Oregon's Offense vs. Cal's Defense
"We all know what Cal's gameplan was last year. Stack the box, shut down the running game, and force Dixon to beat you. And we all know what the result was. Many Cal fans seem to think that the same thing will happen with the same result. There is a lot of reason to believe that won't happen. We all know that Dixon and Stewart are better and Stewart is much healthier. Plus, the dynamics of shutting down our running game are different than they were a year ago."
The Stewart is much healthier statement confuses me. The week before last year's game against Cal, Stewart rushed for 142 yards on 14 carries. The week after last year's game, he rushed for 121 yards on 20 carries. Was the injury only for the Cal game?
Seriously, Stewart is a fantastic running back. He leads the conference in rushing and the key to stopping the Duck's offense is to stop Stewart. Easier said than done but it is possible. Focus on stopping Stewart and force Dixon to beat the defense. If he can do that, than Oregon deserves to win the game.
But Cal's personnel has as much to do with it as anything. They lost three all-conference players from last year--Hughes, Mebane, and Bishop. They lost seven starters overall, so there really is a lot of newer players on this defesnse. Only Matthew Malele returns on the line (he will play this week), and Rulon Davis won't play. And while Cal has great linebackers, their depth is severely limited due to the fact that their best defensive player, Zack Follett, probably won't play. At the pace Oregon plays, the lack of depth on the line and at linebacker are one of the biggest advantages that Oregon has over the California defense.
One thing I do like about Dave is that he knows his stuff. He looks at injury reports and really looks at how that can affect a team. At times this year, Cal's defense has been better than last year's. Even with the big names, last year's defense was not dominating. This year, the squad seems to be playing better together. The injuries worry me but I think Cal can step it up.
In the secondary, Mike Decoud is a very good safety. But Brandon Hampton should not be able to hang with our receivers, and Syd'Quan Thompson is prone to giving up the big play. Cal's secondary gives up a lot of yards, and opponents complete 66% against the Bears. A lot of it is nickel and dime stuff as Cal has the same "bend but don't break mentality." The biggest difference is that our pace will really exploit the injuries in their defense, and cause them to tire. They also have to worry about Dixon's legs as well as his feet. Oregon's offense should get stronger as the game goes on and the Cal defense tires.The secondary is inexperienced but they keep everything in front of them so big plays are rare. But this Oregon offense is explosive and will severely challenge a new Cal defense with some injury problems.
There is a section on Special Teams but it is laughable.
[Update: Addicted to Quack gives this as partial reasoning for Oregon's advantage in special teams.
"Cal ranks 98th in the nation in covering kickoff returns. Oregon ranks eighth in the country in kickoff returns. This means that the Ducks should be able to start their drives in excellent field position."He fails to mention that Oregon ranks 96th in covering kicks while Cal ranks 11th in kickoff returns. I guess you can call that an advantage however minor it might be.]
Before last year's game, Addicted To Quack had this post: Oregon's Offense: Simply Amazing
The best part, in reference to Jeremiah Johnson and Jonathan Stewart:
"Has ever a team had not one, but two running backs who have been this dominant? Auburn had Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown a few years back, but their number weren't this insane. And they are only sophomores? Let me wipe the drool from my mouth."Yes, last year has no bearing on this year. But I think you see why Cal fans are less inclined to be swayed by your pre game "analysis".