Fans love sports for the Rudy stories and “Hoosiers”-style tales of underdogs that could, but this isn’t one of those stories. Cal is young team with a first-year quarterback and a beat-up defense, thin in the secondary with two defensive ends out for the year. Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense will shred them.
Offensively, the visiting Bears will try to raid the picnic basket with a chuck-and-duck-the-Ducks aerial attack, but that plays right into Oregon’s strengths. Cal, 1-2 after losses to Northwestern and Ohio State, sandwiched around a 37-30, come-from-behind win over Portland State, gives up 4 sacks a game. The Ducks have a deep and experienced defensive line. Sonny Dykes has his true freshman quarterback throwing 53 times a game. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Terrance Mitchell, Brian Jackson, Avery Patterson, and Erick Dargan relish the challenge. Bear quarterback Jared Goff has thrown 7 touchdowns, but he’s also thrown four picks. Northwestern returned two of those for touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see if the Oregon offense operates at max tempo and with precise execution after a bye week. Against Tennessee of the SEC, the Ducks scored touchdowns on eight straight possessions after a stumbling start. Oregon’s defense has been stingy and effective, among the national leaders allowing 9.0 points per game, but their early overmatched opponents did have some success throwing underneath, something the Bears do very well. Expect the Ducks to recognize the formations and swarm to the football. Goff will be harrassed, uncomfortable, and pressed into mistakes. Set the over/under at three interceptions, with at least one returned to the house.
There’s one X factor: the weather forecast calls for 55 degrees and showers, maybe even heavy showers at times, with the added threat of blustery winds, and the Ducks worst production of the last two years came against Stanford last season when they faced a relentless defense and miserable conditions for fast-paced football.
Yet it was wet and cold in Berkeley a week earlier, and Marcus Mariota threw for six touchdowns. That’s even more likely now that Clancy Pendergast has become a Trojan warrior. Oregon 64, Cal 10.
Please leave your prediction in the comment section. The most accurate prediction, both for game score and the details of the contest, wins a Duck Stops Here tee shirt. Decision of the judges is final and biased toward humor and veiled Dexter reboot references.