Oregon averaged 286.2 rushing yards and 47 points per game last year during its run to the BCS national championship game, but the Ducks have been even better so far this season.
Oregon is running for 299.5 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the country, and scoring 52 points per game, which ranks second nationally, as they take a 3-1 record into a bye week before returning home to face California on Thursday, Oct. 6.
The Ducks are coming off a 415-yard rushing performance against Arizona, when junior LaMichael James ran for a school-record 288 yards. Kenjon Barner added 72 yards on the ground, while quarterback Darron Thomas had 52 as the Ducks averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
"I think it starts based on personnel," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "Obviously we have a couple running backs and then a quarterback who can beat you with his feet. I think our offensive line is rounding into shape."
James was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after continuing to add to his school records.
The 288 yards broke the school record of 285 yards set by Onterrio Smith in 2001, and James also had 15 receiving yards and 60 on punt returns for 363 all-purpose yards to break the record set by Smith at 342. His two rushing touchdowns gave him a school-record 42 to break the record of 41 set by Derek Loville, and his 47 total touchdowns also broke the previous record set by Loville.
"I don't want to say you get used to it, because that would diminish how good of a performance it was," Kelly said. "LaMichael breaking off long runs has become commonplace for us. The week before he had 204 yards on 12 carries, he's just a talented guy and more physical than people give him credit because he's 5-foot-9."
James was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and has put himself back in that race with back-to-back 200-yard games. He now has rushed for 200 or more yards five times to set another school record, and his 20th 100-yard game extended his own school record. With 3,890 career yards, he is ranked ninth on the Pac-12's all-time rushing list.
"He truly doesn't care if he runs for 280 yards or 28, it is about the team," Kelly said. "He'll be the first to tell you that the only awards he is concerned with are team awards. What's best for this team is what he's concerned about. He is not a guy who says 'Give me the ball, give me the ball.' He's an unselfish player with a great work ethic."
--Oregon began school this week, so Chip Kelly is giving the team a few days off during the bye week to start focusing on classes. The Ducks were practicing only Tuesday and Thursday during the school week before beginning preparations for California on Saturday, two days earlier than normal because of the Thursday game.
--Oregon did not have a single play of more than 25 yards in its season-opening loss to LSU, but now has 18 plays covering that distance in the last three games. Oregon had 57 plays of 25 or more yards last season, an average of nearly 4.5 per game.
--Oregon puts an 18-game home winning streak that dates back to 2008 on the line when Cal visits. That is the second-longest home winning streak in school history behind the 23 straight won between 1997-2001. Oregon has won 13 straight conference home games.
BYE WEEK MISSION: Chip Kelly never calls it a bye week, instead referring to an "improvement week" for his Ducks. He said the team planned to focus on fundamentals during the first two practices of the week before putting in the game plan for California on Saturday. It is also an opportunity for the Ducks to work on depth, as they take pride in being able to play seven or eight linemen in each game as well as multiple backups at other positions.
LOOKING AHEAD: Oregon was favored to win its third straight conference title, and nothing has happened to change those feelings one-third of the way through the season. The Ducks opened with a loss to LSU, which is now ranked No. 1, but followed that up with three blowout victories to move up to No. 9 in the Associated Press rankings. The Ducks don't have to travel for three weeks, as the bye is followed by back-to-back home games before they head to Colorado on Oct. 22. Oregon needs to avoid complacency, as the Ducks will be heavy favorites in their next five games before making a trip to Stanford.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Keenan (Allen) and Marvin (Jones) are talented, they both have great size and go after it to get the football. They have got other guys along with them, it's not just those two. It is a good group of receivers, and I am impressed with their athleticism and how big they are looking at them on film." -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly, talking about California's receivers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Not much to argue with here, as the Ducks rank among the top 10 teams in the nation with 533.75 average yards, 299.5 average rushing yards and 52 points per game. Oregon's passing game is down a bit from last year with only 234.25 yards per game to rank in the middle of the national rankings, but that is largely due to the fact that LSU was the only opponent that could slow down the Ducks so far on the ground. After passing the ball 54 times and running it 28 times in the loss to LSU, Oregon has run the ball on two-thirds of its plays in the past three weeks. Oregon has 133 rushes and 67 passes during that time.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: There are concerns about a defense that ranks 79th in the country and is giving up 389.5 yards per game. The Ducks struggled against a physical LSU team while giving up 40 points per game, but have given up 58 points in the last three blowout victories. Oregon has been tough on defense at the start of its last three games to allow the offense to build a big lead, and then opponents have piled up yardage and points while being forced to mainly pass the ball later in games. The biggest concern for the defense is that it is getting only one turnover per game on average.
--Oregon looks to have a solid start to its 2012 recruiting class, and it could get better as LB Brett Bafaro, an in-state recruit from Liberty High in Hillsboro, recently visited the school. Six-foot-three WR Gehrig Dieter from Indiana is also said to be considering the Ducks. The Class of 2013 also got good news when RB Thomas Tyner of Aloha High School near Portland made a couple visits to Oregon games. The junior was the state's Offensive Player of the Year last year.
--The bye week could help the Ducks get healthy. LB Michael Clay has missed two straight games with a leg injury, and K Rob Beard has missed three straight games with an undisclosed injury. S John Boyett, RB Kenjon Barner and WR Josh Huff can also use some recovery time after returning from missed games to play against Arizona.
--The news does not look as good for OL Ramsen Golpashin, who is out with a knee injury that is feared to be season-ending.