Oregon by 16 per Vegas, too high? Too low?
At first that seems really high to me, but the more I think about Modster it begins to make more sense. I truly don’t think California is scoring more than 21, so do I think the Ducks can do 16 points better than that at home against the Cal defense? I think so.
Honestly, I wouldn’t touch this game with a 30-foot pole. (The line is now around 18.5 at the time of this writing.) Go bet against Stanford, it still seems Vegas hasn’t fully caught on to their level of suck yet.
What are the improvements Justin Herber and co. have made this season?
Herbert has been working on leading his receivers more with the ball, which is directly correlated with our other big improvement, the receivers actually catching the ball. Jovon Bouknight, Oregon’s new wide receivers coach, has done an excellent job transforming this unit after a season in which they dropped 52 passes. Things seem much more sure-handed despite the fact that this has been our position most affected by injury this season. Shout-out to tight end Jacob Breeland who has had a monster season thus far - 265 yards and five touchdowns.
Some people are saying that Oregon deserves a higher ranking than #13, especially after Auburn’s recent performance and the Ducks’ obliteration of its other early-season opponents. Do you think #13 is too low or about right?
Seems just about right to me. So far our most impressive feat is losing to an out-of-conference opponent. We’re late enough into the season that I believe we can start to identify this team’s strengths (Justin Herbert, a disciplined and disruptive defense, confident to great play from both lines) and their weaknesses (lackluster run game, thin receiving corps, lack of game-changing talent at the skill position), so it feels fair to wait and see what they can do in the wild PAC-12 before putting them in the top ten.
Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?
We’ll assume that you’ve heard of our quarterback, but in case you’ve been living in a bear cave for the last couple of years, let me tell you about him; the senior from Eugene, Oregon has amassed 14 touchdowns and 1,127 yards and zero interceptions. He’s completed 79.2% of his passes and is by far the most important player on the offense. Oregon’s run game has been efficient but not explosive, in fact, nearly all their big gains have been the result of a Herbert throw. He can run the ball but has clearly been told not to, since he regularly will have open lanes off the option but will always hand it off.
I guess Cristobal and company still have nightmares of the 2017 Cal-Oregon game.
Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?
Now that it’s been made clear that Chase Garbers won’t be able to play Saturday (which is such a bummer, by the way, condolences), I think it’s safe to say that defensive coordinator Andy Avalos will plan to go straight at the backup. Devon Modster seemed to have a rough time against ASU at home, things will likely be even harder for him in Autzen against the Ducks’ aggressive defense.
Avalos’ system utilizes a STUD position, featuring a player who is able to rush the passer or drop into coverage. Oregon has rotated through a handful of players in this position - including freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux. Oregon’s highest ranked recruit in school history - but lately Mase Funa has looked really impressive in the role. The freshman has earned more playing time as the year has progressed and already has three sacks to his name.
Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?
I think Mycah Pittman is the perfect candidate for this role. He’s the brother of USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. and has yet to see the field after an injury to his right shoulder delayed his Duck debut, but the true-freshman has received a level of fall camp acclaim that transcends coach speak. Oregon fans have been anxiously awaiting his first game and now that it appears he’s ready to roll he’ll have his premiere against Cal.
Even if he doesn’t start the game on the field, Pittman will undoubtedly take over for Jaylon Redd for a few drives - that could prove vital. Against Auburn, Redd was sidelined during much of the second half, if the steady hands of Pittman could have replaced him things could have worked out much better for the Ducks.
What does Oregon need to do to win the game?
As long as they keep doing what they’ve been doing in all four of their previous games Oregon should be able to win this one at home, and by that I mean continuing to play turnover-free on offense and touchdown-free on defense. As long as there isn’t a step-back defensively, Oregon likely won’t need to win in shootout fashion. Also, now that we’re coming off a week of rest and facing a defense that has at times struggled defending the inside run, there’s no better time than now for Cristobal to prove he’s the offensive line savant we all hope he is.
What does Cal need to do to win the game?
Oregon has been prone to long stretches of three-and-outs; if Even weaver can continue to be the real life Mr. Incredible, and if the Golden Bears can move the ball at least enough to win the field position game, who is to say that California can’t make this into an ugly, low-scoring affair. The Duck receivers have had trouble separating in the recent past, perhaps the Golden Bears’ secondary can bring back some old demons. Herbert hasn’t thrown an interception so far this season, so Modster will likely need to also play turnover-free football to have a shot at the upset.
How do you see the game going?
I think Oregon’s bye week came at a perfect time for Duck fans. Oregon’s run game didn’t produce jaw-dropping results against Stanford, but that’s in large part due to the absence of Jake Hanson, out with an unspecified injury at the time but clear to return against Cal. Not only will we have Mycah Pittman for his first ever game, we’ll also have veteran receiver Brenden Schooler back. These additions to the lineup, aided with a week of rest and the raucous student section, should accumulate in a decent to good day for the offense.
And on defense, I remain bummed that we were robbed of the Garbers vs Gang Green battle. No one should be completely writing off Modster just yet, but since we have just one game to go off for his Cal career you can see why some would be prone to do that. This could be the best defense Oregon has had since our last national championship appearance. It seems too much to ask of Modster to keep up with the home team.
Cal keeps it on the ground more often than not, but only manages to reach the end zone on their first drive and on their last drive. Modster commits two costly turnovers and Justin Herbert is able to score quickly after both. The Golden Bears’ defense prevent the big plays, but ultimately the team as a whole fails to create any of their own.
Final Score: Ducks 28 - Golden Bears 14
Whom do you most want to punch in the face?