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Oregon vs. California Pre-Game Analysis

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Previewing this Friday’s matchup between Oregon and California, and what each team needs to come out with a win.

NCAA Football: California at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8 Weekend Matchup: Oregon Ducks vs. California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium

When: October 21, 2016 at 7:30 P.M. PT

Vegas Over/Under: California -3

Coming off the worst loss since 1941 after losing a fourth straight game, the Oregon Ducks are looking to rebound on Friday against an air-raid California team, proving that they can turn around a less-than-par season.

The California Golden Bears are coming off a bye week, after losing their first conference game against the Oregon State Beavers. So far the Golden Bears’ season seems to be going the way everyone expected (after losing four-year quarterback starter Jared Goff) going 3-3 and 2-1 in conference play.

Overall the Ducks and Golden Bears have played each other 79 times, with Oregon winning a little less than half or 37 of those matchups. It will be interesting to see how the 80th matchup plays out, considering that Oregon has won the last seven years consecutively.

However, California has a history of coming out with a vengeance against Oregon, while making it a closer than expected game. And this year will be no different, as the odd-makers in Vegas are predicting that the game could swing in either team’s favor.

So, what does each team need to do to capture a win on Friday?

FOR OREGON: It’s no secret that this year is a rebuilding year, but with fans’ expectations growing larger every year, it seems that this is a must win game for the Ducks. In order to be successful on Friday, Oregon must get off to a fast start, score early and frequently (especially since California has been giving up 40 points per game), and keep California from playing off their home crowd.

Coming off a pretty solid first college start, Justin Herbert, will stay at the helm for Oregon’s starting quarterback position. Thus far, Herbert has completed 24-34 passes, throwing for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Herbert has also scrambled away from pressure several times while gaining yardage and scoring one touchdown. Oregon must be diligent in protecting the young Oregon quarterback prodigy from any chance of injury.

Although characterized as a Heisman Trophy candidate early in the season, Royce Freeman has been injured on and off, which has halted his production. This season, Freeman has rushed 67 times, gained 513 yards, and has scoring seven touchdowns.

Behind Freeman, the Ducks have received consistent production from Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin, who have combined for 76 carries, gaining 499 yards, and scoring nine Oregon touchdowns.

Since Oregon already has a strong running core, the receivers must help balance out the offense. So far this season (except for the Colorado game), the Ducks are successful when Darren Carrington is the leader in receptions and yardage gained. Throughout six games, Carrington has hauled in 24 receptions, gaining 351 yards, and scoring three touchdowns.

Oregon has also received steady production from Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford, and Pharaoh Brown who have combined for 56 receptions, gaining 581 yards, and scoring two touchdowns.

Perhaps “work in progress” best describes the status of Oregon’s defense (ranked 127 out of 128 nationally). On Friday, the Ducks’ defense will face another tough task of taking on one of the best passing teams in the country. However, Oregon has given up 522.3 yards per game and 35 touchdowns this season (10 of which came in the blow out loss against Washington.)

But the Oregon defense recently stated that they are looking at the next six games as a “new season.” Defensive leaders like Troy Dye, Ugo Amadi, and Brenden Schooler must encourage this defense to increase pressure on the quarterback, and force more turnovers, and make interceptions to help keep the Golden Bear air-raid offense at bay.

FOR CALIFORNIA: Although California accomplished a winning season last year with a record of 8-5; they haven’t been atop the conference in quite some time. However, the Golden Bears come into Friday’s matchup to prove that they are a competitive contender in the Pac-12 conference this season.

Although California’s starting quarterback, Davis Webb, was sidelined early on with a hand injury against Oregon State, Webb is expected to play come Friday.

Webb is currently ranked as the nations’ third best passer; completing 183-301 pass attempts, throwing for 2,256 yards, 22 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Fortunately for Oregon, Webb is not a dual-threat quarterback, having rushed 20 times, but losing 95 yards.

Look for the Golden Bears to maximize the running game, including multiple carries from running backs Khalfani Muhammad, Vic Enwere, and Tre Watson who have combined for 167 carries, rushing for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns this season. In addition, look out for Muhammad’s kick returns, which have been down right absurd, returning 13 kicks for 357 yards.

Also expect the Golden Bears to make use of Chad Hansen, who not only leads California in receptions and yards, but is also the seventh best receiver in the nation. Hansen currently has 59 receptions, gaining 770 yards, and eight touchdowns.

In addition to Hansen, the Golden Bears also have top receivers Demetris Robertson, Melquise Stovall, and Vic Wharton III who have combined for 59 receptions, gaining 811 yards, and scoring seven touchdowns.

Bottom line, if Oregon comes out fast, maintains an early lead, and keeps California from playing off their home atmosphere; the Golden Bears will have their hands full. Let’s hope that this is the turnaround game where Oregon can start to pull it all together this season.

Prediction: Although the Ducks have shown some improvement week by week, the defense just hasn’t been up to par to fend off the air raid offense that California provides. Unfortunately for Oregon, they will suffer their fifth straight loss, by the score of 56-38.

Wrap Up Notes: The Oregon Ducks do not have any scheduled recruiting visits this weekend, while the team is on the road.