<
>

California needs to prove Pac-10 isn't a one-team show

10/18/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- You'd never hear it from Pac-10 administrators, but the conference sure could use a California victory at Arizona tonight.

No. 25 Cal (4-1, 2-0) is the conference's only other ranked team besides USC and its only unbeaten team in conference play.

Also, the Bears lone defeat at Maryland doesn't look so bad these days, particularly after the Terrapins whipped No. 21 Wake Forest 26-0 Saturday and are now 5-2 overall (we'll just ignore the 31-zip loss to Virginia).

California has won four of five in the series but its last defeat at Arizona in 2006 -- a 24-20 heartbreaker -- ended up costing the then-eighth-ranked Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.

Bears coach Jeff Tedford used that defeat -- and the wild post-game celebration -- to motivate his team this week.

One guy who talked a lot about that game is Cal quarterback Nate Longshore. He's making his second consecutive start tonight after replacing Kevin Riley, but he threw three interceptions in the 2006 defeat

For Arizona, it's all about stopping the run.

As noted in today's Arizona Daily Star, the Wildcats have allowed more total rushing yards in their two defeats (507) than their four wins (316).

But New Mexico and Stanford featured 230-pound power backs. Cal offers a pair of speedy scatbacks in Jahvid Best, who returns after dislocating his elbow on Sept. 27 against Colorado State, and Shane Vereen. They both tip the scales under 200 pounds.

Also of note: Wildcats quarterback Willie Tuitama needs just 30 yards passing to eclipse Tom Tunnicliffe as the program's all-time passing leader. Tuitama enters the game with 7,589 career passing yards.

Heat won't be much of a factor. It's presently clear and 90 degrees, and it will cool considerably by the 7 p.m. kickoff (tonight's low is 58).

Arizona is tough at home, though. It has upset a top-25 foe in Arizona Stadium every year since Mike Stoops become head coach in 2004.

And the last victim was Cal.