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First Thoughts on the Cal Game

Lets reverse the norm and start out with the Cal defense.  Cal gives up 24.5 ppg defensively.  This, in spite of the fact that three of the teams they've played (La. Tech, Colo. St., and Arizona) are among the worst teams in the nation (conversely, Oregon, for all their defensive problems, give up 21 a game).  Cal lost three all league defenders from the crew that shut down the Ducks last year.  Their secondary has been torched this year.  Oh, and they were somehow able to hold the Ducks to 75 yards rushing in last year's contest.  There is no way in hell that is happening again.  Both teams have a very good +7 turnover ratio.  But while the Ducks' defense has had its moments of looking good (see FSU, 2nd half of Michigan and Stanford games), Cal's defense has allowed teams like Colo. St. and Arizona to stay uncomfortably close.  Other than Stanford, this may be one of the worst defenses we see all year.

Offensively, we have to worry about Cal's good running game, namely Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best.  But Cal's defense is so bad, are they going to beat us running the football?  Because, in spite of our defensive woes, no team has come within three touchdowns of us.  And Cal's passing game, which features an injured primary receiver and an immobile and inconsistent quarterback (Nate Longshore), is exactly the type that this team should be able to shut down.  So, worst case scenario is that Cal tries to shove the run down our throat.  Can Justin Forsett beat us by himself?  Although in spite of Jackson's injury, I still wouldn't punt the ball anywhere near him.

The simple truth is that Oregon has more playmakers than Cal does.  Oregon has a dual threat QB.  Oregon has the bigger, taller, faster receivers.  Oregon has more depth at running back.  And while the run defense leaves some to be desired, at least Oregon can stop the pass.  Cal can't stop a whole lot of anything.

Finally, the game is at Autzen.  For all the accolades Jeff Tedford has gotten, he's 0-2 at Autzen.  He's a good but not great 17-11 on the road.  In fact, Cal hasn't won here in 20 years.  And with this being the first weekend with students on campus, GameDay being here, etc., Autzen will be at its finest.  No doubt that will play a role.  The revenge factor can't hurt, either.

Cal is a good team.  We all saw what they did to Tennessee, and they will win no fewer than nine games this year.  However, the more I think about this game, the better I feel about it.  This team will not lose focus in such a big game.  And they have the advantage at almost every position.  Not only do I think Oregon will win this game, but I'm not even sure that it will be all that close.  I think that two touchdowns is a reasonable margin to expect.

I know that I've cautioned about getting too cocky too early.  But this is a great matchup for us, and its in our house.  I am really starting to feel good about this team.