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California Football @ Oregon 2013: Q & A with AddictedToQuack

Cal takes to the road this week, heading up to Autzen Stadium to face their second-consecutive Top 5 opponent. The Fighting Oregon Roboducks, under the direction of first-year coach Mark Helfrich, haven't missed a beat from last year, steamrolling their non-conference schedule flatter than any future edition of the Macbook Air. For insight into our subjects up north, we talked to AddictedToQuack, SBNation's Oregon community. Thanks to Takimoto, AddictedToQuack, and JTLight for their lengthy, lengthy responses. Go Bears!

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

1. With Oregon and Cal both running up-tempo offenses, how long (in real time) do you think the game will last? How many plays will our two teams run on Saturday night?

Takimoto: A while. I'm thinking 80ish plays each, and the 7:30 game is over by 11:40. The longer it stays close, the longer the game time gets, cuz Oregon will slow it down if they're up.

AddictedToQuack: You will go to bed sometime in the second quarter. The sunrise will occur somewhere in the fourth. This one will easily push four hours.

JTLight: I'd say this game is going to go about 3:45. Despite Oregon's up-tempo offense, they run the ball a lot, which will bleed time pretty well. Two of their games have been under 3:15. But Sonny Dykes likes to throw. And all those Goff incompletions will keep us on the eastern half of the US up pretty late.

As for the number of plays, it really comes down to the Cal defense. Oregon isn't even averaging 75 plays per game, mostly because few teams can slow them down. If Cal's defense makes Oregon work for their scores, both teams could surpass 90 plays.

2. What were your biggest questions when Mark Helfrich took over the program and has he properly addressed them?

Takimoto: The questions were mainly about the in-game offense. The program stayed virtually the same, and the players buy into Helfrich the same way they bought into Kelly. And the offense through three games (61 points per) has answered.

AddictedToQuack: I'm not sure there were a ton of questions when Helfrich took over. I would guess the main one is how much the offense would change under his leadership. There were thoughts that Helfrich would pass the ball a lot more, and that happened during the Tennessee game, where Marcus Mariota passed for over 450 yards. However, it was heavily balanced toward the run game in the first two games. I think this was just a case of Helfrich exploiting the defense's weakest unit. Three weeks in, there aren't a whole lot of questions. This team isn't even playing all that well, and they're just plowing over teams.

JTLight: My biggest Helfrich question is whether or not he can sustain Oregon's success over the long term, and he just can't answer that question yet. That will require recruiting and teaching the new players the "Oregon Way" (yes, that's apparently a thing). At this point, Oregon's players knows what it takes to succeed, and they are self-motivated enough to put the work in and achieve that without a lot of coaching intervention. During the Bye week, all Oregon coaches but Helfrich were on the road but practices (reportedly) didn't miss a beat. It would take a lot for Helfrich to screw this team up too badly, considering all the returning talent and Oregon's overall coaching continuity. Very similarly to David Shaw, we won't know for a few couple years if Mark Helfrich can be a top-level head coach.

3. With Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas both getting Heisman buzz and splitting votes, who do you think will ultimately get more votes?

Takimoto: Mariota has the advantage of being a QB, but Heisman voters like highlight reel plays, and DAT has those in spades. I think Mariota earns the trip to New York for the trophy ceremony, and DAT goes fishing.

AddictedToQuack: Mariota. He'll have 3000/passing and 1000/rushing, which is just otherworldly.

JTLight: Heisman voters love their QBs, so I'd have to go with Mariota. And honestly, that's a bit of a shame. DAT does things on the football field that shouldn't be humanly possible. He's probably the best overall football player on Oregon's football team (and that's saying a lot considering how impressive Mariota is) but he just doesn't get enough touches to garner the same level of Heisman hype.

Roboduck (via dannykf)

4. Is Thomas still playing the running back/receiver hybrid role or is he predominantly used as a running back?

Takimoto: He's been a feature back, and a damn impressive one. A healthy Josh Huff, a reliable Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe, and the emergent Bralon Addison have allowed Thomas to be a true RB1, and he's looked stronger than ever, and arguably faster.

AddictedToQuack: He's been the starting running back, and has been used almost exclusively in that role. This has surprised us all, but has worked out thus far.

JTLight: He's predominantly used as a running back. By my, admittedly imperfect, recollection there have only been a handful of times this year where he has lined up as a receiver. And while many Duck fans are concerned about his work load, I'm just excited to see him getting his hands on the ball. I wouldn't be surprised to see him move into a more hybrid role as the season progresses, but Oregon's other young running backs, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, will need to improve to make that happen.

5. Defense had been an unappreciated strength at Oregon for a few years now. Who are some players Cal fans should be scared of?

Takimoto: The D-line has been pretty darn great so far this season, especially two weeks ago against a very good Tennessee offensive line. Arik Armstead is a physical specimen, and Taylor Hart has a motor that doesn't quit. And our secondary is one of the 3 or 4 best in the country; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell are both NFL-caliber corners, and I can't wait to watch them match up with Treggs and Harper.

AddictedToQuack: Jared Goff is a freshman QB who is going to be asked to come into Autzen and throw 50 times. One corner, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, is a first round pick in pretty much every mock draft. The other corner, Terrance Mitchell, is a guy who opposing coaches wouldn't even throw to last season. I contend its the best secondary in the country. Autzen is going to be pick city this weekend.

JTLight: The defensive line and secondary. Oregon's defensive line is the deepest and might be the best in school history. Against Tennessee, who has one of the most highly touted lines in the country, Oregon's 3-man front controlled the line for most of the day. They did not allow the Volunteers to get any significant push and held Tennessee to a long rush of 12 on the day. What's even more exciting for Duck fans, is that the groups second string is every bit as good as the first string, so they won't be getting worn down by any quick offenses.

The secondary is also one of the best in the country. Corner Ifo-Ekpre Olomu and Terrance Mitchell can handle almost any receiver in the country one-on-one. That group, along with the defensive line, allows Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to be very creative with his defensive schemes.

6. High step or corps style? What, ultimately, is the true measure of a marching band?

Takimoto: If the fans like it, it's a good marching band. The OMB doesn't have the rock star status that the Cal Band does, but when Mighty Oregon plays, people stand up and clap. Plus, they have an extremely handsome 2008 Outstanding Band Member.

AddictedToQuack: Defers to Takimoto on all marching band questions.

7. Pretend you're Cal and you have no running game at all. How comfortable are you with Mariota's arm to lead the entire offense?

Takimoto: Very comfortable; in fact, last year at Memorial Stadium, Cal actually out gained Oregon on the ground. Marcus Mariota responded by throwing for 377 yards and 6 touchdowns. So yes, I trust his arm.

AddictedToQuack: I'm never comfortable with a one-dimensional team. That said, Mariota brings a running dynamic all by himself. He's really an ideal quarterback in every way. He's the best QB Oregon has ever had.

JTLight: Hmm, not that comfortable, not because of Mariota's ability, but because Oregon not running the ball would be just weird. Against Tennessee, Oregon had a pedestrian day on the ground, and still racked up over 200 yards.

As far as Mariota's arm leading the offense, I'm quite comfortable with that. When he's been called upon to do that, he's done a spectacular job. He has the strength and accuracy to make throws all over the field, and has proven his ability to make the right decision time and again. In 418 career attempts, he's thrown only 6 interceptions. That's just absurd.

GANGNAM STYLE PARODY (강남스타일) - The Oregon Duck (via GoDucksdotcom)

8. What's your favorite home/road uniform combination?

Takimoto: At home, I like the yellow/apple green/yellow we wore against Arkansas St last year. On the road, the all whites.

AddictedToQuack: Agree with Tako on both counts here.

JTLight: Like I could pick just one! The Fiesta bowl uniforms were pretty great, with the green pants, white tops (with green lettering), and metallic green helmets. I'll go with those until I change my mind in 5 minutes.

9. Who do you want to punch in the face? (Or peck or bite, or whatever it is ducks do in self defense)

Takimoto: The answer is always Lane Kiffin. Every time.

AddictedToQuack: Lane Kiffin is the obvious answer here, but I want to coddle him and tell him to stay in LA forever.

JTLight: If you were to survey Duck fans, I think the current answer would be Ed Cunningham. Hooray for this week's game being on Pac-12 Network!

10. One more: has Helfrich implemented any changes in the offense? If so, what?

Takimoto: If there are new wrinkles, we haven't seen them yet. Maybe we'll see some on Saturday night!

AddictedToQuack: We haven't had to find out yet!

JTLight: At this point, there hasn't been a huge difference. Oregon is running slightly less, but it's still 58% of the total plays. We may see the coaching staff be a bit quicker to move away from relying on the run when it's not working, but it's tough to draw too many conclusions from the non-conference schedule.