This is a new test for the Golden Bears! Two weeks ago, Cal squared off against number four ranked Ohio State. I predicted a Cal upset, which never completely unfolded. The biggest shocker was the number of points the Buckeyes hung on the Bears defense; but the fact that Sonny Dykes was able to put together a solid game plan was impressive. Cal was able to survive Ohio state’s strongest punch; which occurred in the first six minutes of the game. In college football, that spells death, but with the pose of Jared Goff, the Bear Raid took flight, answering back with two touchdowns in the first quarter. Eventually Ohio State was able to wear down the defense and put up another 21 points in the third quarter. After it was all said and done, Cal was defeated 52-34.
Saturday’s game against the number two ranked Oregon Ducks is considered a pride game. Oregon has 16 returning starters, nine on offense and seven on defense. With Chip Kelly’s departure, the offense hasn’t missed a beat. The Ducks rank in the top five in scoring offense & defense, rushing offense and total offense. Oregon has scored 50+ points in the first three games, but, ironically, no team has made it four. The high powered offense is led by sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. Through three games, Mariota has 889 passing yards, 262 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He is not the only weapon, running back Johnny Mundt, tight end John Mackey, and running back De’Anthony Thomas are threats in the backfield and down the field. Oregon is a complete and fundamentally sound football team; which proves to be a tough assignment for any defense.
Despite the stats and hype behind Oregon, they do have a few wrenches in their gears. As I watched the University of Virginia and Tennessee take on the Ducks, I couldn’t help but notice the missed tackles and weak pursuit by Oregon’s defense. The Cavaliers and Volunteers were able to gain additional yards on poor defensive mechanics. Oregon’s weakest position, just like Cal, is the linebackers. With the injury bug and graduation depleting it’s core, under class men are getting the opportunity to play. Despite a rough start, the young kids are gaining experience and getting better. In order to pull off an upset, Cal needs to copycat Oregon’s game plan; score touchdowns and create turnovers.
The Golden Bears lead the all time series 39-34-2. The last time Cal has won in Eugene was 31-24 in 2007. The one stat that is commonly overlooked or ignored is that the Ducks only have three games worth of tape. Sonny Dykes’ offense is a polar opposite of what Oregon’s use to seeing from Cal. The Bears are a young team with something to prove; always a dangerous combination. The keys to the game are simple. Jared Goff needs to manage the game and limit mistakes. Also, he needs to take advantage of mismatches and personal change. I would like to see the read option and wildcat packages in short yardage situations. I anticipate Jackson Bouza and Richard Rodgers to have a big game because Oregon’s defense will focus primally on Bryce Treggs and Chris Harpor, arguable the best receiver duo in the nation. It’s also important to get Brandon Bigelow involved in the game. The Bear Raid needs to create space by putting him in motion, lining him up outside, and in the backfield. If the Golden Bear can keep the game close, unlike against Ohio State, they have a chance to sneak away with a win in Oregon.