Before kickoff between the Cal Golden Bears and the Oregon Ducks football team, the EDN Sports team gives their analysis and predictions.
Kickoff: Saturday, September 28th @ 7:30 p.m. PST
Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)
Spread: Oregon -36.5 (Vegas Insider)
Outside of 2009 and 2012, name one game between the Ducks and Bears over the last decade that Oregon wasn’t challenged in. You can’t. No team, aside from Stanford and USC, has given the Ducks as many fits as Cal has.
Oregon is 5-4 in the series since 2004, but four consecutive wins have slanted the series in the Ducks’ favor. However, Oregon may have its best team during this stretch and Cal its worst.
Everything about this game shouts blowout. Oregon has Cal beat at every position on the field and should run away with an easy win, but there’s something there that just doesn’t seem right. I’m not suggesting Cal will pull the upset, but like last year’s game don’t be surprised if it’s close for at least a half.
Oregon and Cal will exchange blows before Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and the lethal quack attack turn on the afterburners and turn a close game into a blowout in a hurry.
The Ducks’ running back by committee could reach career highs. This might be the game we see four 100 yard rushers. I’m looking at you, Mariota, DAT, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 66, Cal Golden Bears 13
Game MVP: De’Anthony Thomas
Quarterback Jared Goff is one of three Pac-12 quarterbacks in the top-five in passing yards in the nation and is number one in total offensive. Though Goff has had an impressive year so far, his numbers have been inflated by Cal’s pass-happy strategy. Still he deserves a lot of credit for keeping Cal competitive despite being torched on the other side of the ball.
To put it mildly, Cal’s defense is a work in progress. The Bears rank fifth to last in the FBS in points allowed and it will be nearly impossible for this unit to stop the Ducks number two-ranked offense.
However, this game will mark the first true test for Oregon’s pass defense. Cal prefers to spread the ball around the field rather than rely exclusively on one or two options. Consequently we will learn a lot about Ducks safeties and linebacker’s ability to cover slot receivers, tight ends and running backs.
But that isn’t to say that corners Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu won’t have their hands full on Saturday as well. Cal receivers Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs are both in the top-40 in receiving yards in the nation.
However, I think the Golden Bears offense will meet their maker this week. This Duck defense is too physical upfront and too fast and experienced out-wide to allow Goff and co. too march up and down the field.
In 2010 Cal stifled Oregon’s offense more than almost any team in recent memory, but they just don’t have the personnel this year.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 63, Cal Golden Bears 17
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota
Oregon gets back to business against a California Golden Bears team that has stumbled out of the gates in 2013 to the tune of a 1-2 start with losses to Ohio State and Northwestern and a win over FCS Portland State.
The Bears haven’t had much to celebrate on the season but they have a passing game fueled by freshman quarterback Jared Goff that is amassing 438 yards per game through the air -that’s good enough for second in the nation. The Ducks defense though is as underrated as ever and shouldn’t have a problem containing the Bears, though Cal’s ability to move the ball through the air means there’s a big difference between a 3rd and 10 and a 3rd and 5.
At the end of the day though the story remains very much the same. Oregon has too much offensive firepower for the Bears to stop. Cal has given up 33.7 points a game this year, which is closer to what the Ducks have been averaging in the first half.
Make no mistake, California will present the biggest test the Ducks have had this year simply because they have more of a familiarity with the Ducks frenetic offense, but Oregon should still roll.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 56, Cal Golden Bears 9
Game MVP: De’Anthony Thomas
Do you know how to make me cringe instantly? Just say the phrase “the Cal game.” In 2010, Jeff Tedford‘s Bears almost derailed the Ducks national title hopes. In 2011, they essentially broke LaMichael James and in 2012, they broke Kenjon Barner, Marcus Mariota and Avery Patterson in a five-minute period. In short, I have to go back to 2009 to see an Oregon win over Cal that didn’t make me question the laws of the universe.
So, just because Cal nearly lost to Portland State and got torched by Northwestern, I’m still not that confident that something weird’s not going to happen.
In this iteration, prepare for Jared Goff‘s and Byron Marshall’s numbers to be highly inflated. Last year, Cal tore a new one in Oregon’s depleted D-line to the tune of 134 yards for Isi Sofele. The senior back, joined by fellow senior C.J. Anderson and a pair of young guns, picked up 236 total Cal rushing yards, thanks to injuries to Isaac Remington, Dion Jordan and Wade Keliikipi. Inexplicably, the Bears went to the air, which gave Oregon an advantage.
This year, the D-line is the crown jewel of a tough Oregon defense, and so the already talented Goff will have to be ready to have the game on his shoulders. If Cal wants to stay close, they’ll have to score each time they touch the ball and facing a tenacious defensive line, Goff might actually need a career night to move the ball effectively.
On the other hand, Portland State’s success against Cal was all on the shoulders of DJ Adams. I can barely count on one hand the Oregon backs who are better than DJ Adams. So it should be a pretty good offensive first half; Cal will likely take to the air early and often and score most of their points before the halftime fog horn. Both teams will make some trademark “the Cal game” mistakes, and everyone will leave the stadium with a bitter taste in their mouth.
But Oregon will blow by Cal’s weak link — their own D-line — and literally run away with another game. The 2013 Ducks are too good at rushing and the 2013 Bears too bad at stopping the run for any other result.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 55, California Golden Bears 13
Game MVP: Byron Marshall