By Danny Cox
An off week is just what the Cal Golden Bears needed after losing their first game of the season thanks to a 30-24 defeat at the hands of the Utah Utes. The Utes are still undefeated after Week 7, but a lot of weakness was shown in their 34-18 victory over Arizona State that was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
With that being said, the Cal Bears do indeed control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North and can get to the conference championship. Still, they’re going to have to get past the 10th-ranked Stanford Cardinals who are looking stronger every single week.
Signs of weakness
The final score read 34-18 in favor of Utah, but the Arizona State Sun Devils didn’t just let them get off the field with an easy victory. For three quarters, the Utes just kept getting in their own way and creating problems for their own team, and it was extremely evident in the third quarter. Ahead 14-13, Utah committed an illegal forward pass in their own end zone on the kickoff and gave Arizona State an easy two points.
The Sun Devils went on to score a field goal minutes later for the 18-14 lead going into the final 15 minutes. That was when Utah realized they were one of the top-ranked teams in the country and outscored the unranked Sun Devils 20-0 in the fourth quarter. Still, they showed signs of weakness and did not look like one of the best teams in the polls.
Signs of strength
Stanford is now 5-1 and 4-0 in the Pac-12 as they’ve also jumped into the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll, which has them looking very strong going into the second half of the season. They didn’t just defeat then No. 18 UCLA, but they absolutely demolished them; a lot worse than the final score indicated.
Stanford was up 56-20 at the end of the third quarter and let a lot of second and third stringers play a bit more in the final quarter, which saw the Bruins outscore the Cardinal 14-0. UCLA is not a weak team, but Stanford embarrassed them with the rout and made them look like they didn’t even belong on the field.
The road ahead
Utah has a clear path to the South Division title and are looking at a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game unless there is a serious collapse between now and the end of the season. In the North Division, California has one loss and so does Stanford as they are both at 5-1. The Cardinals are 4-0 in conference play though while the Golden Bears are 2-1. Virtually everything, including the South Division berth in the championship game, will be riding on the meeting between these two teams on Nov. 21.
There is no room for error though and the Golden Bears can’t look ahead, so next up is UCLA on Thursday night, and it will be a Bruins team that was just embarrassed and looking to redeem themselves.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.