Oregon football at California: How to watch; what to watch for
The Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12 try to remain the only unbeaten in Pac-12 games when they visit the Golden Bears (3-4, 1-3). It's the annual reunion with the former Oregon standouts coaching at California. Before Oregon hired Dan Lanning, Cal coach Justin Wilcox (Ducks safety, 1996-99) was reportedly one of Oregon's choices to replace Mario Cristobal. But the Junction City native turned down the job to remain in Berkeley. His staff includes offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave (Ducks starting QB 1987-90) and defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon (Ducks LB, 1996-99).
HOW TO WATCH
When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29
Where: FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium (63,000).
Radio: AM 1080.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Games at Cal often have turned into tougher contests than expected for Ducks teams. This shouldn't be one of those times, but you never know in college football.
The Golden Bears, a defense-driven team under former Oregon safety Justin Wilcox, have a subpar pass defense this season. They also have a shaky offensive line because of injuries, and quarterback Jack Plummer (no relation to Jake) was hobbled by a foot injury in last week's 28-21 home loss to Washington.
The Cal defense coached by former Oregon linebacker Peter Sirmon did keep the Bears in last week's game against the Huskies into the fourth quarter — no small feat against Washington's high-scoring offense. If the Ducks come out flat, don't be surprised if the Bears hang around. But, that's just it. If Oregon is indeed a top-10 team and determined to climb back into the College Football Playoff discussion, then this is a game it needs to handle by a comfortable margin.
We like what we've seen from Dan Lanning and his staff in terms of the aggressive mindset that the Ducks are playing with. The game management decisions have been solid, if not better than solid. Now we find out if the young staff can have the team on point coming off an emotional and intense game against UCLA. It should not be a tough sell, and with the veteran leaders — particularly quarterback Bo Nix and the offensive line led by West Linn's Alex Forsyth — the Ducks should realize that there's no margin for error if they want to make the Pac-12 title game. Without divisions, the Ducks must stay on schedule to finish in the top two in the conference. With tougher games (Washington, Utah, at Oregon State), the last thing Oregon needs is an unexpected loss.
A reminder of what the Cal defense is up against: Oregon ranks fifth in the country in total offense at 517.1 yards per game and eighth in the country at 7.06 yards per play. Nix is completing 71.5% of his passes, fifth best in FBS. Oregon's 244.6 rushing yards per game is fifth best in the country and its 6.14 yards per running play ranks second in the country.
Musgrave's Cal offense is averaging 23.3 points and 370.6 yards per game (119 rushing, 252 passing). Their offensive weapon to watch is freshman Jaydn Ott, who leads the team in rushing (88.29 yards per game) and has caught 21 passes, including a pair of touchdowns.
Cal is a plus-9 in turnover margin, having lost only one fumble. Plummer has thrown only three interceptions and the Bears have picked off opposing QBs eight times. Oregon has not lost a fumble but is only plus-4 in turnover margin.
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