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Cal has played UCLA on the football field every year since 1933, five years after the Bruins took up the sport. With USC, the annual rivalry has been uninterrupted for 95 consecutive years, dating back to 1925.

But it’s a near certainty Cal will not play both of its southern California rivals in the seven-game season that was announced Thursday by the Pac-12 Conference. And there is a chance the Bears won’t play either of them.

The season, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and not scheduled to kick off until Nov. 7, will look like no other the Bears have played over the past century. They won eight of 13 games they played in 2019, and have taken the field at least 10 times every fall since 1941, when they played just nine times.

The Pac-12 intends to release a schedule sometime early next week — and that schedule still is not finalized.

*** Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton addresses scheduling questions:

Each team will play the other five in its division, meaning Cal will have games against North rivals Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. All teams also will play one regular-season game against a cross-division opponent.

Then, on the weekend of Dec. 18-19, as the two division winners meet in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday, the remaining 10 teams will each face another cross-division foe.

Asked if the Bay Area and Los Angeles schools have assurances they will play their annual North-South rivalry games, Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton hedged before basically confirming there are no assurances.

“Obviously, we love the rivalry games against the other California schools,” Knowlton said. “But this is such a crazy year there’s nothing that is really normal.”

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Cal played USC at Memorial Stadium last season and was scheduled to face UCLA in Berkeley this fall. But fans won’t be permitted at games this season, anyway, so Cal would not be deprived of profitable gate receipts if it does not face the Bruins this year.

From a competitive standpoint, it may benefit Cal to face Colorado or Arizona, for instance, rather than USC, which is considered the best team in the Pac-12 South. But fans are accustomed to watching Cal play the Trojans and Bruins, and likely would miss those games -- even on TV.

Given the constraints of a seven-game schedule, Knowlton said it's difficult to create a scenario that makes that happen.

“As we work through options, a couple of the options I looked at with some of the things you’re talking about would have forced three other teams to have to play either away or at home against the same team three years in a row,” Knowlton said.

In other words, don’t count on it.

The Pac-12 athletic directors will meet Friday morning for two hours to begin sorting out football and basketball scheduling.

“Every decision you make has second- or third-order effects,” Knowlton said. “That’s really what we’re going to have to dig our teeth into tomorrow to finalize.”

Of course, there is one way the Bears can increase their chances of perhaps facing USC this season: Win the North and take on the Trojans in the Pac-12 title game.


Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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