Big news, Oregon St's Sammie Stroughter is out for the season, taking a medical redshirt. While Oregon St has had an up and down season, Stroughter is a game changer. He single handedly beat USC last year. This is good news for Bear fans who were fearing a let down game against OSU. With the personal problems that Stroughter had to start the year, this might be the best thing for him. If he get the medical redshirt he will have another year to terrorize Pac 10 defenses.
ESPN Pac 10 Midseason report
Cal also take the prize for Midseason MVP, Justin Forsett and Coach of the Year, Jeff Tedford.
The biggest surprise -- at least in a positive sense -- is that California is ranked No. 2, its highest perch since Pappy Waldorf's Golden Bears were No. 1 in 1951. That said, it's not terribly shocking that Cal is unbeaten, so its lofty ranking is largely a function of the profusion of top-10 upsets.
Nonetheless, the Bears are trying to make the hardest transition: from top-15 program to elite, national title contender. They probably need to win a few more games before anyone takes them seriously as a championship threat, and their October is fairly robust: Oregon State, at UCLA and at Arizona State.
And, of course, that's all prelude to what remains the Pac-10 game of the year: USC at Cal on Nov. 10.
The Bears own an elite, balanced offense that will be able to score on just about anybody. But they will have to shore up their injury-riddled defense if they are truly eyeballing the biggest prize.
This is shaping up to be a big year for the Bears. I think unquestionable Forsett has been the MVP for the Bears and the MVP for the conference. On defense I would go with Anthony Felder, who has been coming up with big plays all year.
ESPN Midseason Team by Team breakdown
California Golden Bears
California officially arrived as a national power when it out-ran and physically manhandled Tennessee, but that bounce for the Golden Bears self-esteem would have been fairly meaningless if they hadn't won at Oregon. Winning at in Autzen Stadium was a far tougher challenge, and it established Cal as a potential foil to USC.
And then, when the Trojans stumbled against Stanford, something else happened: Cal became a national title contender, rising to No. 2 in the national rankings, the program's loftiest position since Pappy Waldorf's Golden Bears were No. 1 in 1951.
The Bears offense has been dynamic, as expected, even with DeSean Jackson limited by a thumb injury before busting out against Oregon. But if this season is going to be special -- read: national title game or Rose Bowl -- then the Bears injury-riddled defense is going to have to improve.
Of course, if Cal's turnover margin continues to be plus-2.2 per game, they might not need to do anything but wait for their opponents to screw up.
While running back Justin Forsett's steadiness earned kudos as the conference MVP, we'd be remiss if we didn't salute Jackson, who's came up huge in Cal's biggest victories. Sure, a thumb injury suffered against Tennessee hurt his early numbers -- and Heisman Trophy candidacy -- but his spectacular punt return set the tone for that game. Then, against the Ducks, he looked all-better, hauling in 11 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
A date with LSU in the BCS national title game? Sounds unbelievable, but if the Bears win out, that's the reality. Of course, they've got USC coming to Berkeley on Nov. 10 and four other tricky road games to contend with, so a lot of work remains.
UCLA Game Update
QB Ben Olson is out 3-4 weeks and will miss the Cal game. Back up QB Patrick Cowen is still uncertain for the Cal game. Freshman walk on, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was horrendous against Notre Dame. Former QB turned WR Osaar Rasshan is turning under center.
My take is that I wanted Olson to play the game. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Look at what Stanford backup QB Pritchard did against USC. I was pretty confident the Bears would shut down Olson as he has not done much this year. Either way the Bears will take down UCLA.