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Coach Dennis Erickson, never a false optimist, has been pleased with the offense's practice sessions the last week.

California is the surprise team in the league this season, and ex-Duck offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is the leader for Pac-10 Coach of the Year. The Bears could be 7-1, too, having suffered two-point losses to Southern Cal and Air Force. They score points and make big plays defensively, and their special teams are a major plus.

The OSU defense will be up to the challenge, but I'm not convinced the offense has burned the carbons from the sputtering that has gone on since the Pac-10 schedule began. Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano must get creative and find a way to get the ball in the hands of Steven Jackson and James Newson more often.

This one is going down to the wire, and the Bears are the ones with the hot hand right now.

The pick: California 20, Oregon State 17.