Scheme: Base 3-4 Defense
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leavitt
Week 2 Recap: Lost 38–31 in OT to #7 Stanford
Pass Defense: 73.1% completion percentage, 327 passing yards allowed, and three Touchdowns
Rush Defense: Held Bryce Love to 89 rushing yards on 19 attempts with 1 touchdown
Total Defense: 0 turnovers, 398 yards total offense allowed, 50% third down conversion
Jalen Jelks is the only senior returning along the defensive line. Jelks racked up 15.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks for loss and batted down seven balls at the line of scrimmage last season. The six-foot-six defensive end is off to a hot start this year as well, already collecting 2.5 sacks, 21 total tackles, and four tackles-for-loss through the first four games. Alongside Jelks in the trenches are Gary Baker and Jordon Scott. Baker is a classic squatty-body nose tackle meant to penetrate the A-gaps next to the center and slow down the run game. Baker, Scott, and true-sophomore Austin Faoliu rotate along the line, so each player is not defined to an absolute position or role. This defensive versatility allows Leavitt to employ Jelks as a stand-up edge rusher or drop into coverage with tight ends. Cal can phase the Ducks pass-rush out of the game with quick-read passing plays and linear run calls.
The Ducks defense is a base 3-4 scheme, which means two inside linebackers are on the field at the same time. The top-two team leaders in tackles this season so far are the two starting inside linebackers—Troy Dye and Kaulana Apelu. Both inside ‘backers for the Ducks are talented players; they read offensive keys, follow their instincts through gaps made by offensive lines, and can even handle themselves competently in coverage. Dye led Oregon in tackles for the second year in a row in 2017 with 107 total tackles, 42 more than second. Former walk-on senior Apelu is back starting this year after missing the eight final games of 2017 from a broken ankle suffered the last time Oregon and Cal met. Justin Hollins is a disruptive force at outside linebacker. Hollins has been a productive drive-stalling defender for the Ducks. He has registered a sack in every game so far the season, leads the team in TFL with 7.5, and has three forced fumbles. He uses his long frame to rush on the strong side against left tackles and last week, exhibited these traits when he speed-rushed Stanford’s blindside blocker and caused K. J. Costello to fumble.
The Ducks secondary is the most green on the roster (pun intended). There are only two senior players among the 10 defensive backs; Oregon’s secondary lacks not only experience, but also stature. Both starting corners on the outside—Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir—are only 5’11” in height. Their size disadvantage was exposed by Stanford’s bigger receivers and tight ends. Wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (6’3”) and tight ends Kaden Smith (6’5”) and Colby Parkinson (6’7”) combined for 229 receiving yards on 13 receptions. Safety Ugochukwu Amadi is the only starting senior in the secondary. The five-foot-ten Amadi has seven career interceptions including a pick-six earlier in the year against Bowling Green. The tallest member of the starting Oregon defensive backs is their strong safety, Nick Pickett. The six-foot-one true sophomore made six tackles last week against Stanford, tying for second on the team in that game. I see Beau Baldwin deploying Michigan transfer Ian Bunting in the red zone for a plus size match-up.
How many points will Cal score against the Oregon defense?
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50 or more