The feeling the Oregon Ducks football team took into its matchup with the Cal Bears last season. The Ducks were coming off a loss to in-state rival Oregon State, but they failed to bounce back, losing to Berkeley 21-17 the following week.
Eleven months later, Oregon faces the same feeling heading into its matchup with Cal. After an overtime loss to Stanford two weeks ago, Oregon’s hopes of an undefeated season are gone.
This time, the Ducks must rally to avoid a defeat that would wipe away their hopes of a potential trip to the College Football Playoff.
They’ll have to do that without safety Bennett Williams and running back CJ Verdell, who will miss the remainder of the season as a result of an injury endured against Stanford.
Cal is coming off a 15-point loss at home to Washington State where the offense failed to find the end zone. After their bye week, the Bears head north to Eugene in search of their first conference victory.
Their defense is led by safety Daniel Scott who is tied for second in the conference with three interceptions. This week, Scott will read the eyes of Ducks’ quarterback Anthony Brown who threw his first pick against Stanford.
Quarterback Chase Garbers has taken care of the ball this season, tallying seven touchdowns and no interceptions through four weeks.
However, the Ducks’ secondary hunts for interceptions; they are tied for the Pac-12 lead with nine on the season. Injured as they are, the Oregon turnover machine poses a legitimate test for Garbers and the Cal offense.
The Ducks’ all-time record against the Bears is 40-42-2, but they’ve dominated the matchup as of late, going 8-2 in the last 10 games.
Looking ahead to the game, the Ducks are 13.5-point favorites, but they are 1-4 against the spread this season.
With Verdell out, Travis Dye will assume a heavier workload out of the backfield, but the Ducks will turn to Seven McGee, Byron Cardwell and Trey Benson to fill the void.
The Ducks’ front-seven is also undermanned with Justin Flowe gone for the season and Kayvon Thibodeaux set to miss the first half of this game for a targeting penalty against Stanford.
Bradyn Swinson and Nate Heaukulani should see an uptick in their playing time against Cal. The Ducks linebackers will have their hands full against Bears running back Damien Moore, who’s averaging 5.2 yards a carry.
Although the Golden Bears have struggled to consistently move the ball, they’ve avoided turnovers which is a focal point for the Ducks defense. After failing to force a takeaway against Stanford, the Ducks will prioritize a positive turnover ratio in hopes of a bounceback victory.