Best case-worst case: California

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
7:30
PM ET
This is the seventh in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

You can see previous best case-worst case posts here.

Up next: California

Best case

California dashes onto the field and takes in sold out, renovated Memorial Stadium.

"It's so sparkly," volunteers Cal defensive end Deandre Coleman. "Now Deandre must smash."

Cal rolls Nevada 44-10. Zach Maynard tosses three touchdown passes, and the Bears rush for 260 yards. After a blowout win against Southern Utah, the Bears head to Columbus to take on Ohio State.

All week, the Bears hear about how tough the Horseshoe is on visiting teams, how physical the Buckeyes are and how great a coach Urban Meyer is. On Friday night in a Columbus hotel meeting room, offensive tackle Matt Summers-Gavin stands before his teammates. And begins to talk in an English accent.

"Follow only if ye be men of valour, for the entrance to this stadium is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived," he deadpans. "Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair. So, brave Bears, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth."

Says coach Jeff Tedford, "What an eccentric performance!"

Cal waltzes to a 24-10 victory. The defense sacks Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller four times, the Bears front seven dominates the Buckeyes offensive line. Maynard throws a 45-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, and the Bears grind out 130 of their 190 yards rushing in the second half against a rugged Buckeyes defense.

"It's a great win," Tedford says. "But we can't dwell on it."

Up next: No. 1 USC. The Bears have lost eight consecutive games to USC, and only two of those defeats came by less than a touchdown.

"They've owned us of late," Tedford says. "But that doesn't mean they own us on Saturday."

The California Golden Blogs publishes a detailed, 20,000-word breakdown of each loss to USC, titled "Free field realizations of affine Kac-Moody Algebras applied to the Evil Empire's Domination of all that is right and good."

"Essentially, when you pencil out all the variables, it concludes that the earth should open up and swallow USC," says Cal mathematics professor Edward Frenkel.

Cal leads 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, but USC quarterback Matt Barkley leads the Trojans on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Maynard and company take over with six minutes left at the Bears' 15. Ten plays later, including three Maynard completions on third and long, and the Bears face a fourth and 3 on the Trojans' 12-yard line.

"What does Tedford have in his bag of tricks here with two minutes left?" the announcer says.

Maynard drops back. Tight end Richard Rodgers is wide open in the endzone. But Maynard, under pressure, doesn't see him. He runs up the middle and is stopped six inches short of a first down.

Tedford sighs.

USC takes over. Barkley hands off to Silas Redd who... no, wait. He runs to the wrong side of Barkley, who immediately is sandwiched by Coleman and Aaron Tipoti. The ball comes loose. Chris McCain recovers.

Cal takes over on the Trojans 9-yard line. But on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, Anderson's leap is stopped by Trojans linebacker Lamar Dawson. Game over.

Tedford sighs.

But wait ... there's a review. Touchdown. Bears win.

The Cal section in the Coliseum is oddly quiet. "It appears everyone in the stadium wearing blue has fainted," the announcer says.

Cal survives an upset bid from Arizona State 24-21. The Bears then beat UCLA in overtime. At 6-0, the Bears jump to fourth in the national polls.

"Man," whispers one Bear to another. "I can't wait to whip Stanford."

Caught looking ahead to the Big Game, Cal falls 44-41 at Washington State.

"Man," whispers one Bear to another. "I can't wait to whip ... wait. We play Stanford on Saturday, right?"

Cal whips Stanford 44-10. The Bears outgain the Cardinal 475 yards to 255. Maynard completes 28 of 30 throws for 305 yards with three touchdowns.

Cal slips Utah 28-24, and buries Washington 40-24. Up next: No. 2 Oregon.

With a 58-yard field goal with no time left on the clock, the Ducks win 45-44.

Cal finishes the regular season with a 48-20 win against Oregon State. The Bears then watch as massive carnage ensues among the nation's top-10. While undefeated Oregon and LSU will meet for the national title, the Bears rise to No. 7.

Kevin Gemmell: I've got two words for you. Rhymes with "Hose Pole."

Ted Miller: Froze mole?

Gemmell: Sigh.

News reporter: We are live from Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley where everyone -- old and young -- is running around naked save for their Rose Bowl T-shirts.

Playing in its first Rose Bowl since the 1958 season, Cal beats Michigan 30-28. It's the Golden Bears' first Rose Bowl win since 1938.

"I'd like to unveil," says athletic director Sandy Barbour. "This statue of Jeff Tedford."

U.S. News & World Report ranks California "the best university... ever!" It further writes, "While Stanford is a good school, people who graduate from Berkeley are infinitely cooler than Stanford graduates."

Worst case

In its first game in newly renovated Memorial Stadium, California opens with a 20-17 win against Nevada, beating the Wolfpack with a last-second field goal. The Bears then don't look impressive while besting Southern Utah 35-20.

"Hey," writes the California Golden Blogs. "Just as Gertrude Stein said, 'A win is a win.'"

The Bears surrender six sacks at Ohio State in a 20-3 loss. They then lose 44-20 at USC.

"Sigh," writes the California Golden Blogs.

Cal bounces back with wins against Arizona State and UCLA. Quarterback Zach Maynard finds his groove, throwing four touchdown passes with no interceptions.

"Man," whispers one Bear to another. "I can't wait to whip Stanford."

Caught looking ahead to the Big Game, Cal falls 44-41 at Washington State.

Then it surrenders four sacks in a 33-17 loss to Stanford in the Big Game.

Maynard, not unlike 2011, remains inconsistent. The offensive line is struggling. The young talent on defense makes major mistakes for every big play. Injuries start to pile up.

After an overtime loss at Utah, a column in the San Francisco Chronicle asks if Tedford can survive a losing season.

The Utah loss seems to deflate the Bears. They suffer back-to-back home blowout defeats to Washington and Oregon. Amid rumors that Tedford will be fired, the Bears show fight at Oregon State, but lose 30-28.

At 4-8 with six consecutive losses to end the season, it's clear Cal will make a change. Athletic director Sandy Barbour announces that "with great regret" she is terminating Tedford.

USC wins the national championship. Stanford wins the Rose Bowl.

Barbour hires Andy Ludwig to replace Tedford.

UCLA eclipses Cal on the U.S. News & World Report university rankings.

"Er," says UC Berkeley professor Jack Moehle, a member of the campus’s Seismic Review Committee. "You know all that stuff we built into the stadium to save it from a potential earthquake? The concrete 'seismic blocks' at the end zones to keep fans from rocking as a quake rolls, the press box that can sway up to 12 inches in a large-scale temblor, and the shock absorbers to prevent the box from crashing into the western seating bowl? None of it works. If there was even a small earth quake, everything would tumble into Hayward Fault. Well, everything other than USC and Stanford."
Says GooooooooooBEARS, "Tedford!"

Ted Miller | email

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/27
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12