Editor's note: This is fifth in a series previewing the Pac-12 football season.
LOS ANGELES — California's Golden Bears were tarnished a bit last season. After stringing together a school-record run of seven straight bowl games and a record-tying streak of eight consecutive winning seasons, the Bears came up short in 2010. They went 5-7, ending the campaign with three straight losses — falling at home to Oregon (15-13), Stanford (48-14) and Washington (16-13).
A 10-9 loss at Arizona earlier in the year also proved costly.
"We have created a standard and expectation at Cal over the last nine years. Last season we fell short of that and we're not hiding from that," said California coach Jeff Tedford. "We understand that there is a very fine line between winning and losing, and we were six points away from being 8-4 last year."
The Bears, he added, have a lot of confidence and motivation.
"Our kids have a lot of pride. They take a lot of pride in the program," Tedford said. "They take responsibility for the expectation and the standards that have been placed on us. They can't wait to get the season kicked off and to put last season behind them."
It won't be easy. There are a few distractions in the way.
For starters, Cal's stadium is being renovated and retrofitted. It'll reopen in 2012, forcing the Bears to play this season's home games in San Francisco at AT&T Park.
Another potential hurdle is the schedule, featuring a game on a Thursday and a Friday.
"We have a job to do and we're going to focus on wherever those lines are," Tedford said. "We're going to focus on what's happening between the lines, no matter what day or what venue it's in."
OFFENSE: Cal returns 10 players with starting experience. None, however, are tailbacks as the Golden Bears look to replace Shane Vereen, who left for the NFL after rushing for 1,157 yards as a junior. Top returnees include wide receiver Marvin Jones, offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz and tight end Anthony Miller.
DEFENSE: Senior linebacker Mychal Kendricks put up some good numbers in 2010. He tallied 15 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception. Kendrick is one of seven returning starters. The Golden Bears held Oregon's high-powered offense to just 15 points last season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior punter Bryan Anger is the lone Pac-12 player on the Ray Guy Award watch list. He's been a semifinalist for the award twice (2009, 2010), while earning all-conference accolades as well. Averaged 45.6 yards per punt last season.
PLAYMAKERS: Kendricks is on the preseason watch list for the Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi and Butkus awards, as well as the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. On offense, Jones averaged 15.3 yards per catch last season.
TOUGH STRETCH: Make it stretches. The first big challenge features road games at Washington and Oregon, followed by home dates with USC and Utah. The second is back-to-back games at Stanford and Arizona State to end the regular season.
EXTRA POINTS: Schwartz is on the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy . . . Miller is up for the John Mackey Award . . . Cal will open the season Sept. 3 at Candlestick Park against Fresno State.
Bears at glance
2011 media poll: 5th, North
2010 record: 5-7, 3-6
Head coach: Jeff Tedford (72-42, 10th season)
Sept. 3 — FRESNO STATE
Sept. 10 — at Colorado
Sept. 17 — PRESBYTERIAN
Sept. 24 — at Washington
Oct. 6 — at Oregon
Oct. 13 — USC
Oct. 22 — UTAH
Oct. 29 — at UCLA
Nov. 5 — WASHINGTON STATE
Nov. 12 — OREGON STATE
Nov. 19 — at Stanford
Nov. 25 — at Arizona State