California Golden Bears (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 6, Thursday, October 6, 2011, Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon, TV: ESPN
by Scotty L, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: California +24/U of O Ducks-24
The Golden Bears of Cal go into Eugene on Thursday night to take on the Oregon Ducks in a critical Pac-12 matchup. Both teams are 3-1, but the 24-point favorite Oregon is the 9th-ranked team in the nation, while Cal figures to struggle in their quest to prove they are more than a lower-third Pac-12 team.
Its nice that Cal is 3-1, but a closer look at that record does little to suggest they are much improved from their 5-7 mark of last season. They beat a bad Fresno State team at home, scored a nice road win at Colorado, and then came a 63-12 romp over the Presbyterian Blue Hose. An 8-point loss to Washington last week seems more indicative of their true standing.
Perhaps that summation is a bit harsh on the Golden Bears. While its true the Buffaloes and Bulldogs are a combined 3-7 this season, at least Cal took care of business. And losing to a resurgent Huskies program isnt necessarily cause to be neglectful of Cal. They have a good 2nd-year quarterback in Zach Maynard, who despite a completion percentage lingering around the 50% mark, has thrown for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 4 games. Pass catchers Keenan Allen (29-491-3) and Marvin Jones (23-375-3) make for a nice 1-2 punch and RB Isi Sofele (78-491-3) is solid.
There is a reason why they are 24-point dogs, however. Their offense is nice, but certainly no match for the high-flying attack of the Ducks. Their defense, while by no means a pushover unit, did give up 33 at Colorado and 31 at Washington, making one cringe when projecting what might be in store on Thursday. But lets not forget that these were a lot of the same things people said before Cal lost narrowly to Oregon last season, 15-13. A lot of the same pieces are in place for both teams, so perhaps Cal just matches up well with Oregon for some reason.
Oregon faced a tough crossroads early this season. Expected by some to be national championship contenders, they dropped their opener to LSU. It can be tough to regroup from a loss like that, facing a long season with your title hopes significantly dented. It can go one of two ways and Oregon looks like they have something to prove, outscoring their last 3 opponents 181-58. Last week against Arizona showed Darron Thomas (12 TDs/1 INT) in mature form, as he continues to round into the field general the Ducks will need him to be if they have hopes for a big finish to a season that began so disappointingly. Oregon RB LaMichael James ran for 288 yards against the Arizona D on Saturday and looks to be kicking it into high gear. The Golden Bears run D has been excellent so far this year, though they have yet to face the likes of James. Cal did manage to hold James to a reasonable 91 yards on 29 carries last season, so maybe they can slow his momentum on Thursday. Even if that happens, Oregon still has a deep cast of playmakers. Only 4 games into the season, the Ducks have seen rushing touchdowns from 5 different players, while 9 different Ducks have caught touchdowns in the air.
It might be disconcerting to some potential Oregon backers that Cal played them so well last season. Just as is the case this season, Cal faced an Oregon that was scoring 50+ on everyone they were facing. Other than Auburn, who beat the Ducks in the title game, the Golden Bears were the only team who gave the Ducks a run for their money.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Last year, the Ducks were unbeaten all season and may have fell into a little funk the week they played Cal. Even if there is a matchup quirk that favors Cal, Oregon is a in a different frame of mind, apparently determined to put as much distance between them and their overmatched opponents as possible. After the week one loss, dont expect the Ducks to be shy about putting up points. Cal will hang tough for a bit, before Oregon begins to pull away and cruise to a cover. Take the Oregon Ducks minus 24 points.
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