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California Bears' head coach Jeff Tedford is seen on the sidelines during their game against Fresno State at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Sept 3, 2011. (John Green/Staff)

No fan base in America could urge an athletic director to fire a college football coach whose team played its entire schedule on the road. Cal folks wouldn't dare.

No A.D. would be irrational enough to dump a coach before allowing him to coach in the marvelous new facility built with the momentum he generated. Cal's Sandy Barbour won't even consider it.

Not that she should.

To the delight of most but the dismay of some, Jeff Tedford gets a pass this season. The Golden Bears cannot go winless, so the coach's job is safe in every realistic scenario.

That's not to suggest Tedford can spend 2011 coasting on those successive top-25 finishes accumulated from 2004 through 2006. To the contrary, this season provides ideal circumstances under which he can begin repolishing a reputation that once shined brightly enough to attract glances from NFL executives.

Tedford, 49, can reaffirm his initial identity as a football professor in Berkeley. Or he can confirm his recent status as a coach whose well of innovative solutions is not as deep as once thought.

It's a fairly lengthy exam, with two essay questions. Will Tedford identify, cultivate and supervise an effective quarterback? Will he unravel the mysteries of the road?

The preliminary answer to Question I surfaced in a win over Fresno State last week at Candlestick Park. After peeling away some early anxiety, Zach Maynard revealed himself as a dual-threat quarterback capable of unraveling defenses. He throws well enough, runs even better and -- this tortures defenses -- throws exquisitely while running.

"It excites me ... as long as he's smart about what he does," Tedford said Tuesday after practice at Witter Rugby Field. "He's going to make a lot of plays. But he has to be smart about getting down when he needs to get down, and protecting the football."

One game into a 12-game season, Maynard flashed the potential to be the guy who can restore some of the QB mojo once routinely ascribed to Tedford.

Question II of Tedford's exam remains very much in doubt as the Bears prepare to face Colorado on Saturday in Boulder. Beating the unimposing Bulldogs at a supposed neutral site four miles from AT&T Park -- Cal's temporary home in 2011 -- didn't offer much of a glimpse into The Real Road.

"Last week felt like we were on the road," the coach said. "We went to a new hotel, and it seemed to me there were more Fresno fans (at Candlestick) than Cal fans. So last week actually felt like a road game."

This week actually is road game, The Real Road, where the Bears in recent years too often have been cubs lost in the wilderness. Cal last season lost four of five away from Memorial Stadium, by an average score of 36-15; its only road win, 20-13, came at lowly Washington State.

Furthermore, Cal is 8-16 on the road dating to late in the 2006 season. And some of those losses were absorbed in utterly humiliating fashion. The Bears were scorched by 39 at Oregon, by 34 at USC, by 28 at Oregon State and by 32 at Washington.

Losing on the road happens to the best of teams. Losing on the road by scores indicative of a failure to compete, however, can be a barometer of team character and surely is an indictment of Tedford and his staff.

This habit of the Bears whimpering back home without backsides makes it impossible for them to become a fixture in the top 25.

More to the point, the road dread -- along with chronic underperformance at quarterback but a steady flow of NFL draft picks elsewhere -- keeps alive debate about Tedford's ability to get the most out of his teams, which stirs conversation regarding his job security.

After his first losing record in nine years at Cal, Tedford spent the offseason on the move, not hiding from disgruntled fans but out of necessity. Memorial Stadium for now is the home of multiple cranes, heavy equipment and construction workers.

That's why Cal's spring practices were held in places such as Laney College in Oakland, Contra Costa College in San Pablo and Grant High in Sacramento. Led by the seniors, these Bears should be natural road warriors.

"We have a lot of young guys, but they have responded well to the older guys, who have set the tone," Tedford said. "We've been all over, on a lot of buses, practicing at a lot of places. Hopefully, that prepares us for games like this."

And for the other five road games, including Washington and Oregon, for the Bears have no real home.

The new Memorial Stadium and surrounding facilities are scheduled to open next fall. Tedford should and will be there. His exam results will determine the warmth of his reception.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.