Cal was actually the last Pac-10 team Utah beat and that happened in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl. Since, they're 0-3 against the conference and in search of their first ever Pac-12 win.
A lot has changed since that game. For starters, Utah's promising quarterback, Jordan Wynn, has now been sidelined with an injury and Cal, who entered that game 8-4, has gone 8-10 since, missing out on a bowl appearance last season.
Saturday might dictate whether they make it back to a bowl game or if they're going to face the prospects of back-to-back seasons without postseason play - something that hasn't happened since the transition period between Tom Holmoe and Jeff Tedford.
A loss could signal the beginning of the end for Tedford, who lifted the Golden Bears to new heights under his leadership, but has failed to really live up to early potential the last few seasons. Though he's almost guaranteed a return next year, you've got to think two consecutive losing seasons makes it that much harder to bring the program back to a level Cal fans have expected, and generally gotten, since he took over in '03.
That puts a lot on the line for them in this game. Will they deliver?
To get that answer, and more, I went to the best (only?) Cal blog around, California Golden Blogs and actually received some good feedback from a variety of members.
My questions, their answers, after the jump...
Block U: Like Utah, Cal is 0-3. What has been the biggest factor in their slow start?
LeonPowe: An inability to score touchdowns. And a pretty difficult schedule of Pac-12 games to start (although the UW game was winnable and USC looked like the worst USC team of the last decade). We seem to be able to move the ball up and down the field and our defense, while isn't world beating has kept us in games. We have had serious problems scoring 3 (or zero), when we should get 7.
Block U: How much of a home field advantage does Cal have at AT&T Ballpark?
TwistNHook: Sadly, for several reasons, not much.
Firstly, it does not appear to be as good as Memorial (a bowl) in retaining sound. It just doesn't seem as loud.
Secondly, many Cal fans didn't appear to buy the primo seats. At the Cal-USC, a huge chunk of the seats right on the 50 yard line (and close by) were bought by USC fans. I do not know if Utah fans will turn out in massive numbers, like USC fans. There are several reasons why this section sold poorly, but there's no need to get into them right now.
Thirdly, the amount of students is far less. Triple Le Sigh! And they are all in one end zone, instead of right in the thick of things at Memorial. Oy!
Block U: What's the deal with Zach Maynard?
LeonPowe: He's like the ultimate version of "just like a kid out there/gunslinger" Farve. . . but a lot more on the negative side. He has shown the ability to complete some very high degree of difficulty passes, but some of the simpler things - accuracy, basic check down passes have thus far proved elusive. He has two amazing wideouts however which may have contributed to his ability to complete very difficult passes.
Block U: How's SLC native Isi Sofele looking? Is he going to be a pain in the ass for the Utes this week?
Berkelium97: He had two great showings in a row against UW and Oregon before disappearing against USC. Part of the problem was that after we fell behind we started passing much more often than running. Tedford likes to maintain a 50-50 balance of passing and running, but it's been closer to 65-35 over the past couple games. He has benefited from much-improved blocking this year and has been able to get into the second level a few times per game. In open space he is very shifty and tough to bring down. He won't burn you with speed like Jahvid Best, but he can make defenders miss. With Maynard's recent struggles, look for Isi to lead the offense this week (assuming we don't fall behind 20-0 at halftime again).
BlockU: What should Utah know about Cal's defense?
Berkelium97: First, our captain and starting ILB Mychal Kendricks is out with an undisclosed arm/shoulder injury. Second, and of interest to Utah fans, is that Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast loves to bring pressure to young, inexperienced QBs. After seeing the Utah O-line give up seven sacks last week, you better believe Pendergast is going to dial up the blitzes this week. Fortunately for Utah, Cal has not yet been able to generate a solid pass rush like they could last year. None of the outside linebackers have yet demonstrated that they can be active, disruptive edge rushers. And, oddly enough, when they do break through and have an easy shot at the QB, they tend to miss completely. This has happened several times this year and is baffling.
The defense is young, but it has been growing up in a hurry. True freshman Stefan McClure did a great job against Robert Woods last week while filling in for the injured Marc Anthony. The maligned pass defense after Colorado appears to have improved considerably. Run defense has been stout. LaMichael James was the only RB to generate much yardage against this defense (even Chris Polk was held in check). His blistering speed gave him some great running room thanks to a little bit of holding and some poor outside containment. If Utah is going to win, they'll have to do it through the air. Or they could force 5 turnovers like USC did, and score 20 points on 61 yards. That seemed to work pretty well.
Block U: Has this season gone as expected for Golden Bear fans?
LeonPowe: Poorly. It's not a question of record - 3-3 is actually about where we thought we'd be (or 4-2) but the last two games have looked horrible. Turnovers. Multiple execution issues. Things which should've been solved as early as training camp are still popping up (we routinely have 5-10 terrible shotgun snaps per game). A coach whose seat hasn't been hot in the last 8 years. . . has been heating up. Again, its not the record, it is how we've looked. Everyone knew we were rebuilding this year, without a returning starting QB and without a running back with the pedigree of Vereen/Best/Forsett/Lynch coming back, a minor bowl and .500 record were the expectations. We are going to have to at least LOOK better over the last half of the season otherwise it may be an ugly off-season.
Block U: In my preview, I said this game was pretty much a must-win for Cal if they're going to make it to a bowl. Do you agree?
Berkelium97: It's as close as it can be to a must-win without actually being a must win. Cal certainly can win the next four, but whether we do so remains to be seen. That would leave us at 7-3 heading into a pair of road games at Stanford and at ASU. An upset in one of those is unlikely, but not inconceivable. Losing this game, however, would probably indicate that this team cannot win the necessary 3 games to get us to a bowl. So it's less a must-win and more of an indicator of whether we can actually get to a bowl.
Block U: Lots of Ute fans expected for this game. What are the pre-game activities like?
TwistNHook: Well, anything and everything you can do in San Francisco, natch. Bars in the local area include Paragon and MoMo's. There is a soul food place across the street that I really really want to go to, but never have.
One the other side of the water there are several massive parking lots. Many fans seem to congregate there in the parking lots for the tailgating. That scene was pretty hot at the USC game, so check it out.
I'd like to thank those at CGB for their answers. Here's to a good game Saturday (and a Utah win, of course)!
You can read my answers to their questions here.