Oregon heads south to Berkeley, CA to take on a Cal Bears program that has nothing but pride to play for. Oregon is a bit dinged up going into this game and in particular at the defensive line where injuries have hit the Ducks hard. Below are the story lines of the game I am looking forward to watching develop Saturday night.
Defensive Line Play
Who plays? Who sits? Does Oregon burn the redshirt of defensive tackle Alex Balducci who was tearing up the scout team this season? Cal's best offensive threat tonight will be their run game with a trio of running backs that Chip Kelly has been very high on all week long. I think Oregon's defense rises to the occasion and plays pretty stout against the run and the Oregon defensive line gets key contributions from some new faces like Balducci, Sam Kamp, and Christian French even.
How will Kenjon Barner respond after rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns against USC last weekend? How many carries will the Ducks give Barner? Does Kenjon Barner get any extra carries when in normal instances he would be pulled?
I think we might see a few extra chances for Kenjon Barner to tote the rock tonight against Cal and showcase his abilities on ESPN.
How will Oregon handle the No. 1 ranking within their reach?
Last season Oklahoma State was upset on a Friday night and it opened the door for the Ducks to climb back into the BCS Title game with a win over a 14-point underdog USC the next night. Oregon lost that game 38-35. Players said they were too excited about Iowa State pulling off the upset and lost focus.
Will Oregon's team remain focused tonight after finding out Alabama lost at home to Texas AM earlier in the day? Sure Cal isn't USC but Cal has given the Ducks issues the last time down in Strawberry Canyon.
How effective will Cal's offense be Saturday night? Keenan Allen is out and starter Zac Manyard is also likely out for the Bears at quarterback. Will they simple things down and play a keep away type game plan or will they take risks and throw out the monkey wrench with nothing to lose?
Last week I wondered if we would see a breakout game Josh Huff against USC. I wonder now how will Huff respond as well. Last week Huff played much like everyone was expecting him to when he arrived to campus and was fully healthy. Will Huff pick up on that game and continue to dominate?