play on Friday night is as important, if not more important, than a win. The nightmare scenario for Tedford is another poor performance with the home crowd booing the blue-and-gold.
Washington is 4-4 and coming off a huge upset win over previously undefeated Oregon State. But the Huskies are 0-3 away from home and rank 11th in the Pac-12 in run defense.
As has been the case all season, though, the key to the Golden Bears' success is quarterback Zack Maynard. When he's played well, the Bears have been competitive. When he hasn't, it's gone badly for Cal.
Regardless, the stakes couldn't be much higher for the immediate future of the Cal program.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor for several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and have been a Cal football fan since the early 1980s.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- California Golden Bears
- Washington Huskies
- Jeff Tedford