COLLEGE FOOTBALL GRADES
Result: Beat Arizona State 47-38
Comments: Cal got its first conference road win in two years against a team not named Washington State. ... The Bears committed only one turnover and five penalties and rolled up 484 yards. ... The defense struggled early but held the Sun Devils to 10 points after halftime. ... Tailback Isi Sofele had another big day (145 yards rushing). His success on the ground contributed, as it often does, to an efficient game by quarterback Zach Maynard (20 of 27, no interceptions). ... Cal (7-5) might have collected one more win this season if it had taken a run-oriented approach earlier. But the way Maynard finished -- his efficiency rating in November was 153 -- should give the Bears optimism for next year.
Next up: Bowl game
Outlook: Cal played its way out of the lower bowls in the Pac-12 pecking order. But whether the Bears land in the Alamo, Holiday or Sun is out of their control -- it depends on the outcome of the Pac-12 title game. If UCLA upsets Oregon, the Bears will drop a rung on the bowl ladder.
San Jose State
Result: Beat Fresno State 27-24
Comments: SJSU's first victory over Fresno State in five years merits a high grade even though the Bulldogs are floundering. ... The Spartans outscored Fresno 17-7 in the second half and had fewer turnovers and penalties for the game. ... The defense was stout when it mattered most, holding Fresno to an 18 percent conversion rate on third down. ... In his SJSU finale, quarterback Matt Faulkner played one of his finest games: Facing his former team in what was no doubt an emotional evening, he threw only one interception. ... SJSU's output was remarkably consistent in the final six games: 28, 28, 29, 33, 27 and 27 points.
Next up: Season over
Outlook: The Spartans (5-7) were one win shy of becoming bowl eligible and twice blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads this season. In other words, they had their chances and whiffed. At the same time, a four-victory improvement over last season's total is significant. The arc of the program under second-year coach Mike MacIntyre is clearly moving in the right direction.
Result: Beat Notre Dame 28-14
Comments: A decisive but not dominating performance, at home, against an overrated team. ... The Cardinal gets downgraded because of 11 penalties for 113 yards. ... The defense was solid throughout, allowing 57 rushing yards and only one touchdown of consequence. The pass rush was superb (five sacks), as linebacker Chase Thomas had his most productive game in weeks. ... Stanford ran the ball with ease but sputtered through the air. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw a few bad passes but was generally efficient despite Stanford having so little speed at the skill positions. Rarely does Luck throw to a receiver who isn't closely guarded. ... Tight end Zach Ertz returned after a monthlong absence (knee). He will need the bowl practices to get back to 100 percent.
Next up: Bowl game
Outlook: Stanford probably will play in a Bowl Championship Series game, with the Fiesta as the leading candidate, followed by the Sugar. ... There is an extremely slim chance that the Cardinal will get squeezed out of the BCS, in which case it would land in the Alamo.