Last season Cal pushed Oregon to the brink. The Golden Bears held the high flying Ducks offense to a season low 317 yards and 15 points, missing a 29 yard field goal late that could’ve derailed Oregon’s march to a national championship. Is this year’s Cal team a threat to topple Oregon in Auzten tonight?
2010 was rock bottom for a normally excellent QB position in a Jeff Tedford offense. Nate Longshore was putting up modest numbers before going down to injury, and his replacements floundered in his stead. This year Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard has seized control of the offense and righted the ship, throwing for 1073 yards with 10 TDs to only 3 INTs in Cal’s first four games. Maynard rushed for 300 yards last year, and although it hasn’t shown up in box scores yet this season, he’s a highly mobile quarterback that Oregon will have to key on.
Who are Maynard’s favorite targets? The Ducks will need to account for two players; senior WR Marvin Jones and electrifying sophomore Keenan Allen. Both players are averaging over 16 yards per reception and Allen has yet to be stopped this year, hauling in 30 balls for just under 500 yards and 3 TDs. Outside of Jones and Allen no other WR on the Golden Bears roster has more than 6 catches or 85 yards receiving. At running back Bears junior Isi Sofele has already surpassed his carries total from last year, averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per tote.
On defense Cal has been middle of the pack, allowing around 24 points per game. However, their run D has been their strength, holding opponents to under 3 yards per carry and ranking top ten nationally by limiting their competition to under 80 ypg on the ground. While these are impressive numbers however you slice it, it should be noted that they haven’t faced a team that ranks in the top 50 in rushing this season. Oregon ranks 6th and boasts the nation’s top yards per carry average (7.44).
Last years Cal team struggled mightily on the road; their boffo performance against Oregon took place in the Golden Bears’ Memorial Stadium. Although it’s early, it seems like Cal’s problems on the road may have carried over from last season. In two home games this season Tedford’s team has won handily, but on the road it took overtime to squeak by an unimpressive Colorado team and last week they fell 31-23 to Washington. Auzten stadium is a whole different animal, as Oregon is in the midst of an 18 game home winning streak. Cal is currently committing over eight penalties per game, something that can’t happen if they have any hope of pulling off a shocker tonight.
For the Ducks, their offense has been rolling and breaking off explosive plays since being bottled up by LSU. Despite last year’s impressive performance by California’s D, most people expect the Ducks to continue their offensive dominance tonight. The other side of the ball is where question marks start popping up. Oregon hasn’t been able to get consistent backfield pressure or generate turnovers, something that needs to change sooner rather than later. While Maynard has impressed with his play this season, he has completion percentage (52%), INT’s in 3 of 4 games, and penchant for trying to make something out of nothing on broken plays. If the young defensive line can get in Maynard’s face, Boyett, Harris, and Mitchell should reap the benefits in the secondary.
Six of the last seven games between Oregon and Cal have been decided by 10 points or less, but I don’t see that trend continuing tonight. 41-23 Ducks.
Note: The uniforms pictured above are Oregon’s new “retro” look that they’ll be showing off tonight. The game is being televised nationally on ESPN. Check ’em out.