Honestly, I love the Ducks. They have a similar sensibility to us Cal fans. In the last few years, as they've started to win, they've gotten a bandwagon. That comes along with cockiness and some of their fans are real jerks. But the real core people from AddictedToQuack, they're good people.
We've always had fun with them (and that tradition continues this week). So many thanks to JTLight and noted Cal superfan Takimoto (aka Tako) for the answers to these questions. Takimoto, the Travis Ishikawa of ATQ, is a Cal superfan, because he's been to every home game so far. He just plain loves Cal and will, most likely, be rooting for the blue and gold against the damnable Webfoots! Here are their answers to our questions. GO BEARS!
1. When looking over Oregon's stats, I expected to see familiar faces like Byron Marshall and Johnny Mundt. Instead some of the most productive players are new faces like Royce Freeman and Devon Allen. What can you tell us about these new players? What happened to Marshall and Mundt?
JTLight: Well, Byron Marshall is leading the team in receptions and is listed as the starting receiver. He has done a pretty exceptional job at Oregon's TZR position, and is second (after Freeman) in all purpose yards. The threat he brings from the backfield has really opened up some aspects of the Oregon offense, especially against MSU early in the season.
As for Mundt, he never had a firm grasp on the TE position to begin with (largely getting playing time due to injury/suspension last season), and Pharoah Brown has been phenomenal this season. Brown is everything Oregon wants in a tight end. He can block and seal the edge on plays outside the tackle, and has been a dangerous threat in the passing game. While that passing threat wasn't as necessary early in the season when other Oregon receivers were open, as defenses have adjusted, Brown has become an important target for Mariota, and has been very, very good the past two games.
Tako: It's not that Marshall or Mundt are having off years, or have fallen out of favor with the coaches. The reason players like Freeman, Allen, and Darren Carrington are seeing copious touches is because they're really really good. Freeman is already drawing comparisons to Jonathan Stewart, only I think Freeman is faster. He runs with conviction, and is a load to bring down. Devon Allen is not only the NCAA champ in the 110 meter hurdles, he's the United States champion. Sooooooo, he's pretty fast.
2. How is the new defensive coordinator working for your team?
JTLight: At this point, not all that well. The defense, for whatever reason, regressed significantly in the first 6 games. They've started pulling things together (and are now top 25 by advanced stats), but the inability to stop 3rd and longs could make for an interesting Friday night.
Tako: Arizona threw all over the Ducks defense. Washington State threw all over the Ducks defense. I'm just glad Cal runs the triple-option, and not some pass-happy offense.
3. On a scale from 0 to 19, please indicate how confident you are that Mark Helfrich will sustain the same level of success you enjoyed under Chip Kelly.
JTLight: Sustaining the same level of success? Well, that's just not gonna happen. Chip Kelly won 3 straight conference titles and went to 4 BCS games. It's simply not realistic to expect the same level of success from the coaching staff.
That said, I think Helfrich has a good chance to be a very successful coach. The Ducks should be in contention for the division title every single year, with legitimate playoff runs every 2-3 years. I think Helfrich has a good shot to get there. He's young, bright, and has an energy for recruiting that Chip Kelly didn't have. So I'm optimistic, but it's by no means a sure thing.
Tako: Chip Kelly went to a BCS bowl in every one of his four seasons. That isn't sustainable by anybody. Mark Helfrich is a very good coach; he's well-liked by the players, he's even-keeled. Inheriting one of the most talent-laden programs in the country helped. The drop-off extends to the coordinators, too. I'm not yet sold on Scott Frost as an offensive coordinator, and even the most optimistic Ducks fans have to admit that an inexperienced Frost is a big downgrade from Helfrich, even moreso than the head coach downgrade from Kelly to Helfrich.
4. Oregon's success seems directly related to your offensive line. Can you briefly summarize the unit's ups-and-downs this year and what you project for the future?
JTLight: When Jake Fisher's been in the lineup, the Ducks offense has been the best in the country. When he's been out, Mariota can't stay up. As long as no more tackles go down, the Ducks will be fine.
Tako: When healthy, it's one of the best lines we've ever had. They haven't yet been all healthy. At their worst (Arizona), the line was walk-ons and freshman getting beat, and veterans like Hronnis Grasu overcompensating and drawing penalties. But Jake Fisher is back, and Andre Yruretagoyena is due back in a couple weeks. Barring any more big injuries, this line should get better and better with every game.
5. How do you feel about Oregon's chance for earning a spot in the playoffs and how did that compare to your preseason hopes?
JTLight: While the loss to Arizona was very disappointing, it didn't take Oregon out of the playoff hunt, it just took away their margin for error. I think that Oregon has a good chance to win the rest of their regular season games (Bill Connelly's numbers put that at over 50%), and win the Pac-12 title. If they do that without any losses, I think they're almost guaranteed to be in the playoffs. And at this point in the season, all you can really hope for is to be in control of your own destiny.
Tako: Exactly what Jared said. With the Big 12 tearing itself apart, the Big Ten looking weaker and weaker, and a number of SEC games coming up that will thin the herd, a one-loss Pac-12 champ looks like a good bet to make the playoffs.
6. Oregon has won 5 straight games over Cal with an average margin of victory of 30 points in those games. How will you convince yourself to be nervous about the game this year?
JTLight: Oregon's defense still has a lot of questions and have had trouble with up-tempo spread teams. WSU gave Oregon all it could handle and Arizona took down the Ducks. Cal has the offense to keep this game close (though I don't think they have the defense to keep up).
Tako: Cal's WR corps is deep, especially if Chris Harper is able to play, and Jared Goff has made great strides in his second year as a starter. If this turns into a track meet, silly things can happen.
7. Who is the #1 player on offense Cal fans might not know about...but should!
JTLight: While I raved about him earlier, I'll go with Phaorah Brown again. He can block, he can catch, he can stiff arm Shaq Thompson. Yeah, he may rack up unsportsmanlike penalties, but that just means more yards for Marcus Mariota!
Tako: Okay, so at quarterback, we have this guy from Hawaii named Marcus Mariota. Only a three-star prospect out of high school, not some blue-chipper like Jared Goff. He's a capable passer, and he can make plays with his legs, too. He's pretty good. We like him.
8. Who is the #1 player on Defense Cal fans should know about?
JTlight: I'll go with Joe Walker. He's been fighting for playing time at middle linebacker, and has Oregon fans very excited with his agressive play after seeing lackluster play from the inside linebackers over the past year and a half.
Tako: Erick Dargan has been a capable last line of defense at safety, and is a ball magnet with 4 interceptions already this year. For all the passing yards Oregon has allowed this year, they have, for the most part, prevented big plays and deep passes. Dargan is crucial in that regard.
9. Who do you want to punch in the face?
JTLight: Always Ryan Appleby.
Tako: So much Ryan Appleby.