(9-0, 6-2-1 ATS)
California Golden Bears
(5-4, 5-4 ATS)
Pac-10 action in the race for the Rose Bowl heats up on Saturday night in Berkeley, as the Cal Golden Bears take aim at the No. 1 team in the country, the Oregon Ducks.
We seem to talk about how amazing the Oregon offense is every single week, and for very good reason. These guys just don’t take a game off, and there’s no reason to think that the Quack Attack won’t put up another 500+ yard, 50+ point performance on Saturday. RB LaMichael James is still fantastic, and QB Darron Thomas is still one of the most underrated signal callers in the league. However, let’s talk about the Oregon defense for a change. This side of HC Chip Kelly’s team is never really discussed, but this unit ranks No. 33 in rushing, No. 39 in passing, and No. 29 in overall defense. It’s all resulting in allowing just 17.7 points per game this year, which is No. 13 in the nation. The only bad games this year on this side of the ball came against two amazing offensive teams, the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans, and one very surprising bad outing against the Arizona State Sun Devils. However, when you have an offense that is putting up 569.4 yards per game and 54.7 points per game, you can afford to have a few duds on defense.
Cal is 4-0 at home this year, but no one is really expecting it to be able to move to 5-0 on the season on Saturday. The Golden Bears have played two absolutely atrocious games in a row and three horrible outings in their L/3. Three of the team’s losses this year have come by at least three TDs. Last week’s 20-13 escape from the Washington State Cougars at least remotely kept some bowl chances alive, though winning one of these home games against the Ducks, the Stanford Cardinal, or the Washington Huskies looks like a tall task right now. QB Kevin Riley is out for the season, which is a big chunk of the problem. QB Brock Mansion has only completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 309 yards with a TD and two picks on the campaign. He is going to be relying on RB Shane Vereen both as a rusher and a receiver. Vereen has rumbled for 886 yards and has caught 17 balls for 179 yards, and he leads the team with 15 of the squad’s 31 offensive TDs this year.
Bottom line: Oregon’s not losing this one, and it’s not going to be close. Cal isn’t a special team, especially without Riley in the lineup, and if that’s the case, there’s no reason to believe that the Golden Bears are either going to be able to hold the Ducks to less than 40 points or score more than 20.
College Football Free Pick: Oregon Ducks -19.5