Cal (5-3) vs. Oregon (5-3) 10:30 pm
Since 2010, the Ducks are 5-0 against the Bears and have by an average margin of victory of 25.8 points per game. Last season, Oregon won on a neutral field 59-41 in San Francisco. In three consecutive losses to Utah, UCLA and USC- the Bears failed to score more than 24 points in each of those games.
After starting out fast winning their first five games, the Bears have struggled offensively in consecutive losses to Utah, UCLA and USC. The Bears are averaging 35.8 points per game and are passing for 337 yards per game with quarterback Jared Goff leading the way. Goff has a great arm that has excellent pocket awareness in locating his wide receivers. On the season, he is completing 66.3% of his passes for 2,537 yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Cal should look to attack the secondary of Oregon on Saturday night utilizing their up-tempo attack. Goff has played well overall on the road this season and has completed 108 of 177 passes (61% comp.) with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions against Texas, Washington, Utah and UCLA (2-2 in those road games). Running back Daniel Lasco returned from an injury and seems to be back to full strength which can be an added dimension for the Bears offense heading into this game against Oregon. Lasco has rushed for 242 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns and gives the offense a tough between the tackles runner that can move the chains along with catching the ball out of the backfield. Teammate Khalfani Muhammad leads the team in rushing with 459 yards averaging 7.9 yards per carry with one touchdown and is a great compliment to a rushing attack that is averaging 152 yards per game on the ground this year. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler is an explosive player that can stretch the Ducks secondary and can take the top off of the defense. Lawler leads the team with 42 receptions for 527 yards with 9 touchdowns and fellow wide out Trevor Davis is second on the team with 398 receiving yards on 21 receptions with 2 scores. In order to win this game, the Bears must put the pressure on Oregon by scoring first and forcing the Oregon offense into a shootout. Last season, Oregon jumped out early and was able to dictate tempo against the Bears which forced Goff to play from behind early on in the first half.
Defensively, the Bears are allowing 26.8 points per game and are yielding 163 rushing yards per game to their opponents. Cal must do a better job in run support on Saturday and force the Ducks offense to throw over the top of the defense. Cal cannot allow the Ducks to move the football in the running game and must put “eight in the box” to force quarterback Vernon Adams to beat them deep. Cal is allowing 254 passing yards per game and has done a solid job in creating quarterback sacks against opposing offensive lines. On the year, the unit has recorded 22 total sacks with defensive end Kyle Kragen leading the team with 5 sacks on the season. Turnovers will be critical for Cal to get the road upset and the team is +3 in turnover margin and must be able to help out their offense with field position. Defensive back Damariary Drew and linebacker Hardy Nickerson have had exceptional season thus far and lead the team with 52 total tackles each.
The Ducks have struggled with consistency all season long and are coming off an impressive 61-55 road victory in Tempe over Arizona State ten days ago. The Ducks are averaging 42 points per game and rely on a run heavy offense that is averaging 283 yards per game. Running back Royce Freeman will be a key factor for Oregon to get the victory on Saturday night, as he leads the team with 1,109 rushing yards averaging 6.7 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Oregon utilizes a lot of movement and misdirection which has success of loosing up opposing defenses. Quarterback Vernon Adams is the leader of the unit which is averaging 230 passing yards per game. Adams is completing 58.8% of his passes for 1,168 yards with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions this year. Adams is a dual threat player that has added 102 yards on the ground with one touchdown. Adams has struggled with consistency in the passing game and must be able to attack Cal with the deep ball on Saturday to take the pressure off of the offensive line and force the Bears from keying on the running game. Wide receiver Bralon Addison is having a solid season for the Ducks and leads the team with 37 receptions for 453 yards with 4 touchdowns. In order to get the home victory, the Ducks must be able to push tempo and wear down the Bears front seven. Over the past few weeks, Cal has struggled with bigger offensive lines that have been able to wear them down. Oregon can have great success running the football if they attack the Bears vertically early on in the game which will open up running lanes for Freeman as the game progresses.
Defensively, the Ducks have struggled in pass coverage and will be challenged on Saturday night by Goff. The unit is allowing 318 passing yards per game and is yielding 38.4 points per game. Oregon has been able to make defensive stops in critical times this season and will need to step up to force turnovers against the Bears. Oregon must be able to pressure Goff and force him into short to intermediate passes underneath coverage. They cannot afford to give up big plays in the passing game and must force Cal into slowly working down the field methodically to take them out of their rhythm. On the year, the unit has recorded 26 total sacks with defensive lineman DeForest Buckner leading the team with 6 total sacks. Linebacker Joe Walker is having a physical player that is very good in run support. On the year, Walker leads the team with 55 total tackles. Oregon is +4 in turnover margin on the year.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: