THREE BIG GAMES

Three key games for the Cal Bears this season:

Sept. 15 at Ohio State: The first of a serious back-to-back road test, with a trek to USC the following weekend. Cal has dropped five straight games to the Buckeyes since beating them 28-0 in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1920, although the teams are meeting for the first time in 40 years. Ohio State was just 6-7 a year ago, but new coach Urban Meyer inherits talent better than its record.

Oct. 20 vs. Stanford: The 115th Big Game will be played earlier on the calendar than ever before due to complications in the new Pac-12 schedule. The Bears lost a tight 31-28 decision at Stanford Stadium last season, and there is no Andrew Luck this time. But the Cardinal remains formidable.

Nov. 2 vs. Washington: Oregon visits a week later, but the Friday night ESPN matchup vs. the Huskies could have significant bowl ramifications for two teams expected to battle for third place in the Pac-12 North. Certainly the game will have simmering subplots nine months after two Cal assistants bolted for UW just before recruit signing day.