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CGB Pre-Season: Oregon Roundtable

TwistNHook: Bad boys! Bad boys! Whatcha want! Whatcha gonna do! Tell me what you gonna do!

After Washington State on the road, this will be a tough home battle. Fortunately, it is a home battle. Cal has not lost at home against Oregon in years. Certainly Oregon is a team in flux with a brand new starting QB and a lot of pressure to recreate their success last year. This is definitely going to be a difficult game, though.

yellow fever: Did you know LaMichael James has a speed rating of 97 in NCAA 10? 97! Vereen is only a 93? Something went severely wrong here.

TwistNHook: Perhaps Vereen should change his name to LeShane?

Berkelium97: By this time in the season, Nate Costa ought to be fairly adept at running the Oregon offense. Whether he can run it as efficiently as Dennis Dixon or Jeremiah Masoli remains to be seen. Both Masoli and Dixon had their fair share of issues during their first years as starting QB. Let's hope Costa has similar struggles. He was thoroughly unimpressive as starter against UCLA last year and he relied heavily on LaMichael James to propel the offense. How quickly he masters the offense should play a big role in Oregon's success this year. Thankfully for Cal fans, he won't be able to pass to TE Ed Dixon who is now in the NFL.

Kodiak: It seems like we've had an intensified rivalry with the Ducks ever since Tedford came over. I don't know if it was the whole Obi-Wan/Vader tension between Tedford and Bellotti, the overlap in recruiting targets, or the fact that both schools are known for their love of the halfling's leaf. The advantage has swung back and forth over the years. Unfortunately, the needle is pointing their way this year.

Even with the loss of Masoli, they have two talented QB's and Chip Kelley's scheme is just a pain to defend. Before a series of injuries, Costa had originally beat out Masoli for the starter's job. He may not be in the same league as a running threat, but he knows the offense and is a more consistent aerial threat. Thomas doesn't have the same level of experience, but is touted as Vince Young 2.0. Whoever wins the starting job doesn't have to carry the team because of the emergence of LaMike and Barner as a 1-2 punch at RB that rivals the Best-Vereen duo. Their Bear-killing TE has taken his act to the league, thank goodness. But they have plenty of playmakers at WR

The real difference last year was the emergence of the Duck defense. After years of being on the hotseat, Allioti re-invented himself last year and did an incredible job putting together a fast, aggressive defense. What's even more impressive and scary is that he did it with a predominance of young players. They return almost the entire defense which features pass-rushing threat Rowe, standout LB's Paysinger and Matthews, and a ball-hawking secondary. They were able to completely stymy our running game with their front 7 last year, and spent most of the game just teeing off on Riley. Although the Duck coaches claim it's a still a 4-3, some of their fans have noticed a lot of hybrid 3-4 looks.

TwistNHook: Are we sure 100% it is going to be Costa?

It was a so-so day for the two quarterbacks vying for the starting job.

Sophomore Darron Thomas took the first snap of the day with the No. 1 offense, and senior Nate Costa ended the day with the ones in the same drill. In between, each showed flashes, as Chip Kelly often says, but they were far from perfect. All to be expected during Day 2 of fall camp.

The Ducks were in helmets and shorts for the second straight day, and because of that Kelly said he’s not putting a lot of stock in the execution of his quarterbacks (or any position) this early.

"There’s not a lot of evaluation going on the first few days because we don’t have pads on," Kelly said. " ... A guy may throw a pick, but when you look at the film, the receiver ran the wrong route. Is that the quarterback’s fault? Is there a protection breakdown? They look like they did some decent things out there (today), but other times it looked like they made some mistakes."

Thomas and Costa again split reps equally. After slow starts, they both made a couple nice long completions toward the end of practice, and Thomas had a strong run up the middle in one of the final 11-on-11 drills.

It looks like Darron Thomas is right in the thick of things here. As Cal saw in 2008, sometimes having 2 QBs means you have 0. Fingers crossed!

Kodiak: There's plenty of good reasons why the Ducks are picked as the pre-season champs. They return game-breaking threats in all phases. For all the nitpicking of his off-field coaching, Chip Kelley has shown genius with his offensive scheme and a knack for rallying his team. This one could be really, really ugly for us. Although they have a question at QB, by the time we see them, that should be resolved. Last year, the three games where Oregon looked bad were vs. Boise, 'furd, and Ohio St. In each game, the defense focused on shutting down the run and dared Masoli to beat them through the air. It's actually very similar to the approach we took - unfortunately, our pass defense was woefully bad and Masoli got hot. If it's Costa at QB, you probably need to focus on stopping the RB's, but respect the QB more as a passer. If it's Thomas, I'd sell-out against their option ground game and take your chances that he's too raw to beat you with his arm.

We may still be a year away from having the experience and talent on D to slow down their attack. I'd like to think that our offense will have a more respectable showing than last year's D.O.A. Let's drink deep from the crazy juice once more and imagine another Pac-10 shootout. Riley and Vereen are the beneficiaries of our improved O-line and the Ducks don't have an answer for Miller. In the end, homefield and a poised senior QB are the difference down the stretch. 41-38, Cal.

NorCalNick: Our good friends up north are already experiencing the fun of a good QB controversy, and they have barely seen one of them play! If either struggles it will be interesting to see how the Duck fan base reacts in a year with such high expectations.

The only consensus I can find is that neither are supposed to be as good on their feet as Dennis Dixon or Jeremiah Masoli, but that's a pretty lofty standard to live up to. Frankly, I think I'm more worried about Cal's offense scoring on Oregon's defense, as the Ducks return 8 starters from a strong and perhaps underrated defense.

TwistNHook: With the QB situation in flux, certainly a key to offensive success will be The Michael James having success. Last year, he was sort of an unknown quantity who came out of nowhere. Now he has a bullseye on his back, especially with that QB uncertainty. He is already hoping to improve in 2010:

That’s not to say there weren’t lessons for James to take from 2009, and refinements to make to his regimen. Conditioning was an issue early last season, making James a step slower late in some games.

By getting increased reps at Oregon’s intense practice pace, UO running backs coach Gary Campbell said, James was able to work himself into better shape over the course of the fall. The goal this season is to be in peak condition from the start.

"He felt like he could run away from anybody, and that wasn’t happening at the beginning of the season," Campbell said. "Those times when maybe he got caught or didn’t break for a long touchdown, he was good for a couple of plays but he didn’t have the stamina to get through the game. That’s something we’ve talked about, and he feels good about that this year."

Campbell also asked James to gain a little weight this offseason, to better handle all the carries he’s expected to get. At one point James was up to 192 pounds, up from about 180 last season, and he entered fall camp around 190.

OhioBear: Yeah, we've won the last three games against Oregon in Berkeley. In fact, the last time Oregon beat Cal in Berkeley, Jeff Tedford was Oregon's offensive coordinator. Their Jeff Tedford and Joey Harrington-led offense torched us like fuck that day.

Hmmm...Oregon torching us...why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, here comes the throw up in my mouth.

42-3. Forty-two to three. Forty-fucking-two to fucking three.
Last year's debacle makes me forget that we've beaten Oregon three straight times in Berkeley and three of the last four overall. Last year's game was, in many ways, the game that changed the way both programs (or at least the fans of both programs) looked at themselves. Oregon got its mojo back and hasn't really lost it. Cal lost the mojo it had and has not quite gotten it back.
So what happens this year? I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're not going to lose by 39 points. In fact, I actually think we have a chance to win this game, crazy as it sounds. Just a hunch, but I think 42-3 will be a big motivator for Cal in this year's game. And Oregon strikes me as a much different team on the road than they are in the friendly (to them) environs of Autzen Stadium (see, e.g., Stanfurd and Ucla games last year). And even though Oregon likes Nate Costa, I'm not going to assume he'll be as good at running the offense as the Laptop Guy until I actually see him in action. So, for now, I'll buck my pessimistic tendency and be optimistic. Cal will gain some measure of revenge by throwing up a roadblock in the way of Oregon's quest to a second straight Pac-10 crown.
Prediction: Cal 30, Oregon 27

atomsareenough: Okay guys, I've got a confession to make. I'm gonna put this in brackets so JShufelt and company can't read this, but... [I actually kinda like Oregon. If we're not going to win the conference, I don't really mind if they do it.] I don't know why this is, exactly. Maybe it's the charming ridiculousness of their mascot and their uniforms, maybe it's the utter divinity of their cheerleaders, maybe it's in part the fact that we usually hold our own against them (last year notwithstanding)... but this is a team that I just don't harbor that many negative feelings about. They're usually a fun team to watch, and I love seeing them take down traditional powerhouses with panache. Now, that said, I'm certainly looking forward to handing them a Berkeley beatdown this year, but unlike other successful conference teams that have dominated us in soulcrushing manner (Oregon State, USC), I just don't have anywhere near that level of animosity toward them. I respect and admire their football team. Well, when they're not busy assaulting and stealing from people, that is.

Anyway, most people have picked them to win the conference, and I think they probably do have the best shot at it. Providing that Nate Costa is a capable enough replacement Ma-Stole-i (and I believe he's a senior, so he should be ready) they just seem to have the fewest holes and question marks. Anyway, after last year's debacle, we should be ready this time around to give them a good game, but I think we're going to have a hard time beating them. I'm penciling it in as a loss, 34-24.

Berkelium97: Until one of those QBs runs this offense as efficiently as Dixon '07 or Masoli '09, I like Cal's chances in this game. Provided the Pendergast D is as good as the players claim it is, this could turn into a good old-fashioned defensive battle.

The Ducks have had some bad luck in recent trips to Memorial. Let's hope the Juju frowns upon them again this November 13th.

Cal 21, Oregon 17

HydroTech: Honestly, I still don't feel good about this game even with Masoli gone. Oregon has always been, and still is a dangerous team. LaMicheal James is scary fast. The shotgun zone-read in general is somewhat scary, but even scarier with LaMicheal James. Hopefully Pnedergast has some good ideas on how to defend against the Oregon offensive threats.

TwistNHook: Ok, I'm going to do it. I'm going to go out on a limb here. But I gotta do it, I gotta do it. Cal wins! Cal wins! 43-2! Because we gotta be slightly better. JUST SLIGHTLY! And I'm ready to be angry we gave up that safety.

Avinash: Oregon is the toughest team we face next year. Not USC. Not OSU. Not the Furd. OREGON.

The Ducks trashed us last season, and they return most of that team this season on not just offense (as Hydro mentioned). This team returns almost the entire front seven on defense too, and they DOMINATED Cal's O-line last year.

If Cal can win this game, they can win the Pac-10. To expect a win though is absurd.

Also, although their respective knowledge of each other should cancel out, Nick Aliotti really got the edge over his former coordinating partner Andy Ludwig last season. The playcalling looked very predictable or showed tendencies early enough that Duck linemen were jumping plays and attacking the ball before Cal's linemen could set up and attack. They seemed to know exactly what was about to happen.

Ludwig is going to have to bring his A-game and show stronger variety in his playcalling, or we're going to go down. Hard.

Yellow Fever: At least Ed Dickson's gone.