Photo by Andrew Giesemann
Oregon Football

Early Look: Cal

August 9, 2018

Oregon's first road game of the season won't see them travel far. The Ducks will fly South into the Bay area in late September to tangle with Cal. 

Oregon will be coming off what expects to be a tough game against Stanford the week prior. What makes this game even more dangerous is being the first game on the road.

Mario Cristobal is hoping to cut down on penalties and make his team more comfortable on the road. We'll get our fist taste of just how successful he is at that on Sept .29.

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 (time and broadcast information TBA)

Place: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley (Calif.)

Prediction: 41-20 Oregon

Last year, Oregon easily dismantled Cal. That game was at home, but Justin Herbert, Royce Freeman and Dillon Mitchell played in only a handful of drives.

This year's game is important to the Ducks for two reasons.

First, if we manage to beat Stanford the week before, a win here would move Oregon to 2-0 in the conference – and even more importantly, 2-0 in the Pac-12 North. And secondly, it is the Ducks' first away game, so it will be a good test of how this team handles itself outside of Autzen Stadium.

For 2018, both Oregon and Cal return a lot of the players, so I really don’t see any reason why the outcome would be very different. If anything, Oregon might score a little more than the 41 that I predicted because Herbert and Mitchell have only improved and we have new players ready to make big plays and will get more playing time.

The Bears have three things going for them.

They have one of the most experienced teams in the conference, with 17 of 22 starters returning, including the entire offensive line under former Oregon coach Steve Greatwood. Secondly, an impressive linebacker corps (coached in part by former Duck Peter Sirmon) anchors the defense. And finally, head coach (and former Oregon safety) Justin Wilcox returns for his second season.

In his debut season, Wilcox led the Golden Bears to an impressive 3-0 start before injuries derailed the season. They finished 5-7 overall.

Like Oregon Cal ran into injury issues with impact players on offense last season.

Only two games into the '18 season, the seasons of sophomore receivers Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall and running back Tre Watson ended due to injuries. Combined, they had 224 yards in 2017; to put that into perspective, the trio racked up 2,132 yards in 2016.

Thankfully for the Ducks all three players have elected to transfer to other programs.

There is a small QB competition at Cal right now, but I’m comfortable saying Ross Bowers will be the starter come September. Bowers has been using fall camp to build an even more solid relationship with senior wide receiver Moe Ways.

The Bears' linebacker corps, paced by leading tackler Jordan Kunaszyk, had a fantastic year, especially with all the injuries they suffered. If they can build on that success, they will be a force to reckon with.

Finally, Wilcox's return is a big plus because of how he transformed the downtrodden program in just one year.

And if the Golden Bears can stay healthy, Bowers will have more offensive weapons in his arsenal.

Overall, I think both teams will have improved since they played last year. However, I think both teams have done so at an equal rate, so the final score should be similar to last year's; it will just be much better played game of football.

Tags: Football, Oregon
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