Not only would a loss today to Washington abruptly end Cal's season, it also would put a couple unsightly numbers next to the 2010 team in the record books.
A defeat would end the Bears' season at 5-7, giving them their first losing season since 2001. That was Tom Holmoe's last year as Cal's coach. Jeff Tedford took over and has had a winning record in each of his previous eight seasons in Berkeley.
"That's huge," Cal running back Shane Vereen said. "But I think not just for Coach Tedford, but for ourselves. We know that we can play better than we have shown, and I think it's important for us to go out there Saturday and do just that."
A win would extend Cal's season. Teams need at least six wins to become bowl-eligible, and a victory would do the trick for the Bears (5-6). Because of the dearth of bowl-eligible teams in the Pac-10, that would be enough to send Cal to a pretty high-profile bowl game.
Of course, even if the Bears get to a bowl, they still could finish with a losing record. Cal was faced with a similar situation in 2007 but beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl and finished 7-6.
"I don't really look at it the other way on the negative side of it, more the positive aspects that could come out of it if we play well and get a victory," Tedford said.
The Pac-10 has arrangements with six bowl games. Only three conference teams are already bowl-eligible -- Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. Four teams still have a chance to reach six wins, and today's Cal-Washington loser will be eliminated from bowl contention.
There could be as few as four bowl-eligible teams left in the conference by the time the regular season ends next weekend. And with Oregon on pace to go to the BCS championship game, there might be only three Pac-10 teams available for the six slots.
That could put the Bears in a fairly high-profile game such as the Holiday Bowl, if they can beat the Huskies. Washington (4-6) also still has a chance to become bowl-eligible. A Holiday Bowl representative will attend today's game.
"Everybody is pumped up with a chance to be placed in a good bowl game despite the record we have," Cal quarterback Brock Mansion said.