These are tough times in Berkeley. The Bears are 3-7 and everyone is wondering whether Jeff Tedford, the winningest coach in Cal Bears' history and the highest paid state employee, will survive the season. Not only has Cal lost some ugly games this year, they also lost their best player to injury at the end of a game whose outcome had already been determined. What was supposed to be an exciting year with a brand new stadium has turned into one of the team's worst under Tedford with no letup in sight. Cal cannot qualify for a bowl game and plays Oregon and Oregon State to end the season.
There is no reason to think that our defense won't absolutely slaughter Cal this weekend. The Bears are expected to be without starting QB Zach Maynard, are already missing star receiver Keenan Allen, and while there's a lot of depth and talent in the backfield, the rushing offense has been merely average this year. Add to that the troubles that Oregon has given to first-year QBs this season and it's not a very exciting time to be a Cal fan.
Of course, all Ducks fans will be anxious to see how the defense rebounds after giving up a ton of points and yards to USC last weekend. This should be a bounceback game in a big way, provided Oregon is focused on the task at hand and not looking towards Stanford next weekend. Outside of Allen, Cal doesn't have any receivers that can even be mentioned in the same breath as Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, and Nelson Agholor. Freshman Chris Harper is the closest thing they have to a number one receiver, but he doesn't possess the same elite athleticism and size as the aforementioned Trojan receivers. He also doesn't have Matt Barkley throwing to him.
Because of this, Oregon can play single coverage and focus on stopping the run from the get-go. If everything goes as expected for the Oregon offense, Cal will soon be pressed into throwing the ball a bunch to try and come from behind, which opens up windows for our opportunistic defense to garner sacks and turnovers.
The only way Cal has a chance in this game is if their defense plays other-worldly like they did two years ago, allowing the Bears to be patient on offense and not force throws to try and play catch-up. It's hard to see this happening though as this year's Cal defense is not as talented or experienced as the 2010 unit, which featured multiple NFL players.
Of course, we all know crazy things happen when we play Cal, especially in Memorial Stadium. Anything is possible and the players can't take this game for granted. After all, Cal did hang with Ohio State for four quarters on the road and also blasted UCLA at home. Oregon might also be without a couple key contributors on the defensive line in Dion Jordan and Ricky Heimuli. Still, if the Ducks stick to the game plan and focus on winning the day, the defense should dominate the Bears offense and wash away some of the bad taste that was left in our collective mouths after last weekend.