Can Cal Win State?
Does anyone else suspect that the Coach Taylor character on Friday Night Lights (awesome show, great job) is at least partially based on our beloved Coach Jeff Tedford? Consider the evidence: He’s a handsome, 40-something offensive mastermind, known as a quarterbacks guru, runs a pro-style offense with west coast elements, achieves early success as a head coach and is voraciously courted by supposedly more prestigious programs. Aside from the Texas accent, female progeny, and high school setting, Taylor is Tedford. Case closed.
But can Tedford bring Cal what Taylor brought the Dylan Panthers: a state championship? “But wait, Tony,” you say “there is no such thing as a state championship in College football!” I disagree. Every year, Cal pursues what I will call the “California State Championship” – a sweep of U$C, UCLA and Stanfurd. Think about it. If Cal’s goal is the Rose Bowl, doesn’t the path lead straight through those three hated rivals? U$C and UCLA because they are the traditional powers in the conference; Stanfurd because the Big Game is volatile and prone to spoilers. Can you imagine us sweeping the other three Cali schools and not going to the Rose Bowl? Can you imagine us going to the Rose Bowl without sweeping them? History would caution you against such outlier prognostication.
In the modern era, Cal has come painfully close to, and just short of a Rose Bowl berth on several occasions. In each instance, a failure to win the State Championship was crucial, if not fully determinative, in denying us the berth: 2006 (loss to U$C), 2004 (loss to U$C), 2003 (loss to UCLA and Oregon), 1991 (loss to Stanfurd and Washington), 1975 (loss to UCLA). The pattern stretches back into ancient history as well: 1947 (loss to U$C), 1938 (loss to U$C), 1936 (loss to UCLA), 1935 (loss to Stanfurd), 1934 (loss to Stanfurd).
For all the losing streaks ended during the Tedford era (19 straight losses to UDubb, 9 straight losses in Pullman, 7 straight losses at Autzen, 7 straight losses to Stanfurd), Cal still hasn’t managed under Tedford to win the State Championship. So when was the last time Cal won the State Championship anyway? 1958. The same year Cal last went to the Rose Bowl. In fact, since 1933 when Cal’s series with UCLA began, all of Cal’s Rose Bowl berths have occurred in years when we won the State Championship: 1958, 1950 (tied Stanfurd), 1949, 1948, 1937. Meanwhile, Cal has only once won the State Championship without going to the Rose Bowl: 1941, when Cal dominated the in-state field, but finished with a 4-5 record overall.
Now that we’ve established the California State Championship as the crucible of our football being, what hope do we have of winning said championship in the near term? Well, despite the fact that Cal faces some daunting challenges this year, it’s worth noting that our three bigtime rivals are also undergoing their own periods of transition. The last few years have brought us very close to the State Championship several times, and I wouldn’t put it past our Bears to pull it off this year. What do you think?
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