Week 9: Oregon at California

Oregon (6-1) at California (4-3) Oct. 24, 10:15, Fox Sports 1 

Here’s The Deal: A rough patch in the first half of the season behind it, Oregon controls its own destiny. Now that the Ducks have routed UCLA and Washington in consecutive weeks, a close call with Wazzu and a loss to Arizona feel as if they occurred in a different season. Oregon has steadily climbed the rankings, and will remain in the driver’s seat for a Pac-12 title and a playoff berth as long as it continues to win. Cal’s in a precarious position. The team that began the year 4-1 has lost back-to-back games, and the season is in danger of unraveling since the back end of the schedule is so rugged. The Bears are liable to blink their eyes and awake to a season-ending seven-game losing streak. 

Why Oregon Might Win: After a brief detour, the Quack Attack is back on track. Oregon has gotten a big boost from the return of LT Jake Fisher, who’s helped stabilized the team’s pass protection. And a protected Marcus Mariota equals trouble for Cal’s Pac-12 worst defense. The Bears have been okay at stopping the run, but they’ve already allowed 26 touchdown passes. Mariota will pick apart the overmatched Cal secondary in Santa Clara, Calif. Friday night, employing the field-stretching speed of TE Pharaoh Brown and receivers Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe. 

Why Cal Might Win: If you want to beat Oregon, be prepared to score. That has not been a worry for Cal this season. The Bears are clicking in Year 2 of head coach Sonny Dykes and QB Jared Goff. Cal is averaging more than 41 points a game, and the passing game is prolific. Goff can challenge the Duck defensive backfield in all directions, with help from a gaggle of quality receivers. Even with CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on the last line of defense, the Ducks are just ninth in Pac-12 pass defense. 

Who To Watch Out For: Isn’t it time for Oregon RB Royce Freeman to begin garnering more attention outside of Eugene? The Cal staff knows No. 21 after watching him on film. Just a rookie, Freeman has quietly rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games. He’s an assertive 6-0, 229-pounder, who nicely complements the breakaway jets of Mariota out of the backfield. 

What’s Going To Happen: It’s going to take a very good defense to stop the Ducks right now. And Cal is just not that unit. The Bears will score some, and pile up decent passing numbers, but they’ll be playing from behind throughout. Mariota will outplay Goff, staking Oregon to a big early lead and a comfortable third straight victory. 

Prediction: Oregon 49 … Cal 27 
Line: Oregon -17.5 o/u: 78.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 3.5