Road Battle Ahead: Oregon vs. Cal
By the numbers, stats and gambling spread
Oregon's first road game of the season is this Saturday against the undefeated No. 24 Cal Bears. Cal has had two weeks to prepare for No. 19 Oregon and is ranked for the first time since the 2015 season.
Numbers to know: The Bears lead the Pac-12 conference with seven interceptions, even though most conference teams have played one more game because their bye week.
Fun fact: The Ducks have won eight of the last nine meetings with Cal dating back to 2009.
The Herbert factor: Quarterback Justin Herbert is averaging a Pac-12-best 10.4 yards per passing attempt.
Betting line: Oregon is favored by three.
Keys to an Oregon win
The Duck defense shouldn’t have any problems with Cal’s limited offense. Led by former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin, the Bears will probably start redshirt freshman Chase Garbers at quarterback but may also use dual-threat transfer quarterback Brandon McIlwain.
Oregon needs to focus on scoring against a much-improved Bears defense that ranks as one of the top in the country. In former Oregon defensive back Justin Wilcox’s second year as head coach, the Bears are allowing just over 300 yards and 19.2 points per game. Cal's 4.22 yards-per-play average ranks sixth in the country.
Winning the turnover battle should be a high priority for the Ducks. In Pac-12 road games, Herbert has thrown 139 consecutive passes without an interception. Third down will be a great test for Herbert against Cal, who has forced four of the team's seven interceptions on third down.
After scouting the Bears’ defense, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said they create confusion with lots of movement and multiple.
Players to keep an eye on
Cal has two talented linebackers in junior inside linebacker Evan Weaver and senior inside linebacker Jordan Kunanszyk.
Weaver: A 245-pound converted defensive end has a team-best 39 tackles, 25 unassisted. He averages 8.3 solo tackles per game, which ranks second in the nation.
Kunanszyk: Averages 6.3 solo tackles per game, which ranks 13th in the nation. In his two games against Oregon, Kunaszyk has two interceptions, including one that sealed Cal’s 52-49 double-overtime victory in 2016.
Jaylinn Hawkins: The junior safety has three of the Bears' seven interceptions.
Patrick Laird: The senior running back leads the team in rushing and receiving this season and last season rushed for 1,127 and caught 35 passes.
Cal’s most impressive victory came week two on the road against BYU. The Bears' 21-18 victory at BYU looks better with each passing week as the Cougars have since upset then-Top 10 Wisconsin.
Injury updates: Oregon sophomore defensive end Austin Faoliu is questionable against Cal. Faoliu left the field with an injury last Saturday but came back to re-entered the game. Senior running back Tony Brooks-James also suffered a minor injury, but Cristobal said he'll be ready for Cal.
Taj Griffin has left the program: Cristobal confirmed on Monday that the running back intends to transfer. The senior can sit out the rest of the fall, utilize his redshirt, and play a fifth season at another school.
In 2017: Oregon beat Cal, 45-24, by dominating the battle in the trenches and overcoming the loss of quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Royce Freeman.
How and where to watch
Time: Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, California.
Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)