No. 2 Cal looks to avoid upset bug against Beavers

BERKELEY, Calif. &

The preparation this week for No. 2 California looked a whole lot like it does every week.

Coach Jeff Tedford gave no speeches about what the Golden Bears' No. 2 ranking means. There was no talk about how that lofty praise could create a target for opponents. There was just studying up on Oregon State.

"We haven't changed the way we practice. You don't go out to practice and say, 'OK, we're being hunted this week,' or, 'OK, we're the hunters,'" Tedford said. "As long as we focus on what we do and trying to do our best, that's all that matters. That's the mind-set that we've had since day one and that's the mind-set that we still have."

That has helped the Bears (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) get off to this fast start and move from No. 12 in the preseason poll all the way up to No. 2 &

the highest the school has been since 1951.

But the players know that rapid rise has as much to do with their own play as it does the failings of other higher-ranked teams.

"I'm not worried about looking ahead," linebacker Worrell Williams said. "We know each week we can get knocked off. This whole season has been nothing except people getting knocked off over and over week after week. It makes it that much easier when you see teams getting knocked off to say, 'Maybe we should just stay focused on what lies in front of us.'"

Nine teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll have already lost to unranked teams this season and the Bears want to avoid being No. 10 this week when they host Oregon State (3-3, 1-2).

The Beavers have won three straight games in Berkeley, last losing in 1997 during the first year of the disappointing Tom Holmoe era at Cal.

The Bears won just 16 games in Holmoe's five seasons, leading to Tedford's hiring and a resurgence that could hit its peak this season. With wins over Tennessee and Oregon early on, Cal has impressed pollsters and opponents.

It just hasn't been enough to make the team satisfied.

"It's not the first time they've been ranked," Tedford said. "It's not the first time that they've been in big games or anything like that. There's enough leadership on this team to know what it's all about. Guys have been here long enough and have been in the top 10 and know how to handle how we're supposed to take care of our business."

Several of the players admitted taking a special interest during their bye week in other games last Saturday, most notably in Stanford's shocking upset of Southern California and LSU's narrow comeback win over Florida. If the Tigers had not rallied from 10 points down, Cal could have been No. — this week.

Watching those games taught Cal a lesson.

"I feel like if USC can lose to Stanford, which last year wasn't a great team, that reminds us we have a target on our foreheads and anyone can shoot us down," offensive lineman Mike Tepper said.

While the Cal players are using those upsets as a reminder of what can happen if they lose focus, Beavers coach Mike Riley doesn't feel the need to use them as a rallying cry for his underdog team.

"That doesn't have a lot to do with us, our guys know we can win," Riley said. "We don't need a lot of other sources to tell us that. That is the nature of college football right now. The number of teams that have been beaten in the Top 25 and in the Top 10 even over the last two weeks is pretty incredible. It's not always the team that people think is the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best on that day."

Oregon State center Kyle DeVan isn't expecting to catch Cal celebrating its ranking and coming into the game overconfident. He expects the same team that has won its first five games.

"I know they aren't sitting back hee and hawing that they are No. 2 in the country," DeVan said. "They are coming out to work, knowing that we are doing the same."

Oregon State presents some challenges to Cal, mostly in its stout front seven. The Beavers lead the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 43.3 yards per game. A big part of that success comes from their pass rush, which is tied for second in the country with 26 sacks.

That goes up against one of Cal's strengths. The Bears are third in the conference with 198.6 yards rushing per game and tied for second best in the nation with only four sacks allowed.

"That's always fun," Tepper said. "I really like their style of football. It's not like they're going to slant or do too much crazy. It's, 'We're going to line up and kick your butt.' It's fun backyard football and I love it. I'm excited."

Share This Story