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2010 Oregon Ducks Preview :: California Golden Bears

Part ten in a series on Oregon's 2010 season opponents

Part 1: New Mexico | Part 2: Tennessee | Part 3: Portland State | Part 4: Arizona State | Part 5: Stanford | Part 6: Washington State | Part 7: UCLA | Part 8: USC | Part 9: Washington

Time TBA :: November 13, 2010 :: California Memorial Stadium

Opponent California
Nickname Golden Bears
Location Berkeley, CA
Enrollment 35,843
Head Coach Jeff Tedford (67-35)
Stadium California Memorial Stadium (71,799) : MomentumTurf
2009 Record 8-5, (5-4 Pac 10)
Starters Returning 8 Offense : 6 Defense
Base Offense Pro Style
Base Defense 3-4
Blogs California Golden Blogs
Newspapers San Francisco Chronicle

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Shane Vereen :: 183 Rushes : 952 Yards : 12 TD
Passing Kevin Riley :: 209/382 : 2850 Yards : 18 TD : 10 INT
Receiving Marvin Jones :: 43 Receptions : 651 Yards : 6 TD
Tackles Mike Mohamed :: 112 Total
Sacks Cameron Jordan :: 6 sacks
Interceptions Mike Mohamed :: 3 INT

California is coming off a 2009 season that embodied everything we have come to expect out of Jeff Tedford's team. Enter the season highly ranked? Check. Win a pedestrian 7-8 games? Check. Great running back? Check. Questionable quarterback? Check. Middling defense? Check. All of those same factors, save the high preseason ranking, also look to come into play for the 2010 season.

2009 Offensive Statistics

Statistic California Oregon
Pass Offense 222.69 (53) 180.31 (98)
Rush Offense 169.46 (42) 231.69 (6)
Total Offense 392.15 (49) 412.00 (33)
Scoring Offense 29.08 (47) 36.08 (8)
Pass Efficiency 127.42 (64) 128.03 (59)
Sacks Allowed 2.38 (87) 1.00 (10)
3rd Down Conversion % 36.16 (86) 35.12 (95)
Yards/Play 5.5 (45) 6.0 (24)
Points/Play 0.385 (55) 0.522 (6)

Talk of the offense has to start with senior QB Kevin Riley. A look at his stats doesn't look too bad--almost 3000 yards, and an 18-10 TD/INT ratio. But Riley only completed 54% if his passes and, furthermore, was just brutal in Cal's five losses, completing only 46%. In four Pac-10 blowout losses, they never scored over 14 points. If Cal is going to be one of the top teams in the conference this season, Riley is going to have to get that completion percentage into the 60s and keep it there on a consistent basis. He can make all the throws, its a matter of making better decisions. If Riley struggles out of the gate, or has a brutal series of losses like Oregon/USC last year, we could see backups Beau Sweeney or Brock Mansion start to get some playing time.

Cal returns four of five offensive linemen, but the man that they have to replace is the all conference left tackle. This unit was fairly mediocre, allowing around two and a half sacks per game. However, they did open up holes for the run game. You would expect them to improve by virtue of returning four guys, but losing a great left tackle is going to be a tough position to replace.

Cal does grow running backs on trees, and Shane Vereen is a good one. He rushed for almost a thousand yards last season despite Jahvid Best getting the majority of the carries the first eight games. Isi Sofele will be the backup and while he's short on experience, we know that Cal grows running backs on trees. The receiving corps is deep and experienced, as four guys with at least twenty receptions return, including Marvin Jones, who is on the verge of breaking into a household name after a breakout year last season. They also add Keenan Allen, a 5* freshman who won the starting job immediately.

The offense has the weapons in place to be better than the middling unit that they were last year. But its all going to depend on Riley. If he can take a step forward and improve that completion percentage, Cal could be a top 30 offense. If he can do that, this team becomes scary. If not, Oregon can just sell out against the run like they did last season and force Riley to beat them.

2009 Defensive Statistics

Statistic California Oregon
Pass Defense 266.85 (111) 207.62 (44)
Rush Defense 112.0 (23) 128.69 (42)
Total Defense 378.85 (72) 336.31 (35)
Scoring Defense 25.46 (60) 23.77 (51)
Pass Efficiency Defense 137.58 (91) 112.30 (25)
Tackles for Loss 6.54 (30) 6.31 (40)
Opponent 3rd Down % 36.17 (33) 37.91 (51)
Turnover Margin 0.31 (36) +0.15 (51)
Yards/Play Allowed 5.5 (69) 4.4 (12)
Points/Play Allowed .0381 (61) 0.311 (28)

Their rankings appear to be all over the map, but the per play stats don't lie. Cal was a very average defense last season. And a very average defense that lost their best player in Tyson Alualu. This was a pretty good run defense last year, but the loss of Alualu will have a big effect on that. They do return Cameron Jordan on the defensive line, who had six sacks, as well as two year starter Derrick Hill, a big, 300 pound nose tackle. But someone, whether it be Trevor Guyton or Gabe King, is going to have to replace Alualu on the other end. I expect Cal's rushing defense to still be stout, but maybe not top 30 like last season.

They also replace two linebackers in the 3-4, though Mike Mohamed returns and he's one of the best in the conference. Add losing half their secondary, including Syd'Quan Thompson from a pass defense that already was abysmal, and I think the Cal defense is going to be well below average this season. They did hire Clancy Pendergrast, an NFL veteran to be the new DC, but they don't have the horses this year to be more than an average defense at best.

2009 Special Teams Statistics

Statistic California Oregon
Kick Returns 20.21(96) 24.91 (10)
Punt Returns 12.35 (24) 12.00 (27)
Kickoff Returns Against 21.49 (58) 20.85 (42)
Punt Returns Against 10.52 (83) 6.83 (T-36)

Cal returns two kickers who are battling for the starting job. Neither have been terribly consistent, either on field goals nor kickoffs. Combined, they were 24/32 on field goals, and had a rancid 4 touchbacks on 121 kickoffs last season. A winner in the competition has still not be declared. Punter Bryan Anger is a bright spot though. Averaging 43.1 ypp, he's arguably the best in the conference.

Final Analysis

I expect the defense to be subpar again, meaning that winning games is going to mean shootouts and relying on Kevin Riley's arm. While improvement is plausible, Riley has a long enough track record that I don't trust him at all. Oregon hasn't played well in Berkeley recently, but Cal should clearly be the inferior team this year. If Oregon can contain Vereen and force Riley to make some throws, I see Oregon winning this game.