It is rare for a college football team to play two away games in the same location in the same season. Yet if the Oregon Ducks beat the Cal Golden Bears on Friday night, they will increase their chances of doing just that.
That’s because the game between these two will be the first-ever college football game in the San Francisco 49ers‘ new home of Levi’s Stadium, the first of three scheduled for this season. The Stadium will also become the first neutral-site host of the Pac-12 title game, and is the new home of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, formerly played at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Three weeks ago, the Cal Bears looked like they might be the ones winning the Pac-12 North, while the Ducks were reeling. Three weeks ago, Cal’s only loss had come on a freak Hail Mary to the Arizona Wildcats, the same team that out-manned Oregon from start to finish on a Thursday night that was only the beginning of an upset-filled weekend of college football. Three weeks ago, both teams were 4-1. Since then, the Bears have not won, and the Ducks have not lost.
You could say that Cal has a chance to turn it around because the Bears should have beaten the team that Oregon lost to, but Cal’s two-straight losses have come against the same two teams the Ducks have beaten soundly. Following their loss, Oregon went and mauled the UCLA Bruins the exact same day the Bears only scored seven points against the Washington Huskies (after scoring at least 45 points in four-straight games, and at least 55 in three of four). Then, reversing the matchups a week later, Oregon ripped Washington for the 11th-straight time (the longest streak for either team in a series that goes back to before there were airplanes), and the Bruins beat Cal when the Bears threw a late interception instead of maneuvering for a potential game-winning field goal.
The Ducks and Bears already have four mutual opponents this season. Oregon is 3-1 in those games while the Bears are 1-3. In those four games, Cal has given up at least 31 points, while Oregon gave up a maximum of 31 points (it happened twice). If Oregon’s defense can be called suspect, then Cal’s defense needs to be tracked down using helicopters, searchlights and K-9 sniffer dogs.
What once seemed like a potentially winnable game for Cal now looks like the game that will put them on a three-game losing streak and drop them to .500 on the season. As much as the Bears have shown improvement (after going 1-11 last year, just putting on uniforms correctly could be considered a victory), they have a long way to go before they can hang with Oregon.
But as rare as it is for one team to play two away games in the same stadium in one season, it could happen to both of them. While Oregon could return for the Pac-12 title game, if Cal is bowl eligible, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl would certainly take a long look at a team within driving distance. But just three weeks ago, the Bears looked like the potential Northern Division champs and the Ducks could have been the Hunger Bowl participants. We’ll know an awful lot more about both teams and their chances to return to Levi’s Stadium after Friday night, and, of course, in three more weeks.