This Thursday the Cal Bears have a chance to impress the country. A win over the USC Trojans in Los Angeles would legitimize the Bears, QB Jared Goff and head coach Sonny Dykes, as well as make Cal bowl eligible for the first time in three years.
While in theory every Cal game is on national TV, in reality the Bears are ignored on Saturdays when the other options are teams like Alabama or Baylor or even Cal’s Pac 12 rival, the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Sure, those Ducks and Cal played at Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, on a Friday night last month. But Friday night football is still generally reserved across the country for the high schools, and that game was largely ignored outside of the West Coast.
Thursday is a different story. The Bears and Trojans will be the best matchup of the night (and yes, I am counting the Buffalo Bills–Miami Dolphins NFL game), with ESPN pushing the game all day on various platforms and then giving it a prominent place on SportsCenter and other college football shows.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears react in such a situation. That Friday game against Oregon was not a true competitive test. Although the Bears had an early lead, it was a question of when the Ducks would string three or more touchdown drives together against Cal’s defense, not if.
USC, on the other hand, has cooled off some from a very hot start, and even that has been called into question. Remember when the Trojans beat Stanford and it was a big deal? Not so much anymore. If the Bears can hang with USC for much of the game, people will be talking about the Bears’ improvement much more than a USC victory. If Cal wins it, then a guarantee of a bowl game and December football will be a big deal for the program and Bear Backers alike.
Watching the Bears this season has been watching a team on the rise. How much more Cal can rise this season depends on how they perform in a stadium known worldwide for its prominence in two Olympic games? When they enter the L.A. Coliseum the Bears would do well to remember the Olympic motto — faster, higher, stronger. It would end up being a good night and good season for the program if Cal accomplished all three.