The Golden Bears were ranked No. 4 at the end of the regular season, its only loss having been No. 1USC by a 23–17 score. In that game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers set a school record for consecutive completed passes with 26 and tied an NCAA record with 23 consecutive passes completed in one game. He set a Cal single-game record for passing completion percentage of 85.3. Rodgers' performance set up the Golden Bears at first and goal with 1:47 remaining and a chance for the game-winning touchdown. On the first play of USC's goal-line stand, Rodgers threw an incomplete pass. This was followed by a second-down sack by Manuel Wright. After a timeout and Rodgers' incomplete pass on third down, USC stopped Cal's run play to win the game. Rodgers commented that it was "frustrating that we couldn't get the job done."
The team's statistical leaders included Aaron Rodgers with 2,566 passing yards, J. J. Arrington with 2,018 rushing yards, and Geoff McArthur with 862 receiving yards. Three California players received first-team honors on the 2004 College Football All-America Team: running back J. J. Arrington (AP, FWAA, TSN, SI, ESPN, CBS); offensive lineman Marvin Phillip (SI); and defensive lineman Ryan Riddle (TSN, SI).
After the season, Rodgers decided to forgo his senior season to enter the 2005 NFL Draft. He was drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers.