BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - As much as California coach Jeff Tedford might want to downplay the national rankings, his players admit they had special interest in the developments around the country last weekend.
As soon as Southern California was upset by Stanford, the first thing many of the players did on their weekend off was check in on LSU.
If not for a late rally by the Tigers to beat Florida and preserve their No. 1 ranking, the Golden Bears could've been in the top spot for the first time since 1951 this week.
``I'm not going to lie. I say rankings don't mean anything, but I was watching the USC game,'' linebacker Greg Van Hoesen said. ``I was watching the ticker and I was very excited. It's great. It's fun. But I don't want to let that get in the way of what we have to do this week against Oregon State.''
Cal (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) has to settle for the No. 2 spot in the polls heading into Saturday's game against the Beavers (3-3, 1-2). The last time the Bears were ranked this high came in 1951, when they made it to the top spot for one week before losing to USC.
Even so, Tedford isn't about to celebrate the accomplishment.
``It really makes no difference,'' he said. ``It's no different for us whether we're two or six or three or 12 or whatever. It really doesn't matter until the end of the season what your ranking is. The target, the bull's-eye on us is there no matter what. Teams are going to come in and give you their best shot. You just know that's how it's going to be.''
The Bears know there is plenty of time left for them to move that one spot or fall even further if they don't heed the lessons learned by watching so many other highly ranked teams lose to unranked opponents.
Nine teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll have already lost to unranked teams this season and Cal wants to avoid being No. 10 this week.
``I feel like even though we're No. 2 in the nation I have so many things to work on as a player,'' offensive lineman Mike Tepper said. ``As a unit, the offensive line still has a lot of things to work on. So it's like, 'Yeah, we're No. 2 but imagine if we played to our potential. We'd be unstoppable.' We need to reach that potential so I'm not really worried about the rankings.''
Cal's off week came at a perfect time, giving quarterback Nate Longshore and running back Justin Forsett the chance to recover from ankle injuries and receiver DeSean Jackson's sprained thumb to heal.
Longshore did not practice last week but is expected to play Saturday against the Beavers.
``Nate's throwing the ball,'' Tedford said. ``We'll see how he progresses during the week.''
Linebacker Zack Follett is also expected to return from a neck injury, which would give a big boost to the defense.
``The guys who have filled in have done a nice job but Zack brings something special flying around the field and coming off the edge on the pass rush,'' Tedford said. ``It's nice to see him back out there running around.''
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