Cal has been idle since a 31-23 loss to Washington two weeks ago, the first setback of the season for the Golden Bears. They are 3-1 overall and have scored more than 30 points in all four of their outings.
"In tight games against good opponents in conference you have to come up with more touchdowns than field goals. We didn't today," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford after the loss to Washington.
As for Oregon, it dropped a 40-27 decision to now top-ranked LSU to open the season, and it is almost as if everyone has forgotten about the Ducks since then. All the team has done since that setback is win three straight, scoring no fewer than 56 points in any of them. Chip Kelly's club was also idle last weekend, and the most recent tilt for the club was a 56-31 win over Arizona on the road.
"We're starting to find our rhythm," said Kelly after that victory.
California owns a 39-32-2 series lead over Oregon in the all-time series between the teams, but the Ducks have won the last two matchups. Eight of the last 11 games between the two schools have been decided by 10 or fewer points, and Oregon is 8-1 against the Bears at Autzen Stadium since 1989.
After scoring 20 points in the first half against Washington last time out, Cal was limited to three points over the final 30 minutes. The Golden Bears were able to roll up 457 total yards and 24 touchdowns, but that production simply wasn't enough to avoid defeat. Zach Maynard threw for 349 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, while Keenan Allen exploded for 197 yards and a score on 10 catches. As for the ground attack, Cal got 98 yards from Isi Sofele.
"We're a very confident team, and we are going to bounce back," said wide receiver Marvin Jones immediately after the setback.
The Cal defense yielded four touchdowns to the Huskies, including three through the air. Washington posted 292 passing yards, connecting on 19-of-25 throws without an interception. There were plenty of big plays surrendered by the Golden Bears, who yielded 15.4 yards per completion.
Overall this season, the Golden Bears are generating 39.5 ppg and 456.2 total ypg, impressive numbers to say the least. They have allowed only six sacks while posting 13 of their own. Opponents are managing 24.2 ppg and 314.2 total ypg against Cal, which has committed just four turnovers in four games.
Maynard has completed a modest 52.2 percent of his passes to date, but the connections have resulted in 1,073 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Allen has already posted 30 catches for 498 yards and is on pace for a monster season. As for Sofele, he has run for 380 yards and four scores.
Cal figures to need big games out of all of its offensive weapons to keep pace with Oregon, one of the most explosive teams in all of college football. The Ducks are averaging an eye-popping 52.0 ppg and 533.8 total ypg. They are unstoppable running the football, gashing foes for 299.5 ypg at a clip of 7.4 ypc. LaMichael James may very well be the nation's best tailback, and he has run for 613 yards and seven scores through four outings. Helping to keep defenses honest is quarterback Darron Thomas, who has connected on 61.1 percent of his passes for 842 yards and 12 touchdowns against only one interception.
The Oregon offense garners the vast majority of the team's headlines, overshadowing a defense that has been solid since the ugly loss to LSU. Overall, the Ducks are permitting 24.5 ppg and 389.5 total ypg, and the team is now yielding only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, impressive considering how they were pushed around by the now-top-ranked Tigers in the opener. Only four takeaways have been notched thus far by Oregon, so there is certainly room for improvement in that area.
Against Arizona, Oregon amassed 516 total yards, thanks in large part to a record-setting performance by James. The speedster ran for a school-record 288 yards and has now scored more rushing touchdowns than any player in UO history after notching two against the Wildcats.
"I was just really thinking about the win," said James. "Individual records don't mean anything. It takes a team to get those records, and the offensive line did a great job, so I feel like those guys should share the record with me, too."
The Oregon defense struggled against the passing attack of Arizona, as the Wildcats' signal caller was able to complete 34-of-57 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns. To their credit, the Ducks did come up with five sacks.