Improbable to even imagine just a few years ago, but check out the latest AP college football poll. It shows the USC Trojans dropped from their longtime perch at No. 1 to No. 2 after their just-barely win over Washington, and, unbelievably for many, the California Golden Bears knocking on SC's door at No. 3.
What the hell? Why am I even talking about this?
College football is one of few areas where I "get all beefer," and right now the Pac-10 Conference is packed with reasons to nerd out. On Saturday, Cal held off deep and loaded Oregon at Eugene in what Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel said was a "back-and-forth thriller in which the score was tied on five different occasions." Both The New York Times and the L.A. Times sent reporters to cover the game, which was decided in the final 22 seconds when Oregon committed a touchback on a frightening drive to the end zone. Cal, then ranked No. 6, moved up after five other teams in the Top-10 suffered losses.
Chris Dufresne notes that if USC beats Stanford this Saturday and No. 1 LSU loses to No. 9 Florida, USC and Cal could hop up to No. 1 and No.2, respectively. And if both teams stay undefeated through October, the USC-Cal game at Berkeley's Memorial Stadium in gorgeous Strawberry Canyon on Nov. 10 could pretty much decide the season for the whole country.
You can't overemphasize what a dramatic turn-around this is for Cal. In my four years at Berkeley the football team was a functioning disaster, never seeing a winning season and not once beating archrival Stanford in the Big Game. Then they hired some guy from Downey named Jeff Tedford, and within a season, Cal became a Pac-10 powerhouse and a national name. Tedford is such a G. Now facing Cal is one of USC's primary sources of anxiety. The Nov. 10 game will certainly be epic. If Cal wins -- and they very well could -- could it be? National title contention for the Bears?
* Photo above: Cal running back Justin Forsett outrunning a couple Ducks. Getty Images via L.A. Times.
* Aaaand, beefer cap off.