With both teams coming into Thursday’s match-up after a week off, both the #9 Oregon Ducks (3-1) and the visiting California Golden Bears (3-1) will be geared up for what should be a great game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, featuring two of the Pac-12 North’s solid football programs. As #9 Oregon continues to rebuild their season after a tough season-opening loss to now-#1 LSU, they’ll get home field advantage for a big Pac-12 showdown with California with all eyes turned towards the Oregon offense, which ranks 1st in the FBS with 52 points scored per game and 6th in rushing behind the nation’s leading back, LaMichael James. Facing off against Cal’s #9 rushing defense, which is only allowing 78.3 yards per game this year, James will seek to improve on his lowest rushing totals against a conference competitor (104 yards/game, 4.2 yards/carry) while Junior quarterback Darron Thomas will try to extend his impressive three-game total of 11 TDs with no interceptions. The Ducks look for a 19th straight victory at home, but there’s no doubt that Cal will put up a fight on the road in the hopes of earning a prized quality win against a Top-10 opponent.
In order to stand any chance in Thursday’s meeting, California needs to simply get better production out of its Junior quarterback Zach Maynard, who while having a decent 10:3 TD to interception ratio, has not been consistent at finding receivers as evident by his 52.2 percent completion rate. In his first Pac-12 clash against Washington in Week 4, Maynard racked up the yardage, gaining 349 yards through the air, but the pass-heavy Bears’ attack yielded just one touchdown, and couldn’t withstand an attack on their weaker secondary by UW’s Keith Price, who had a field day throwing for 292 yards and 3 TDs. It’s going to be necessary for the Bears to find TDs via the air, but also balance it out with a consistent ground attack led by Junior back Isi Sofele who has been good at 4.8 yards a clip this year, but has had 14 more carries and 230 LESS yards than his opposing back for Oregon, LaMichael James. Cal’s chances stand with their ability to control possession in this game, and that can only happen if both the ground and air attacks are working in tandem with one another.
Betting Lines for California at #9 Oregon
Bodog Sportsbook (Bodog.eu) has the Oregon Ducks at a massive -24 point favorite to win, and if you want to find further odds for this match-up, you’ll want to turn to another sportsbook like Betonline.com, which features all three of the traditional betting lines for this match-up…and they aren’t pretty. Oregon walks in with whopping -2400 odds to win at home, where they haven’t lost since September of 2008. The points spread is trimmed down just a bit at Betonline Sportsbook, at -23 1/2 points to Oregon, and the over/under sits at a gargantuan 65 points (-110 odds) taking into consideration that Oregon’s average is at 52.0 points/game alone.
Our Pick To Win:
While it’s pretty much a no brainer that Oregon has all the weapons, home field advantage, and the top-ranked scoring offense in the land that should easily lead them to victory on Thursday, the interesting part of this match-up may become how close of a game Cal can keep it on the road. 24 points as underdogs is massive for a Cal Bears program that has had plenty of rest, and is a proud group coming into a big Pac-12 game, probably the biggest of their season. Though there are no expectations of a Cal upset at the hostile Autzen Stadium, I like Cal to cover the points spread as they stick to their passing game, keep LaMichael James in check, and hopefully get a little lucky by holding Darron Thomas to only 3-4 passing TDs…Oregon wins this one 42-21.
Players to Watch, California:
Keenan Allen, WR – The sophomore out of Greensboro, NC comes off of a 197 yard game at Washington, and is averaging over 100 yards/game this season (30 catches, 498 yards, 16.6 yard average). Along with Marvin Jones (23 catches, 375 yards), Allen should be the go-to guy for Zach Maynard on Thursday, but could also help by freeing up Jones as Oregon’s secondary puts most of their focus on him.
Isi Sofele, RB – The mighty-might (5’8″, 190 lbs) Sofele could actually turn in a good performance against the Oregon rush defense, which allowed 200 yards on the ground to LSU, and 160 yards to Nevada. Oregon has given up 24 points a game this year, so expect to see one of them come from Sofele at some point.
Players to Watch, Oregon:
Darron Thomas, QB – Coming off his least productive game of the season (11-20, 101 yards vs. Arizona), expect a big game at home for Thomas as Cal focuses on containing LaMichael James (who can be held, as he was to just 54 yards by LSU, and 67 by Nevada). Look for the completion percentage to go way up again in Oregon’s impressively fast spread offense at home, plenty of rushing attempts with a couple of breakaways, and for Thomas to notch a few deep bombs as the Cal defense over commits to the line from time to time.
LaMichael James, RB – I have to throw in the obvious, just because he’s fun to talk about. Though James has been held in the past rushing by good defenses, he is also a threat in the air catching 11 balls for 159 yards this year. However, at home, expect James to at least get to his average of 104 yards/game against Cal, and in the all-purpose game see him reach closer to 200 total yards on the night.