California faces off with Oregon on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and the last time that Jared Goff went up to Eugene, he had a performance to forget.
Is Goff -- named a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award on Monday -- facing perhaps a weakened Ducks defense, which lost four players to the NFL Draft last season? EDuck.com publisher Steven Summers helps us break down what we're going to see on Saturday.
The Bears offense has fallen on hard times lately, losing three straight games as Goff has thrown eight interceptions. Oregon (3-2, 5-3 in Pac-12) are first in the league in scoring offense, but rank dead last in scoring defense, allowing an average of 38.4 points per game.
"If there's any team that's going to be a boost in the side for Cal's offense," Summers says, "it's the Oregon defense."
The Bears produced an average of 542.5 yards per game over the first four games of the season, but over the last four, Cal has averaged 437.7, with a season-low 389 against USC last week.
Oregon is allowing a conference-worst 496.9 yards of total offense per game, including 178.9 yards per game on the ground (eighth) and 318.0 yards per game through the air (last). Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 142.3 passer rating against the Ducks this season -- second-worst in the conference -- but Oregon has tallied nine picks (sixth in the Pac-12) on the season and are second in the conference with 26 sacks. Up front, watch out for DeForest Buckner, who is tied for second in the conference with 6.0 sacks. Buckner, though, will be nursing a sore wrist.
While the Cal running game has been dinged up while Daniel Lasco has been injured, it showed signs of life last week against USC, with Lasco rushing for 65 yards on 15 carries, and the Bears rushing for 123 yards on 30 rushing attempts.
In September, Goff completed 69.2% of his passes, for 9.32 yards per attempt, with three picks to 11 touchdowns. During the month of October -- played largely without an effective run game, Goff has completed 64.2% of his passes, for 7.37 yards per attempt, with eight picks to 11 TDs.
Last week, he completed over 70% of his passes, but after going 10-for-10 to start the game, he went 13-for-21 (61.0%) as Cal steadily went away from using the run on first downs to establish the play-action. When the Bears utilized those formations, Goff had more time to throw, and the defense had to respect the run.
Those playes worked well, and I think Bears fans have to hope it’s not just the “wrinkle of the week” for offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, which head coach Sonny Dykes intimated in his Sunday teleconference.
Nose tackle Alex Balducci will certainly have something to say about the run game, with 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and 26 tackles on the year. Also a big run stopper is linebacker Tyson Coleman, who is just shy of Buckner's team-leading 11 tackles for loss with 8.5 of his own. Also a name to look out for: Sophomore defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux, who has 4.0 sacks out of his 11 total tackles.
Between the first four games against FBS opponents this year, and the past three losses, Goff is completing about 5% less of his balls to his top six receivers, and targeting receivers outside that group more. With Bryce Treggs (who practiced less last week due to a toe injury) and Trevor Davis now fully healthy, and looking to practice all week, Cal may be going back to them more this week.
Last weekend, Oregon gave up 742 yards against Arizona State, and just barely won, 61-55, in triple overtime. The defense, Summers says, has Ducks fans "mystified."
Oregon played mostly zone defense against the Sun Devils last week, but that could change this week, as the Bears have faced press-man coverage in each of the last three games, with teams disrupting the timing routes on which the Bear Raid is predicated.