No. 8 Oregon will seek to retain its top spot in the Pac-12 standings while keeping its playoff hopes alive when it visits struggling Cal on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.
The Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) have gotten their offense in high gear since a 49-3 shellacking at the hands of top-ranked Georgia in a neutral-site opener. After putting up 70 points on Eastern Washington, Oregon has topped 40 in five consecutive games against BYU and four Pac-12 opponents — Washington State, Stanford, Arizona and most recently UCLA.
The latter was Oregon’s victim last week in a showdown of teams ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Poll. Ducks quarterback Bo Nix outdueled UCLA star Dorian Thompson-Robinson with 283 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 45-30 win that allowed Oregon to move up two spots in the national rankings.
A win over Cal (3-4, 1-3) likely wouldn’t have that kind of impact, but all wins count, especially when another loss would assuredly knock the Ducks out of the national-title picture.
Oregon has won 11 of the last 13 meetings over the Golden Bears, but Cal has taken two of the last three at home, including 21-17 in the 2020 finale when the Ducks flew into town as the 21st-ranked team in the country.
Cal has lost 11 of 19 games since then, including 24-17 last October at Oregon when the Ducks, ranked ninth at the time, needed to score two touchdowns in the final 11:23 to avoid a major upset.
The Golden Bears enter this meeting having lost three in a row, but several players — including star receiver J. Michael Sturdivant — have seen improvement.
“I think this team could beat anybody,” the wideout boasted in the wake of last week’s competitive setback. “I think every game from here on out is definitely winnable.”
The Ducks surely enter the game with a big edge in a battle of transfer quarterbacks.
Nix has averaged 272.7 passing yards in his last six games with 17 touchdowns and just one interception. The Auburn transfer also has rushed for eight touchdowns in his last five outings.
“I don’t think anybody can sit here and watch football right now and watch our quarterback playing and tell me he’s not an elite quarterback,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said after the UCLA win. “This guy’s playing at an extremely high level. He makes great decisions for his team.”
Meanwhile, Cal’s Jack Plummer has just 12 touchdown passes in seven games, although he’s coming off a game against Washington in which he equaled his season high with three. The Purdue transfer threw for 245 yards without an interception against the Huskies in arguably his best performance for Cal.
If the Golden Bears are going to put themselves in a position to possibly upset Oregon again, chances are they’ll have to duplicate a defensive effort in which they allowed Washington just six points over the first 40 minutes of last week’s contest.
–Field Level Media