Of the seven major-college football programs operating in California, only the University of California is lower than USC in this week's AP poll.
Outside of Berkeley and the gates of Heritage Hall, schools from the state are having excellent seasons. Stanford is 10-2 and ranked No. 8 in the AP poll this week. The Cardinal hosts No. 17 UCLA (9-3) Friday in the Pac-12 championship game.
San Jose State is 10-2 and listed first among "others receiving votes" in the AP poll with 78 points. San Diego State, which scored the program's first road win against a ranked team at Boise State on Nov. 3, received 15 points. The Aztecs are 9-3 and have won seven in a row under Coach Rocky Long — and two of their losses were against San Jose State and Fresno State.
Fresno State is 9-3 and received 12 points in the AP poll, five more than USC.
Positive vibes swirl around five of California's favorites. Stanford Coach David Shaw is being mentioned for NFL jobs and UCLA's Jim Mora has come up in connection with openings at Arkansas and elsewhere.
San Jose State Coach Mike MacIntyre is a hot candidate who might parlay the Spartans' season into a more lucrative coaching position. First-year Coach Tim DeRuyter took over for Pat Hill and has exceeded all expectations at Fresno State, and San Diego State's Long has positioned the Aztecs nicely for next year's move to the Big East.
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Meanwhile, USC fell to 7-5 with Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.
Since the AP started preseason polls in 1950, only one No. 1 has finished with as many as five losses: Mississippi's 1964 team was 5-5-1.
USC must win its bowl game to avoid becoming the AP's first six-loss preseason No. 1.
The latest scuttlebutt at California's left-behind schools?
Cal must pay Tedford $6.9 million for the remainder of his contract; USC Athletic Director Pat Haden recently said he was "150%" committed to Coach Lane Kiffin's return.