SITE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
SERIES: California leads the series 39-31-2 (last, 2009, Oregon 42-3)
RECORDS: Oregon 9-0, 6-0; California 5-4, 3-3
POLLS: Oregon (1 AP, 1 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME
For Oregon: Keep on keepin' on. Winning at Cal has been tough for Oregon in recent years, and no visitor has prevailed there this season. Getting off to a good start could give the Ducks a big confidence boost.
For California: Avoid turnovers and muster long drives to keep Oregon's offense on the bench. It's almost better for Cal to eat up six or seven minutes and get a field goal than to score a touchdown on one long play. The Bears must prevent big plays and quick scores, forcing the Ducks into a grind-it-out approach.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS
Oregon's offense will be tested this week. Cal leads the Pac-10 and ranks 12th in the nation in total defense by allowing 299.6 ypg. Cal is also in the Top 20 in the country in pass defense and sacks and has have shut out four of nine opponents in the first half. All those numbers will be put to the test against an Oregon offense that leads the nation with 54.7 ppg and 567.2 ypg. Oregon is rushing for 305.4 ypg and throwing for 261.78. Oregon's 492 points through nine games tops the school record for an 11-game season.
Oregon's defense continues to be strong late in games. The Ducks have held eight of nine opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter. Oregon also shut out Washington in the first quarter last week. Oregon's defense is often overshadowed by its offense, but the Ducks rank 13th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing an average of 17.7 ppg. Cal is averaging 30 ppg led by Shane Vereen, who has 12 rushing touchdowns and three receiving to rank third in the conference and seventh in the nation with 10 points per game.
Cal's offense remains a question mark with QB Brock Mansion in charge since taking over for Kevin Riley, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Mansion did all right against Washington State, and he figures to improve with the better part of two games (he played most of the previous week's game against Oregon State) under his belt. WR Marvin Jones has shown big-play capabilities, but it's unclear whether freshman WR Keenan Allen (leg) will play. The strength of Cal's offense is its running game, specifically TB Shane Vereen, who is averaging 98.4 ypg rushing. Cal's offensive line has had trouble protecting the passer.
Cal's defense has been amazingly inconsistent. It has yielded just 20 total points in four home games, dominating opponents on its home field. But the defense has disappeared in three of its five road games. But Cal played well in the Nov. 6 game against Washington State, particularly against the pass, which is the Cougars' strength. Switching Andrew Guyton from defensive end to starting nose tackle has given the Bears more speed on the defensive line, and Guyton had 2.5 sacks against Washington State. The addition of S Sean Cattouse to the starting lineup three games ago has also helped the pass defense.
Ducks: Oregon's senior class has equaled the school record for wins with 38, matching the mark of the Class of 2001. ... The 9-0 start is the best in school history, and the nine-game win streak matches the fourth-longest in school history. ... Oregon's 73rd consecutive sellout in the Washington game set a state attendance record for a football game at 60,017. ... Oregon has led for every minute of the fourth quarter this year and has outscored its foes 87-7 in that quarter. ... One of Oregon's three conference losses since the start of the 2008 season was at Cal. ... Oregon has outscored opponents 87-7 in the fourth quarter. ... RB LaMichael James is third in school history with 2,877 rushing yards and has the school record with 16 100-yard games. He ranks second in school history with 31 TDs and has scored in all eight games he's played this season.
Bears: Cal needs one win in its final three games to become bowl-eligible for the eighth straight year. The Bears need two wins to keep alive Jeff Tedford's streak of having a winning year in each of his seasons at Cal. This is his ninth season at Cal. ... Tedford has 72 wins at Cal and needs one more to tie John Schaeffer for second-most Cal coaching victories. Tedford is two shy of the record held by Andy Smith. ... Tedford was the offensive coordinator at Oregon before becoming head coach at Cal. ... Cal had won three straight games against Oregon before getting hammered by the Ducks 42-3 last season. The Bears were 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the country at the time, and the loss signaled the start of their descent. ... Saturday's game against Oregon will be the 11th time Cal has faced a team ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. Cal lost the previous 10.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB LaMichael James -- The sophomore kept himself among the leaders in the Heisman Trophy race with 121 rushing yards and three scores against Washington. He has 1,331 yards rushing yards on the season, making him the only back in the conference to exceed 1,000 yards. He was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, presented to the nation's best player, on Monday. He leads the nation with 166.4 ypg rushing, and his 18 total touchdowns rank him first in the country with 13.5 ppg. DB Cliff Harris -- The sophomore leads the team with five interceptions, nine pass breakups, and 14 passes defended. Last week, he had a 79-yard punt return and 47-yard kick return against the Huskies, both season bests.
WR Jeff Maehl -- The senior, who arrived at school as a safety, broke into the Oregon top-10 for career receiving yards with 71 against the Huskies and ranks ninth with 1,981. Maehl's touchdown against Washington gave him seven straight games with a score and extended his string of games with at least one reception to 30.
QB Brock Mansion -- For Cal to stay in the game, Mansion must play better than he did in his first two games, and he wasn't bad in those. He cannot afford any mental mistakes, and he must avoid interceptions and sacks. He has shown he has the arm and poise to perform in the Pac-10, but this is a different kind of test.
LB Mike Mohamed -- He is Cal's best defensive player, but he did not have much influence in the Nov. 6 game against Washington State, getting just three tackles. A broken thumb may have been part of the reason, and it may have been why Mohamed was taken out of the game in many passing situations. Cal needs him to be at his best against Oregon.
NT Andrew Guyton -- You have to wonder whether his production in his first start at nose tackle was a result of Washington State's weak offensive line. If he can have anything close to the same impact he had against the Cougars, Cal will have made a great move by switching him from defensive end at midseason.
QB Nate Costa (knee, out), RB Kenjon Barner (concussion, probable).
WR Keenan Allen (leg, questionable).
PREDICTION: Oregon 44-21