TwistNHook: Every game the last few years in Autzen has been tight.
2007-Last second miracle touchback
2005-Last second missed regulation field goal leads to terrible OT
2003-Blackout gives Oregon momentum in 4th quarter
Cal is 1-2 in those games and could just as easily be 0-3 or 3-0. Odd things always seem to happen up there. Given that USC will be the next weekend at home, some Cal players might be peeking ahead. Who knows?
Avinash: How do people think Chip Kelly will fare as the new leading man at Oregon? He seemed rather quippy during Media Day.
There's no doubt he is an offensive master of the spread offense, especially the spread run, and you'd figure that their excellence will continue into this season. But as we've seen before, being both head coach and offensive coordinator can easily bog you down once you hit a rut (Tedford 2007 anyone?). Will he be able to handle both duties at once?
Do you feel that Oregon will be a better team?
TwistNHook: If I were an Oregon fan, my biggest concern would be about the O-Line. Don't they have large amounts of inexperience there?
"Oregon's no huddle-spread offense forces their offensive linemen to run much more than traditional units. Oregon not only relies on an exceptional conditioning program, but also uses frequent substitutions to keep their linemen fresh.
Last year the Ducks rotated nine players in and out of the lineup. While the one constant on the field, Max Unger, is now playing up I-5 for the Seahawks, the Ducks do return four players with significant game experience"
HydroTech: Doesn't sound like their OL will be as green as we thought. I'm concerned about LeGarette Blount, their runningback. This guy is apparently a first round draft pick in the waiting. He's 240 pounds! Almost as big as former Wisconsin runningback and Heisman winner Ron Dayne (250 pounds). I'm hoping Blount's career is the opposite of Dayne's - sucky in college and good in the NFL. This guy, along with Oregon's athletic offensive line, will definitely give Cal's defense a HUGE test. Frankly, just thinking about playing in Autzen and having to deal with Blount makes me feel like we're going to lose and I haven't even mentioned Masoli. So about Jeremiah Masoli. That guy can run and is another threat for the defense. His passing could use some work. He puts up some pretty inconsistent games. Last year he had a game where he threw only 33.3% completions, and another game where he threw 80.8% completions. Overall, he's about 57% passer which leaves a lot to desire stastically.
So, just thinking about Blount, Masoli, their OL, and their home field advantage makes me think this is going to be the second toughest team Cal will face in 2009. I would put this game at perhaps a coin-flip for who wins or perhaps a 60/40 in favor of Oregon.
Ragnarok: In spite of that fearsome rushing attack, I would argue that the key to the Ducks' fortunes vs. Cal lies with Masoli's arm. Let's run some numbers:
Last year, Cal's defense gave up more than 125 yards total rushing five times. They lost four of those games (accounting for all four of their losses), but only gave up more than 200 yards on the ground once, yielding 206 yards on the ground to Oregon in a 26-16 victory. Deplorable field conditions and inopportune turnovers aside, I believe that the Ducks' biggest weakness was their inability to pass the ball when they needed to.
Oregon's option offense hummed along just nicely on the ground, chewing up big chunks of yardage on first and second downs, but when the Ducks *had* to pass, especially on third down, they were abysmal. Discounting Oregon's final, desperate drive (under 2 minutes left, down 2 scores), the Ducks faced 14 3rd downs that day. How'd they do? When they dropped back to pass, they were 0/6, getting sacked once for -3 yards and throwing one interception. That...is pathetic. (They weren't much better rushing. Yes, they converted 3 of 7 times, but only once longer than 3 yards, and they gained a total of 16 yards on 3rd down. Total.)
That final drive? Masoli didn't even play. Although I don't *know* why he was benched, I feel confident in guessing that Justin Roper (who has since transferred) came in because Oregon *had* to pass, and Masoli just didn't provide enough of a downfield threat. If Masoli learns to throw, then I'll be really worried, but as it is, I don't see the Ducks getting through their schedule with fewer than three losses.
TwistNHook: Well, I agree that Masoli being able to throw is key. But I guess I'm higher on him that you are. Did you see him in the Civil War? He was killing it out there. I even said right before that game that Masoli would be key. And when he was killing it out there, the double pronged attack was murderous.
In many ways, this Oregon offense is similar to ours. Great rushing attack with a suspect passing attack. And if the passing attack CAN step it up and become consistent and productive, then they could have something special. That said, I like our talent almost across the board. This is not to denigrate the Oregon talent, including Blount Force Trauma (even though he had something like 5 rushes for 7 yards against us last year). But instead just to look positively upon our talent.
Avinash: I'm not sure even how to count last year's game. They were playing in the mud. Neither Longshore nor Masoli could do much damage when they couldn't see two feet in front of them.
Also, even though the Bears have won four of the last five from Oregon, three of those wins have been incredibly fluky. Two involved the Ducks committing a hundred turnovers in the red zone, the other involved that receiver catching a ball near the end zone that would've set up a game winning field goal, and then casually letting it drop to the ground. Rose Bowl 2004 hopes would've ended that day.
We talk about the Bears failing to execute offensively, but do you guys feel the Ducks have a similar execution problem when they're expected to succeed with their offense?
Avinash: *bold that last question, Twist.
TwistNHook: DON'T TELL WHAT I SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT BOLD!
Why you always bolding so much stuff? Regular font not good enough for you? Why you gotta hat?
Is Jairus Byrd still around? That guy has been around forever. It's like every year they have tons of hype around the secondary and we still pass well against them. If CBKWit wasn't enjoying his relaxing tour of downtown Pyongyang of indeterminate length (somebody call Big Daddy Clinton!), I'm sure he'd agree with my assessment. Those Oregon DBs always seemed to be overhyped.
Ragnarok: I'm not sure what game you were watching, Avi, but there was no mud (Memorial Stadium has turf), and visibility was fine (it was just a little wet, that's all - it's still good, it's still good!).
TwistNHook: Also, I thought Longshore passed the ball decently well, given all the conditions.
Avinash: It was hyperbole! Hyperbole, damnit!
Ragnarok: I guess you just weren't ridiculous enough. Perhaps you could take hyperbole lessons from rollonubears?
TwistNHook: Here is the box score from last year's game.
Longshore went 13 for 27 for 136 yards with an average of 5 yards per reception. In a vacuum, those are not great numbers. When you look at the other side (where the Oregon QBs were averaging 2.1 and 3.6 yards per reception) and given the weather, I thought that that was not halfway bad. Riley actually played better, but was knocked out fairly early in the game.
I am concerned about the fact that Oregon had murderized our QB the last 2 years. If that happens again this year and Sweeney is starting against USC, it could be a LONG game slash season slash off-season slash rest of our lives.
I do agree that if there is any Pac-10 defense that will slow down, even stifle Best this season, it will be Oregon. Their back seven is one of the fastest in the country, and they can definitely make sure Best doesn't find the holes.
TwistNHook: This story angers me greatly:
EUGENE — Receiver Diante Jackson was one happy camper Friday as the Oregon football team kicked off practices.
Jackson was cleared for academic entry into Oregon, after taking a sociology class and finishing a history class this summer. The NCAA Clearinghouse, which rules on eligibility for players, approved him Thursday.
Damn you, Diante! Why must you succeed and be happy for the other people???????
Of course, the biggest question is new coach Chip Kelly. And everybody is focusing on the offense. But what of the D? How is it going to look?
"[Last year] Oregon finished seventh in scoring defense (28 points), eighth in total defense (390 yards) and last in pass defense (270 yards). The loss of defensive end Nick Reed and rover Patrick Chung, both consummate leaders, made this season's rebuilding job that much tougher.
So the Ducks tweaked their philosophy. Like many teams, they sought to add a little speed to the edges, and the results this spring were encouraging.
Kelly's first move was to bring in feisty defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who inherits a line of senior Will Tukuafu and question marks at the three other spots. Brandon Bair, 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, figures to start at one tackle along with either Blake Ferras or Simi Toeaina. Pass rusher Kenny Rowe or stockier Terrell Turner will start at the other end.
The Ducks haven't ruled out the athletic Josh Kaddu at end as they try to add speed wherever possible and stand up one or two defensive ends to help cover the field. That leaves the middle more open, putting pressure on the steadily improving Casey Matthews at middle linebacker. At his side will be the undersized but fast Eddie Pleasant and Spencer Paysinger, who was second on the team with 95 tackles last season.
Newcomer Bryson Littlejohn was perhaps the biggest eye-opener on defense this spring, showing an eagerness to hit.
Behind them, the secondary is again a strength -- although Oregon ranked last in the league in pass defense in 2008. Hard-hitting T.J. Ward is back at safety, along with Thurmond, who was the team's best player in the spring.
Willie Glasper and Kenjon Barner will battle for the other corner, and Chung's replacement at rover will be either the athletic Talmadge Jackson or the physical Marvin Johnson -- improving juniors with complementary skills."
To me, that bodes fairly well. There is a lot of turn over. On a D that wasn't very good. A lot of camp battles for spots. Maybe some of these guys will take that next step and I'll be eating crow. But reading that leaves me feeling fairly confident (even though I think there's a good chance we lose this game).
Avinash: The last five years we've played them, I have never uttered the phrase, "Oh shit, we have to face the Oregon defense".
HydroTech: I think the key is to slow down and stop Oregon's offense. Oregon's offense is so high octane and fast, that it can quickly build up a multiple touchdown lead forcing the opposing team to play "catch-up." In other words, the Oregon offense will put their team ahead enough to the point where the opponent has to start playing risky and getting aggressive to reduce that score differential before there is too little time left in the game. I think Oregon's offenses have been really carrying the team and it's the offense, not the defense, that the Cal Football team needs to really stop.
TwistNHook: How do you guys see this one ending up? I really don't know. I feel like Cal has more talent on paper, but Oregon has such a strong home field advantage. It will be close, no matter how you cut it. I think Cal wins 4-2.
Avinash: I think Oski could put the Duck in a headlock and suplex him.
Yellow Fever: 5-4. I feel a last-second safety deciding this one.
TwistNHook: I see Cal fumbling right at Oregon's 1 yard line down 4-3. Then, Oregon takes over and we get the safety FOR THE WIN!
HydroTech: I'm really hesitant to do too much predicting of how our team will perform when we have such huge questions about our passing game. If our passing game sucks, we could lose big time. If our passing game is decent, we can win a close one. If our passing game is great, then we can crush the life out of them. I could see this being a 20 point loss, I could see a 3 point win, and I could also see a 21 point win. To me, it just all depends on how well our passing game is, and that's something we won't know until the season starts.