The No. 16-ranked Golden Bears look to extend their winning streak to five games when they host the unbeaten, 11th-ranked Ducks at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The game features the top two offenses in the Pac-10, so there are sure to be offensive fireworks. This match up will go a long way in determining the Pac-10 champion, and it could also have national championship implications.
California comes into the game off a 41-13 thrashing of Oregon State last Saturday and brings arguably the hottest quarterback in the nation, sophomore Nate Longshore. Longshore, who is not getting a lot of hype nationally, is quietly putting together a sensational season. The sophomore tossed four more touchdowns against the Beavers on Saturday, the third time in the last four games he has accomplished such a feat.
Over his last four games Longshore has completed 77-of-111 passes (69.4%) for 1,136 yards and 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. The sophomore leads the Pac 10 in passing efficiency and ranks seventh nationally.
Longshore anchors an offense that has scored 40 or more points in its last four games, outscoring opponents 174-67. The Golden Bears lead the Pac-10 in passing yards per game, while ranking second in scoring and total yards per game. The team that ranks first in these categories is this week's opponent, Oregon.
The Ducks lead the Pac-10 in scoring, averaging 40.3 points per game, total yards per game (497) and rushing yards per game (227.5). Oregon comes into this highly anticipated match up off a 48-13 blow out victory over Arizona State last Saturday, the Ducks' first game since their highly controversial victory over Oklahoma on September 16.
Oregon is led by sophomore running back Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 142 yards against the Sun Devils on Saturday. He has 457 yards rushing, four touchdowns, and averages nearly eight yards per carry (7.9). The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight contests and has eclipsed over 200 total yards in two of his last three games.
Junior quarterback Dennis Dixon is the leader of the Ducks potent attack. He has thrown for 1032 yards and six touchdowns with just two interceptions, and is completing 65% of his passes. Dixon threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona State on Saturday. Two of those touchdowns went to superstar receiver Jaison Williams.
Williams, a sophomore, comes off a 10 catch, 137-yard performance. He is clearly Dixon's favorite target. The sophomore has 28 catches for 462 yards (16.5 average) and four touchdowns. This sets up an intriguing match up on Saturday between Williams and California's star corner Daymeion Hughes.
Hughes, who leads the nation with nine passes defended and is second with five interceptions, will cover Williams one-on-one for most of the day. Overall, California has a Pac-10 best eight interceptions, so Dixon and the entire Oregon pass offense is going to be tested.
One way California will try to slow down the Oregon offense is by running Marshawn Lynch. The junior running back had his fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance on Saturday, finishing with 106 yards and three touchdowns (two receiving and one rushing). Lynch leads the Pac-10 in rushing with 555 yards (7.0 average) and four touchdowns. He has another 123 yards receiving on 11 catches with three touchdowns.
Look for the Golden Bears to run Lynch and then work play-action with Longshore, who will likely look for sensational sophomore DeSean Jackson. The sophomore caught his Pac-10 leading seventh touchdown on Saturday. He is third in the Pac-10 in receptions and second in yards behind only Oregon's Williams. Jackson has at least one touchdown reception in seven consecutive games, dating back to last season, tying Rice's Jarett Dillard for the longest current streak in the nation.
The Ducks will face the Golden Bears offense without the help of starting defensive tackle Cole Linehan, who broke his foot on Saturday. He is the third Oregon defensive player to be lost for the season. The only positive to come from all of the Ducks' injuries is the emergence of defensive end Dexter Manley II (son of former NFL player Dexter Manley), who had three sacks against the Sun Devils on Saturday.
An area of particular concern for the Golden Bears has to be the Ducks' red zone offense, which has been nothing short of spectacular. In four games, Oregon has scored in 21 of 23 trips to the red zone. The Ducks are a perfect 10-for-10 in the red zone over their last two games.
Oregon has won eight of the last nine meetings between these two teams, including a 27-20 overtime victory last year in Eugene. California‚Äôs only win over that span was a 28-27 win in Berkley two years ago.
Notes: California leads the all-time series 36-30-2. Oregon is 7-1 against California under Mike Bellotti. Jeff Tedford served as Bellotti's offensive coordinator from 1998-2001 before taking the California job.