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Cal Football

A (Slightly) Too Early Opponent Preview: Oregon Ducks

July 23, 2019
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Stability has been in rare supply over the past three seasons in Eugene. After losing the national title to Ohio State in 2014, it’s been a weird four years for the Oregon Ducks, which culminated with three different coaches the past three seasons. But with Mario Cristobal entering his second season leading the Ducks, Oregon seems to be stabilizing with a solid returning core and influx of blue-chip talent.

Despite a 9-4 record last season, there were some anomalies. The Ducks hung 55 on Oregon State in Corvallis in the regular-season finale, just to come back and squeak out a 7-6 win against Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara. Last season began with Oregon rolling through Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State like they should. Then, with a 10-point lead late at home, the Ducks gifted the Furd with an overtime win. Seemingly upset, the Ducks then came down to Berkeley and put up 42 on our stout Bears defense. They returned home and came out on the good end of another close overtime game against then No. 7 Washington. 

Oregon found itself ranked 12th when they rolled into Pullman for their fourth game in a row against a top-25 and got walloped in the first half, going down 27-0. They’d eventually lose 20-34. A week later, they went to the desert and got smacked even harder by Arizona, losing 15-44. They finally stabilized the final four games, taking three out of four and only losing on the road to Utah.

On offense, the Ducks will, of course, be lead and highlighted by Justin Herbert, who was projected as a top-two quarterback in last year’s NFL draft. Herbert will also have the help of sophomore running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. While they’re not as proven with big play-making receivers after losing Dillon Mitchell, returning all starters on the offensive line will surely help.

Despite last season’s hype, Herbert still has plenty of room for improvement that the Ducks will be looking towards this year. Towards the end of last year, Herbert was playing through injury (concussion and shoulder). That, combined with some run-heavy play calling led Oregon’s usually prolific offense to fizzle a bit, highlighted by the turds laid against Wazzu and Arizona — and, of course, the one TD performance against Michigan State. Over his last eight games, Herbert only had a passer rating above 150 twice and one of those was against Oregon State.

The biggest hole and question mark in the Ducks’ offense is big plays. Mitchell was the only real threat last season. And while Oregon has a top-10 recruiting class coming in, the early impact players of the class are mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Oregon was good last season at getting manageable third-down situations (they had a 43% third-down success rate), but they weren’t particularly good and getting first downs before third down (they were 125th in percentage of first downs coming during first or second down).

On defense, the Ducks return 71% of its production from last season and are projected as a top-40 S&P+ defense for the first time in quite a few years. The returning core combined with an influx in highly-rated talent has given the Ducks optimism on the defensive side of the ball. Still, it will be the first season for Andy Avalos, the Ducks’ new defensive coordinator. At Boise State, Avalos’ style was to stay conservative on most downs, but then get pretty aggressive on obvious passing downs. We’ll see if he brings that to Eugene.

While Avalos will have some hold-outs from last season to work with, the excitement falls on the shoulders of a youth movement, especially in the front seven. Highlighting the class is the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2019, Kayvon Thibodeaux, a defensive end out of Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village. 

Despite losing Ugo Amadi to the NFL, the Ducks return an experienced and productive DB core. Three out of four of their returning CBs combined for 11 interceptions and 33 pass breakups last season. Plus, the Ducks have another top-40 recruit in Mykael Wright out of Lancaster’s Antelope Valley High School, who will likely see the field early. 

Projection: Oregon Ducks 34, Cal Bears 10

The S&P+ puts this as Cal’s third-toughest game of the year (23% win chance) behind road trips to Washington (17% win chance) and Utah (20% win chance). And it’s still tough to jump on board with the Oregon top-10 hype coming from ESPN and other outlets. But this doesn’t seem like a good matchup for the Bears. A veteran QB with enough pieces around him doesn’t bode well for a defense that could become tired early if the offense doesn’t stay on the field long enough. It’s tough to see the Ducks hanging 42 on the Bears again — even if the game is in Eugene this year — but the Bears scoring 10 points could also be generous.

Discussion from...

A (Slightly) Too Early Opponent Preview: Oregon Ducks

72CalBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Not so fast!

https://scoopduck.com/s/3381/july-predictions-cal
oskirules
How long do you want to ignore this user?
72CalBear said:

Not so fast!

https://scoopduck.com/s/3381/july-predictions-cal

Cocky bastages.
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