Game #8 : November 1 vs. Oregon (time and television TBA).
TwistNHook: This Oregon-USC-OSU block could easily be the 3 toughest weeks of the schedule. Oregon is the only game at home, so of the three, it's probably the one we need to win the most. Oregon just lost many key players from one of the greatest seasons of offensive production in its history (and that's saying a lot). Can they reload? Will they rebound? Which they restart? How they rebuild? When they something starting with the phrase re?
Yellow Fever: I'll be honest; I'm not sure why they're ranked so highly. They lost Dennis Dixon, they lost Jonathan Stewart, their wide receivers were all epically injured last year, and they have Patrick Chung back. Who exactly is playing on the team this year anyway?
HydroTech: I too am wondering why everyone is so high on Oregon. Everyone else must know something that we don't.
HydroTech: So I suppose the most interesting thing to discuss about Oregon is who is replacing Dennis Dixon? They have returning to the team: Justin Roper and Cody Kempt. Roper threw for a 52.5% completion percentage last year and a 6:2 TD:INT ratio in a few games. Kempt threw for 23.1% completion percentage (!!!) and a 0:2 TD:INT ratio. Who wins the battle here, I'm going to put my money on Roper.
But wait! There's more! Oregon also pulled 3 QB commits this last year. The first is Jeremiah Masoli from the local CCSF. He's listed as a dual-threat QB with 4.6 speed. The next is Darron Thomas, a 4 star recruit who is also a dual-threat QB. He has good size (6'4") and great speed (4.5). He turned down big time offers from the likes of Florida, LSU, and Miami to be the next Dennis Dixon. The 3rd Oregon QB commit is Chris Harper. Harper is another 4 star recruit who looks to probably compete for the starting QB job. He has good speed (4.5) and also has some weight to go with it (235 lbs).
Whoever wins the battle will have to show that they are capable of running the Oregon spread and show great proficiency at the zone read and ball concealment. I think the QB position in the Oregon offense is key to making it as deadly as it can so I think Oregon's success on offense will hinge on finding a worthy starter out of their stable of QBs.
ragnarok: Acutally, everyone's expecting Nate Costa, who was injured last year but is supposed to be the next Dennis Dixon or something, to win the starting job.
HydroTech: You're right. Amid figuring out who the Ducks had coming back who had played, and who they had coming in who hasn't played, I forgot who is coming back and hasn't played before.
Aside from the QB position, I think the OL is the next most important piece of their offense. Some might suggest it's the runningback, but I think the runningbacks are pretty much plug-n-play. As for the Oregon's OL, Oregon returns 3/5ths of their OL including stud at center Max Unger and LT Fenuki Tupou. Even though the two open spots won't be filled with full time starters, the projected replacements both have significant playing time experience (LG Jordan Holmes played in 8 games last year and RT Jacob Hucko played in 11 games). I think Oregon should have one of the top OLs in the Pac-10, even better than ours.
"Would you believe me if I told you this was a potential Oregon helmet? With any other team, you wouldn't! But with Oregon........" - Image via www.thebobbyco.com
As for defense, I do think Oregon has one of the better secondaries in the Pac-10 and perhaps in the western United States. They return both cornerbacks: Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd. Both recorded 103 and 65 tackles respectively; and 18 and 15 pass breakups respectively. Also returning is Patrick Chung who logged 117 tackles last year. Lucky for Patrick Chung, Marshawn Lynch is in the NFL now. Not so lucky for Patrick Chung, Chung is a senior and will play in the NFL next year and may face Marshawn Lynch again.
TwistNHook: Honestly, we have seen a lot of similarities between the opponents Cal is facing this year. QBs controversies. Brand new offensive co-ordinators.
Oregon is also similar to Cal, insomuch as it has a lot of Qs on offense. Replacing some historically great players on that side of the ball.
The reason why Oregon is ranked very high is the D. Similar to Cal, Oregon hopes that it's defense can help win early to give the offense time to learn its roles. And as much as I love the Cal D going into this season, the Oregon D appears to be almost more fearsome.
Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu on the DLine are a brutal combination of speed and power. Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd are generally maligned by Cal fans for a few plays here and there.
Like the play seen at the 37 second mark in this video:
Or, of course, this classic Marshawn stiff arm:
However, for all the merriment and jollyness here, Chung and Byrd are two of the finest defenders in the Pac10 this season. It's not 2006 or 2007 anymore.
The weakness is at LB where injury has sapped the experience of the players there.
Nonetheless, Oregon is hoping that its defense can help keep it in games while its offense gets its act together. And given the track record of Oregon (pun intended), you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. If there is anybody who knows how to make an offense go, it's Bellotti and Co.
I am just happy we get them at home this year.
HydroTech: Frankly, THA1 has made Byrd look fairly average the past two years. Nevertheless, Byrd is still a good cornerback and should play in the NFL.
TwistNHook: If we're going to write off every DB that Tha1 made look average, there wouldn't be too many DBs left out there. It's not 2006, it's not 2007, and Byrd could be a strong force on this D in 2008.
CBKWit: Maybe I'm bucking the trend a bit here in going with the MSM, but I think Oregon is the second best team in the Pac this year. They are not going to miss Stewart much. Johnson is a nice back, but to be completely effective, he needs a big, bruising counterpart, ala Stewart (the fact that Stewart can run a 4.3 forty doesn't hurt). Stewart is gone, so in steps LaGarrette Blount, the top JC back in the country. That is 230 pounds running a 4.5 forty. Ouch. Their defense looks pretty solid with a good D Line and secondary, though this touted secondary has looked pretty terrible against Nasty Nate the last couple years. Their O line is definitely in the top two (along with ours) in the Pac 10. That leaves the most important position for this spread read option team: the QB. Apparently Costa is a bit of a wunderkind, but their option offense is not easy to run. If he's up to it mentally and can make decisions quickly, they should be almost as good on offense. With a seemingly stronger defense, this looks like a scary team to me.
Yellow Fever: Of course, we all know how important a team's quarterback is, and I don't know how easy it will be for someone to step into Dennis Dixon's shoes this year. I mean, Dennis Dixon himself had trouble playing like Dennis Dixon 2007 until last year. If that makes sense. Man, there's gotta be a better way to write that.
But yeah. The team could be very scary. It's just that I'm still more scared of their uniforms than anything else.
ragnarok: I'm gonna have to side with CBKWit and Yellow Fever on this one. Oregon's got one of those programs where I don't think they get too worried about losing players to graduation or the NFL, as they've got a quite a stable of talented young guys waiting to step in. It's kinda like USC's program, except with 4-star recruits instead of 5-star ones. I also think Oregon will benefit from a second year running Chip Kelly's offense. No, Nate Costa (or Justin Roper, or whoever) won't run the spread as well as Dennis Dixon did, but even if the offense takes a step back this year, I still think they'll be good enough to claim second in the Pac-10.
CBKWit: Apparently Blount decided on Oregon because he liked their uniforms. Seems like a very a rational young man!
"Each one is uglier than the last." - Image via static.flickr.com
TwistNHook: I wonder why Oregon would recruit a blind person?
Anyway, this is not a game any reasonable Cal fan could take for granted. It should be hard fought. Weather in November could be rough. Real brutal match up. I predict Cal wins, 2-1. I'm just happy we get Oregon at home or that script might be flipped.
ragnarok: I'm certainly wary. This is a game I think Cal can win, but if pressed to predict a score right now, I say Oregon takes it in overtime, 42-41.
TwistNHook: Another close 1 point win predicted here by Ragnarok. But with a shitload more safeties!
CBKWit: 28-27 Cal. Earlier today I was thinking 31-28 Oregon, because they scored 24 points while turning it over 4 times last year. But I think our defense will be better this year, and if Dixon can turn it over twice, so can his inexperienced replacement. More importantly, the game's in Memorial. It may not be Autzen, the most difficult place to play in the country (Oregon's record over last 20 home games: 15-5; Cal? 16-4), but it will do.
Yellow Fever: 44-43.