Throughout the college football season, DuckTerritory will examine the "3 keys" to Oregon victory leading up to each of their games this year. In this season’s tenth installment, we'll take a look at what it will take for the Ducks to knock off the California Golden Bears this Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
Oregon will likely be without defensive lineman Wade Keliikipi at California on Saturday.
1. Be Strong Up The Middle
For perhaps the first time this season, the Ducks could have a glaring weakness due to injuries heading in to this weekend's game at California. Coming off a win over then No. 17 USC in Los Angeles, the Oregon defensive line emerged as the walking wounded. Dion Jordan, Isaac Remington, Wade Keliikipi, and Ricky Heimuli all suffered injuries during last week's game versus the Trojans and all could miss Saturday's game in Berkeley. If that's the case, the Ducks will be forced to piecemeal together a defensive line that will be charged with stopping a Cal rushing attack that has been better than average this season. Currently ranking fifth in the conference averaging 177 yards per game, expect C.J. Anderson, Isi Sofele, and Brendan Bigelow to be focal points on offense for the Golden Bears Saturday as they go without starting quarterback Zach Maynard and star wide receiver, Keenan Allen. If Cal is able to enjoy success on the ground, it could be a critical step in engineering what would be a monumental upset of the Ducks.
2. Beware Of Berkeley's Blight
For whatever reason, the Ducks have had frequent difficultly time scoring victories in Berkeley -- particularly in recent years. In fact, in Oregon's last four trips to the Bay Area to play California, the Ducks are 1-3 overall. The one win earned came during Oregon's 2010 run to the BCS National Championship game, in an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter that saw Oregon prevail 15-13 despite the Golden Bears holding the Ducks to season lows in first downs (20) and total offense (317). Though both sides will readily admit that both teams are vastly different than the ones that played two seasons ago, the inexplicable has a way of rearing it's head when these two teams collide in Memorial Stadium. Overcoming and/or avoiding adverse situations and unforeseen circumstances could be as big a key as any for the Ducks to move to 10-0 on the season.
3. Keep Barner On Pace
This isn't so much a key as it should be a goal for this team in closing out the regular season. As it stands, Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner is on pace to record one of the most historic individual seasons in school history at running back for the Ducks. With 1,295 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns to his name, Barner has an opportunity to not only eclipse the 2,000 yard barrier if he maintains his current average of 143.9 rushing yards per game, but could eventually become the Heisman Trophy favorite if other contenders such as Kansas State's Collin Klein and Alabama's A.J. McCarron falter or fall by the wayside. It all begins this weekend, as the Ducks embark on a three-game stretch that will see them play two of three games on the road against teams who would gladly play the role of spoiler. If playing for a fourth straight conference championship and a potential national title berth isn't enough, focusing on helping a respected team leader accomplish tremendous individual success should be an objective on Saturday.