With the nonconference season over, now is real time that the chase for the Rose Bowl begins. The California Golden Bears and the second-ranked Oregon Ducks play tonight in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Cal has not played since its 52-34 loss to Ohio State (No. 4 AP / No. 3 USA Today) two weeks ago. It doesn't get any easier today against an Oregon team that is 3-0 and has not scored fewer than 59 points in any of its first three games. Recent history hasn't favored Cal in this series either. The Bears have not beaten Oregon since the monsoon at Memorial in 2008 and have not won at Autzen since Cal's final game of the 2007 season (see what I did there?). In fact, since Cal managed to defeat the Ducks in 2008, Oregon has beaten Cal four straight times by a combined score of 159-48.
So how can Cal defeat mighty Oregon? It will probably take a perfect execution of the Bear Raid by the Cal offense and the Cal defense stepping up like it has not stepped up all season long.
The incomparable norcalnick previewed the Oregon defense earlier this week and didn't exactly brim with optimism about tonight.
There exists the possibility that Cal's offense will do very poorly tomorrow. And if it does, the Cal fan base will be full of a type of misery not seen since . . . well, probably against Oregon last year, since that game happened so late in the year. But if it does happen, it would probably be best to not overreact. Oregon allowed 13 first half touchdowns in 13 games last year. Only USC even managed three. You have to have an elite offense to score on Oregon, and I hope that nobody thinks that Cal's offense is elite yet.
And if, somehow, Cal does score points early and often . . . well, that's just one more reason to get excited about the future. Maybe you move up the timeline for whenever you thought the Bear Raid could reach its full potential. Maybe you upwardly revise your win total expectations for this season. Maybe you're too jaded with Cal's defense to derive any potential enjoyment out of the Bear Raid, which would certainly be an impressively glass-entirely-empty viewpoint.
And that's the matchup Cal fans favor!
As for the Cal defense against the Oregon offense, well, let's just say that the honest Cal fan doesn't really want to see a whole lot of that tonight. And as quickly as Oregon's offense can score, maybe we won't see the Cal defense on the field so much.
Berkelium97 offered up everything we need to know about the Oregon offense in this informative post. Let's just say he didn't come away very optimistic either.
In our last edition we previewed the most experienced offense we would face all season. Now we preview the best offense we'll face all season. As we know well, the Oregon Ducks have had the best offense in college football over the past three seasons. Their uptempo, no-huddle offense is responsible for countless gray hairs and sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. Oregon has scored 2,093 points since the start of the 2010 season. By contrast, Cal has scored just 1,055 points over the same span of time. There is a very good reason this team has racked up 23,220 yards since 2010 (that's over 13 miles of offense, in case you're keeping track). They have one of the most difficult-to-defend running games in the nation and that opens things up nicely for a very effective passing game. In fact, they are more reliant on their passing game this season than they have been in years. The team is stacked with athletes who fit very nicely into their system. Although head coach Chip Kelly has left for greener pastures, there is heavy continuity on the Oregon staff. The offense is very similar to the system that has terrorized teams for the past several years. Reader discretion is advised.
So there's a lot of doom in those previews, to be sure. But you know what? The game isn't played on paper. And upsets happen in college football. That's why we'll watch tonight and see if the Bears can shock the college football world.