So Much for Getting Their Feet Wet

One week after junior quarterback Brock Mansion made his first career start against the doormat of the conference – a 20-13 nail-biter over now 1-8 Washington State – Mansion and the California Golden Bears (5-4, 3-3) turn their attention to the top team in the country…

The No. 1 ranked Oregon Ducks (9-0, 6-0) are a brand of their own. From their 2,456 uniform combinations to their "point-per-minute" spread offense, Oregon has quickly delegated themselves as the class of the Pac-10 and the favorite for the national championship.

On the field, nobody knows which one of the 2,456 uniform combinations the Ducks will garner on Saturday. But everybody – including Cal senior linebacker Mike Mohamed – knows that the points are likely to pile up.

"I'm not sure if you can really slow them down," said Mohamed at Tuesday's press conference. "They really pride themselves on fast tempo. But what we can try to do is try to hang with them."

"The conditioning is a big part of our plan this week. Obviously, just because there's no huddle—they get two to three plays off every minute. We did quite a bit of conditioning today. A lot of teams are able to hang with them early and then they just wear them down; guys get tired and they make mental mistakes. So, it's going to be a challenge this week."

Oregon's offense is highlighted by the backfield duo of sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas and sophomore running back LaMichael James.

Thomas – who hails from Texas like Mansion – has quickly grasped the reigns of an offense that was supposed to be headed by former quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who lead Oregon to the Rose Bowl last year. Thomas has thrown for 2,070 yards and 22 touchdowns, while accumulating 400 yards and four more touchdowns on the ground.

James, a Heisman Trophy candidate, is amongst the national leaders with 1,331 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.

Together, they form quite the duo that no team has really figured out how to stop.

Their execution of the popular zone read has been impossible to stop, which is typically exploited because Oregon does a phenomenal job of spreading out defenses and creating massive gaps to run through. Just when the safeties have their mind tied up to the run, Oregon then will run play-action pass, and make big plays downfield. Such is the reason why Oregon scores rather quickly. Facing Chip Kelly's offense is really a matter of picking your poison.

"They just have so many weapons and they spread you over the field so much and they're so fast," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "They wear you down. LaMichael James – they play at such a fast tempo and if he finds a crease, he can make such big plays. They make huge plays in the run game. And then Darron Thomas I think even brings more to that offense because he's so elusive and so fast in the open field, and he's very accurate throwing the football."

As if that was enough to deal with, Oregon elects to run that hurry-up offense. Such is the reason that Oregon has typically lost the time of possession battle, but still manages to run their share of plays – and leave opponents gasping late in the game.

"They run over 100 plays a game, and they keep the pressure on you at all times," said Tedford. "So communication becomes key – making sure that you can be aligned correctly and things like that, and then cover all the phases of what they do, and it happens so fast. I think tempo has a lot to do with it, besides them being great players."

Such is the reason why Oregon's lowest point total for the season is 43. They have scored over 50 points in six of their nine games.

And, if this game is going to be a shootout, Brock Mansion will be the man leading the way.

The good news for Bear fans is he's looking forward to it.

"There's nothing daunting about it at all," said Mansion, who completed 12-of-24 passes for 171 yards with two interceptions last week. "It's a great opportunity. Everybody on this team is excited. We haven't come out and practiced with this much enthusiasm since probably the week after fall camp, so I was really excited…there's some type of energy today, I don't know what it was, but coming out of one-on-ones, we had great, competitive atmosphere, which is just amazing for the energy of the rest of the practice."

Better get ready and keep that energy up, because the opportunity to dethrone the No.1 team in the nation does not come around often – this is the first time the Bears welcome No. 1 since 2005.

Because it really is, time to get their feet wet.

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