As has been custom this season, the California Golden Bears gave up an easy touchdown to their opponents in the first quarter yesterday. This time, it was Washington scoring, but it was a familiar procession. The Huskies handed it to Dwayne Washington five straight times and he took it all the way to the end zone, 71 yards away, in big, easy chunks. The Bears started off their last two by gifting scores to San Diego State and Texas. It’s something that their lackluster defense has made an unfortunate habit of. And just like those last two games, they’d eventually win.

Cal is now 4-0 for the first time since 2007. They are the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 North, and will most likely be ranked come Monday morning for the first time in five years. Jared Goff has broken all of Aaron Rodgers’ college records and will most likely be the first quarterback picked in next year’s NFL Draft. The word Heisman is appearing in headlines here and there. Goff leads a spread-out, pass-heavy offense that is averaging almost 46 points per game and has a habit of going for it on fourth-and-mediums from inside field goal range. They about as fun to watch as any team in college football.

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Which was also true two years ago, when they went 1-11, the lone W coming over Portland State. Last season, they improved to 5-7 and they also rounded into a fantastic and (for those in Berkeley) terrifying team to watch. Narrow losses to USC and UCLA gave way to beatdowns by Washington and Stanford. The Bears followed up a 2OT 59-56 shootout with Colorado with a 60-59 escape job against Washington State. They saw their desert upset bit smashed to shit when Arizona won on this Hail Mary.

Those games were all more or less the same. Goff passes for somewhere north of 300 yards, Bears find creative way to waste that. But thus far in 2015, they look like they’re worth watching as much for their late-game capitulations and heroics as they are for their relevance as a Pac-12 contender. This is big for a program equally known for tree-bound protestors and NFL stars.

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The Bears traveled to Texas last week (about as close as you can get to an out-of-conference arch-rival, on account of the brazen politicking that Mack Brown did to get Texas into the Rose Bowl over Cal in 2004, despite the Longhorns having no right to be there) and did that usual thing they do where they won 45-44, this time thanks to a missed extra point at the death. Wins in Austin and Seattle are great for a once-struggling program that always seems to have trouble aligning itself with the lofty academic standards of its host institution, but the real proving ground will be next month.

After homecoming against Washington State, they face a murderers row of Utah, UCLA, USC, and Oregon. Only one of those will be at home. Cal won’t be favored in any of them and they could very well be 5-5 by early November. The last time any Bear sniffed the Heisman conversation, Jahvid Best nearly died on the field (see above). But this hot start means there are stakes to a Cal season for the first time in a while. They could make a bowl game, or get their quarterback selected #1 overall, and it’ll be damn fun watching them try.

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Contact the author at patrick@deadspin.com or @patrickredford.