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University of Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley, #7, is pressured by California Golden Bears Aaron Tipoti, #50, in the first half of their game on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

We've reached the midway point of Cal's season, and it looks bad.

The Bears were just outscored 73-24 by Oregon and USC in consecutive national television appearances. They're 0-3 in conference play for the first time in coach Jeff Tedford's tenure. The special teams are a mess.

Most troubling for Old and Young Blues, the floundering offense is once again under the direction of an unsteady quarterback. In this case, it's Zach Maynard, who most definitely is not in Buffalo anymore.

But for the same reason it looks bad right now, it will get better very soon -- and that reason is the schedule.

Cal had the misfortune of starting league play with back-to-back-to-back games against three of the best teams in the conference, with two of the three on the road: at Washington, at Oregon, and USC.

Nobody else in the Pac-12 has faced such a difficult early-season lineup.

But it's about to get much easier for the Bears.

Up next is Utah, struggling with the transition to the Pac-12 and without its injured starting quarterback.

Then comes UCLA, which has quarterback problems of its own and barely beat Washington State at home.

Then comes Washington State, which, although improved, remains a second-tier team.

Then comes Oregon State, which just won its first game and is breaking in a freshman quarterback.

That's four games that Cal could, and perhaps should, win.

The Bears defense is certainly playing well enough to win all four, and it won't take the offense much work to reach that point, as well: Just cut out the bad decisions and dumb mistakes. Maynard doesn't have to be flawless; he merely has to be decent.

Even if the Bears take only three of their next four, they would be 6-4 overall -- assured of a bowl bid before stepping foot in Stanford Stadium and visiting Arizona State in the finale.

Angry, frustrated and anxious Cal fans should take a deep breath: It will get better soon.

  • A word or two on Maynard:

    He's not a pocket passer. He ran the spread option at Buffalo and was named Cal's starter because of his ability to make plays with his arm and his legs.

    But he spends the vast majority of his time in the pocket, looking uncomfortable and locking on receivers.

    Why aren't the Bears making greater use of his running skills? Why aren't they letting him throw on the run? Why the square peg in a round hole?

  • Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck continues to hold a comfortable lead in the most accurate Heisman Trophy tracking poll.

    Luck has 33 points in this week's Heisman Pundit straw poll of 13 voters from across the country.

    Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin were tied for second with 14 points.

  • The next time Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff writes an editorial outlining his case against the Bowl Championship Series, he might want to get his facts correct.

    In a piece for The Arizona Republic, Shurtleff wrote that Connecticut was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (wrong: Big East) and that Baylor had never played in a bowl game (wrong: 17 postseason appearances).

  • The realignment chaos continues. The Big East is expected to extend several invitations in the coming weeks and months, with Boise State reportedly under consideration.

    The Big East would like to add Air Force and Navy, but the service academies are understandably wary of joining a league that, at the moment, shows no signs of long-term stability.

  • Meanwhile, the Big 12 will be a 10-team league next season, interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said.

    The reason: Even if Missouri jumps to the SEC, as many expect, the move would not take place until the 2013 season, according to Neinas.

    Despite a flurry of Internet reports indicating that Brigham Young would join the Big 12 sooner rather than later, there are no indications the school and the conference are anywhere close to an agreement.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.