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The Week That Will Be (2011 Holiday Bowl)

for only love can conquer hate… – Marvin Gaye, "What’s Goin’ On?"

When Texas and Cal meet on Wednesday night in the Holiday Bowl, it will be the first meeting for the teams since the fall of 1970, when the Longhorns defeated the Golden Bears 50-15 on the way to their second consecutive national championship. Cal would finish the season at 6-5, their 18th consecutive season with at least three losses (their streak would reach 38 seasons until the 1991 team went 10-2). The game was an afterthought, not much of a blip on the radar for Texas fans.

But the summer of 1970 was certainly noteworthy. It was then in the famous studio Hitsville, USA in Detroit that Motown artist Marvin Gaye began recording what would become one of the most celebrated tunes of all-time, What’s Goin On, a soulful, jazzy take on the political climate surrounding the quickly disintegrating Vietnam War.

Inspired by the letters sent home to him from his brother fighting inthe war, Gaye put his career on the line to bring the controversial tune to the masses, refusing to record anything else until producer Berry Gordy agreed to release it. Gaye won out when a Los Angeles disc jockey started playing the single in January of 1971, spurring on the record label to release the full album later that spring when it vaulted to the top of the R&B charts. Ultimately, good taste won out, as the single and album are both recognized as one of the greatest of all-time by Rolling Stone and several other publications.

It was controversial, of course, due to the unrest occurring in cities across the country in response to the unpopular war, and one place where that climate flourished was Berkeley, California, and specifically on the campus of the University of California.

Noted as one of the finest public institutions on the globe, Cal has become famous for its activism, most notably the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and various Vietnam War protests in the 60’s and 70’s. That tradition has carried on today, as tree sitters have halted construction on campus, most notably California Memorial Stadium, where several trees needed to be removed for civil progress.

Ask anyone on the street about the University of California, and you are likely to hear about the activism or the scholastic reputation, or you’ll probably hear something about anti-war protests and love.

If only that love extended to the University of Texas. And Mack Brown.

If you are reading this column, you likely know about the controversy in 2004 when Texas passed Cal in the final BCS standings and denied the Golden Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1959. The media perpetrated the theory that Brown "lobbied" for votes after the Longhorns’ 26-13 victory over Texas A&M to finish the regular season at 10-1. Never mind the fact that Texas actually lost votes the next day despite defeating the ranked Aggies and Cal enjoying a bye week.

Nope, it was easier for a anti-BCS, bloodthirsty media to latch on to Texas as a villain (the current realignment and Longhorn Network issues come to mind), insisting that it was Brown that won over the votes needed in the AP and Coaches’ poll to vault Texas over Cal, ignoring that the fact that for one, California was ahead of Texas in the final voters polls, and second, that even if the perceived pro-Texas biases were "corrected", Texas would have still finished ahead of Cal in the BCS due to their strength in the computers.

"I guess we didn’t run up the score at the end, or beg for votes after the game," Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers said at the time. "I thought it was (wrong) for Coach Brown to beg for votes after the A&M game."

Welcome to big time college football, California. Texas felt the same way in 2008, and Oklahoma State feels the same way this year. With the imperfections of the system that we have, it is rare that there is going to be a year that a controversy of some sort isn’t present.

But all of that was a long time ago, right? The freshmen on this year’s team were 10 or 11 years old when that controversy occurred, probably more occupied with their Xbox than they were with keeping up with college football politics. That, coupled with the facts that Cal has since gone into a nosedive (or corrected itself if you look at its record prior to that year), Texas won a national championship the following year, Texas played for a national championship in 2009, and the fact that that California was drubbed by a 7-4 Texas Tech team in the Holiday Bowl while Texas defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and all of that groundswell would have died out by now, right?

"Yes, I’m still upset about it. We got ‘em now in the Holiday Bowl." – Aaron Rodgers, December 2011


Rodgers has since, of course, gone on to replace the legendary Brett Favre in Green Bay, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title last season, and has made fantasy football owners giddy by posting ridiculous numbers, has led the Pack to a 14-1 record…but still can’t get over the BCS snub seven years ago.

And he isn’t alone in that sentiment. If you went to any Cal message board that isn’t dedicated to the fine art of arbor perching when this bowl match-up was announced and you would have found much of the same sentiment, wanting "revenge" for taking what was theirs.

Those, of course, are the opinions of fans or alumni and not the coaching staff or current players. Cal coach Jeff Tedford, to his credit, has largely taken the high road on the subject, praising Texas and just saying that the Bears were disappointed. And once that football is kicked into the brisk San Diego air, all of this will fly out the window and it will just be football.

But for those Cal fans out there that still wish to harbor ill will towards Texas, and still hold on to that thought that big bad Texas took what was rightfully theirs, I remind you that love conquers hate, that it goes against the fiber of your school’s moral climate to hold on to that angst for this long.

But if you still must hate, I would love for you to see Texas get over on your school once again.

On to the game…

California vs. Texas -4:

Okay I’m about to invalidate my whole column, but forget everything that you read up there, that is all window dressing for the fans. Like I said, the players don’t really care about what happened seven years ago, and the coaches aren’t going to get dragged down that path either.

All that matters in this game is what happened in 2011, and what happened is that both teams predictably had topsy-turvy years that resulted in 7-5 years. Texas went from Garrett Gilbert’s team to dual-quarterback team to a power running team to David Ash’s team to Case McCoy’s team to relying on the defense to bail them out team. Cal went from relying upon the arm of Zach Maynard (averaged 262 yards passing through the first 7 games) to relying upon the running game (230 yards per game in the last four), finishing 3-1 in that stretch with their only loss a three point defeat at the hands of Stanford.

Texas appears to have everyone but Fozzy Whitaker back for this one, which means they’ll likely try to establish a running game above all else. Cal’s rushing defense was solid this year, giving up only 130 yards per game, but did have their troubles against rushing attacks such as Oregon (365 yards), UCLA (294 yards) and Arizona State (213 yards).

It is a defense that was solid for the most part, ranking near the top in the country in sacks and tackles for loss, but also giving up 30 points per game against Pac-12 opponents not named Washington State or Oregon State.

On offense, Cal relies on Maynard and running back Isi Sofele, who ranked 20th in the country in rushing yards per game. They cut back Maynard’s pass attempts dramatically in the last half of the season, instead focusing on Sofele and picking their spots with a receiving corps that combined for more than 2000 yards receiving between the two starters.

Truth be told, Texas saw better this season, and should be able to handle a Cal offense that isn’t as good as at least six teams that the Longhorns saw this year (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas Tech), and should be able to run on a defense that hasn’t seen a running game capable of such things outside of Oregon.

Cal will stay in this one for a half, but I see the Texas running game wearing them down in the second half.

Texas 34 California 21
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for the above album on iTunes.