The Oregon Ducks play host to the California Golden Bears on Friday night in a crucial PAC-12 matchup from Autzen Stadium. The Golden Bears hit the road looking for their first road win of the season and are only 1-4 overall, while the Ducks are coming off a loss of their own. The Ducks shocked the country when they won on the road against Ohio State and have College Football Playoff aspirations of their own now. In the preseason PAC-12 poll, the Ducks were picked to win the conference, while the Golden Bears were picked to finish third in the North Division, which would mark a massive improvement for them on the last couple of seasons. Cal sprung the upset last season but the Ducks took three straight before then. With Saturday's game being played in Oregon and the Ducks coming off the bye week and a loss to Stanford before that, expect them to be energized and re-focused. The Golden Bears aren't a team that anyone can take for granted though and Friday's game promises to be an exciting one.
Cal Looks To Mount UpsetThe Cal Golden Bears stunned the Ducks last year but to go on the road this season and grab a win against a COllege Football Playof contender will be one for the history book. Cal hasn't played poorly by any stretch of the imagination, even despite their 1-4 record. One loss was in overtime, the other two by a combined seven points, and then last week's stinkers was by 15 points to Washington State. The Golden Bears have only won twice in their last nine games overall and Friday night presents a massive opportunity for them to spring a crucial upset to shake up the PAC 12 race. Cal is winless on the road this season and has yet to play in a place nearly as wild as Autzen stadium will be expected to be on Friday night. Cal has three players questionable to go on Friday, all on the offensive side of things. DeCarlos Brooks (lower body), Will Craig (undisclosed), and Nikko Remigio (undisclosed) all remain out. Remigio is a massive miss on the offensive side and between him and Kuny Deng (leg) out for the season on the defensive side, it'll take a complete effort for Cal to take down Oregon on Friday.
Cal's offense remains one of the worst in the country, at least among Power 5 teams, and going up against Oregon and the points that they can put up could be an issue. The Golden Bears enter ranked 98th in points per game and their balance has been an issue early on. They rank 110th nationally in rushing attempts per game and while the passing offense has been strong, their ability to overcome being one dimensional has caused some set backs. Chase Garbers is the undisputed leader at quarterback but hasn't exactly lit things up this season. He does have seven touchdowns but has also turned it over five other times, adding another two scores on the ground. Damien Moore gets the bulk of the carries at running back and ex[ect him to get the ball early and often on Friday night as they try to establish the ground game. He's only averaging 62.6 yards per game on the ground but is dynamic enough to be a game-changer.
Defensively, things aren't much better for the Golden Bears, ranking 85th in FBS in points allowed per game. They struggle to get to the quarterback, ranking 11th in sacks per game and without a dominant rush, they'll be giving the Ducks too much comfort in the backfield. Daniel Scott is the team's leading tackler, with 33 on the season, and has added another three interceptions as one of the most influential secondary players in the conference. The Ducks will want to avoid him at all costs, but luckily they won't have to look far, as Scott doesn't have a ton of help. The pass rush isn't deep and against Oregon, has the potential to falter quickly. If Cal's defense doesn't step up in a big way, their offense might not even see enough of the ball to make it a good game.
Oregon Aims To Bounce BackOregon looked like a team destined for the College Football Playoff just a few weeks ago. Not only do they still have the top non-conference win of the season against Ohio State, but they looked to be the absolute class of the PAC 12. Going on the road to Stanford last time out proved too much though, with the Ducks giving u a late score in regulation and then losing in overtime. The injury bug has also hit this team at the wrong time. The Ducks already have eleven players out for the season, most happening over the course of the last month. The main player to keep an eye on though is Travis Dye, the electric running back who is questionable with an arm injury. Dye is the team's second-leading rusher and one of the most explosive players in the country. If he's unable to give it a go, Oregon will see their top-30 rushing offense struggle. Another concern for the Ducks is their penalty issues. They rank 105th nationally in penalties per game and 122nd in penalty yards per game. As long as they continue to be themselves in that area, they'll continue to struggle with everyone on their PAC 12 schedule. The Ducks have the complete package to make teams pay but need the consistency to go with it, something that can start on Friday night.
Oregon has always been known for having one of the best offenses in the country and this year is no different. While they might not be putting up the numbers as they have in the past, they still possess a unique set of players and talents that makes them difficult to read every time out there. They rank 25th nationally in points per game and are 54th in total yards per game. Much like Cal though, they struggle to find balance as well, ranking 26th in rushing attempts per game but only 91st in passing attempts per game. Given Cal's struggles defending the pass this season, Friday night's game could be the perfect opportunity for the Ducks to break out of that poor habit. Anthony Brown has hung onto the starting spot after last season's impressive run down the stretch and has added six touchdowns and only one interception. His four rushing touchdowns are second on the team and his ability to team up with CJ Verdell has put this offense over the top. Verdell is averaging over 80 rushing yards per game, adding in six touchdowns on the ground. The receiving core is deep but the rushing attack is what's expected to give the Golden Bears the most trouble on Friday night.
Defensively, the Ducks rank 38th in scoring defense nationally. The injuries have mounted on that side of the ball and while they might lack the big names, the Ducks have more than enough talent to potentially slow down Cal. The issue all season has been their ability to finish opponents though and that will need to change on Friday. Noah Sewell has established himself as one of the best linebackers in the country as a freshman. He leads the team with 42 tackles and two sacks and is a force that teams in the conference are still getting accustomed to. It helps to have one of the best secondaries in the country backing him up though. Verone McKinley III has a team-high four interceptions and Bennett Williams has another three, setting the tone for the Ducks to get it done all around on that side of the ball. The Golden Bears have the receivers to stretch the secondary but consistently moving the ball could be an issue on Friday night.
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Full-Game Side Bet
Oregon will win on Friday and avoid dropping two straight games in PAC 12 play but this one will be closer than fans of the Ducks might expect. Cal won this game last year and while the teams do look different this go around, that confidence should help in a big way with them going on the road. Cal has also played close games all season long and while they've failed to come out with wins, a trend that won't stop this weekend, they have the ability to make things interesting, no matter who the opponent is. For Oregon, the injuries are starting to mount and while they have enough depth to not make it a lasting impact, there are bound to be plays and drives when they struggle. Add in the potential absence of Dye in the backfield, and the pressure will be squarely on Verdell and Brown to make things happen. Oregon's ground game is the key to their success and without a major member of it, struggles could be in order early as they try to get into a rhythm. While the Ducks win, their offense isn't built this season for strictly out-scoring teams and is built more to control the clock and that has tended to keep games close. Additionally, according to covers.com, Oregon is 0-7 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite, is 0-4 ATS in their last four games as a home favorite, and is 0-4 ATS against a team with a losing record. For Cal, they're 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games as a road underdog, they're 5-1 ATS in their last six games after accumulating less than 170 yards passing in their previous game, and are 5-1 ATS in their last six road games against a team with a winning home record.
Full-Game Total Pick
Both of these teams play a style that is likely to keep the clock running and be reliant on controlling the clock. Cal has more to offer from a passing perspective but knowing that they will struggle against Oregon's secondary means that they could have an emphasis early on for the ground game. Oregon will certainly be running the ball in this one and given the way the last meeting between the two teams played out, Oregon will not want Cal's offense to have many opportunities to stay in the game. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Cal, the under is 4-0 in their last four Friday games. For Oregon, the under is 5-0 in their last five games following a bye week. In games between the two teams, the under is 9-1 in the last ten meetings in Oregon.