The No. 2 Oregon Ducks (9-0, 6-0) take to the road again this weekend for a second consecutive road game this time taking on Pac-12 foe California Golden Bears (2-5, 3-7) in a contest that could mark the last home game for head coach Jeff Tedford.
Cal comes into the game off of a 21-13 home loss last weekend to the Washington Huskies. The Golden Bears looked to be on an upswing after a dominating victory over UCLA and another double digit win over Washington State. Over the last three games, however, Cal has given up 91 points and secured their second losing season in the last three with the loss last weekend. Their defense has been mediocre for most of the season despite some talented players on that side of the ball.
Oregon comes into the game fresh off of a thrilling 62-51 victory over the USC Trojans in Los Angeles last weekend. The Duck defense had played well most of the season but gave up a lot of yards and points against the Trojans. Reports are that the Ducks will be short-handed on defense this week with a couple of key injuries along the defensive line.
Today Duck Sports Authority continues our weekly look at the in-depth match ups on both sides of the ball turning our attention now to the defense.
Cal: The Bears use a hybrid 3-4 defense with a nose guard in the middle and two defensive ends. Getting the nod against the Ducks at nose guard will be Aaron Tipoti (6-2, 280) a fifth year senior. Tipoti has missed a couple of games this season due to nagging injuries, but has started six and played well when available. For the year Tipoti has 23 total tackles with 0.5 tackles for loss. Behind Tipoti will be Viliami Moala (6-2, 335), the massive sophomore. Despite increased playing time including nine appearances and one start this season, Moala has just 7 total tackles on the season.
Oregon: This game is tricky as Oregon still lists the same starters from the USC game.
Wade Keliikipi (6-3, 295) is listed as the starter at one defensive tackle position. Keliikipi has been a stalwart of the Oregon defensive line who will be starting his 21st consecutive game for the Ducks. After starting slowly this season, Keliikipi has raised his season total to 20 tackles with 4 tackles for loss of his own and 2 sacks. Listed behind Keliikipi will be Ricky Heimuli (6-4, 305) showing promise with 10 tackles and one sack in 2012.If Heimuli is unable to play this week, the belief is that true freshman Alex Balducci (6-4, 290) the high school All-American from Central Catholic High School in Portland will take Heimuli's place.
The return of Isaac Remington (6-4, 301), to the starting lineup was good news for the Duck defensive line depth last week against the Trojans. Remington has notched 14 total tackles and 4 tackles for loss and one sack. Remington has been spotted in a walking boot; if he is unable to play Saturday, expect the Ducks to move Taylor Hart (6-6, 292) inside. A very versatile player Hart has 26 total tackles with 7 tackles for loss and 6 sacks this season.
Behind the starter will be true freshman Arik Armstead (6-8, 280) who has made his mark in 2012. He made the most of his early arrival and has earned rave reviews this season from coaches and team mates alike. Armstead has 20 total tackles, one tackle for loss and 0.5 sacks through eight games.
Though the Duck defensive line took a hit to their depth with the loss of Heimuli and Remington, the ability to slide a player like Hart inside to defensive tackles is critical to the continued success of the Duck defense. The defensive line for Oregon has played well this season and are fourth in the conference in rushing defense at 137.1 yards per game while giving up just 3.8 yards per carry. The Bears, meanwhile, give up over 165 yards rushing per game and 4.2 yards per carry.
Cal: At one defensive end position the Bears will start Deandre Coleman (6-5, 309) a fourth year junior. Coleman has been a load from his role this season with 39 total tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
On the other side will be Kendrick Payne (6-2, 283). Fifth year senior has 23 total tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
The back-up for both defensive end positions will be Todd Barr (6-3, 275) a redshirt freshman. Barr has played in all ten games for Cal this season and has 12 total tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks on the season.
Oregon: Oregon has a first team All Pac-12 defensive end hybrid in Dion Jordan (6-7, 243) who terrorized Pac-12 quarterbacks and coaches last season. Jordan has looked explosive in early action this season recording 36 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. If Jordan is unable to play, Tony Washington (6-3, 244) a sophomore who has played both defensive tackle and defensive end as needed will likely get the nod. After recording 18 tackles last season Washington has 11 total tackles and one tackle for loss this season.
Across from Jordan will likely be true freshman Deforrest Buckner (6-7, 265) from Hawaii. Buckner has seen his role increased as his play has been very good early in his career. After recording 10 tackles over the last three games, Buckner has raised his season total to 19 tackles with 2 tackles for loss and one sack. The likely backup to Buckner will be Sam Kamp (6-4, 251) a redshirt freshman. Kamp has appeared in six games this season and recorded 5 tackles for the Ducks.
The Bears get the edge mostly because both of their starters will be playing at their regular position while Oregon's top pass rushing defensive end will likely miss the game while the other normal strter will move inside to cover the loss of a defensive tackle. The defensive ends for Cal are both big, strong physical defensive ends that can make plays in the backfield.
Cal: Chris McCain (6-6, 225) gets the start at one of the outside linebacker spots. McCain has played well for the Bears with 40 total tackles including 8 for loss and 3.5 for loss. Backing him up will be Dan Camporeale (6-3, 247) a fourth year junior. Camporeale has one start to his credit in his ten appearances this season and has recorded 21 total tackles and 0.5 sacks.
Starting at the other outside linebacker position is Brennan Scarlett (6-4, 255). A true sophomore who appeared in three games last season, Scarlett has stepped it up a notch this season and has 38 total tackles with 6 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Behind Scarlett is Nathan Broussard (6-3, 246) a redshirt freshman with three starts and nine appearances this season. Broussard has notched 12 total tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks this season.
Inside the Golden Bears have a pair of redshirt sophomores. On one side is Nick Forbes (6-1, 236) who leads Cal with 74 total tackles while also notching 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Behind Fobes will be J.P. Hurrell (5-11, 230) a senior with 45 appearances in his career including two starts this season. Hurrell has 17 total tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season.
At the other inside linebacker spot, Robert Mullins (6-1, 236) gets the start. Mullins has missed some time with various injuries, but has still managed 57 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks in his six starts this season. Hurrell is also the backup at this position.
Oregon: Michael Clay (5-11, 225), the rock solid starter at the "Will" linebacker position, missed the second half of the Washington State game due to an undisclosed injury. Though he was in full gear and practiced the next week, he was held out of the Husky game for precautionary reasons. He returned against Sun Devils and has played well since. Clay second on the team with 50 total tackles along with 6.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Behind Clay is Derrick Malone (6-2, 219) who has started twice this season and responded well with 6 total tackles in his first start against Washington. For the season, Malone now has 36 total tackles and one tackle for loss and one interception.
Alongside Clay will be Boseko Lokombo (6-3, 233). After several solid performances, Lokombo now has 19 tackles with 2 tackles for loss and one sack. Despite playing as the backing to Lokombo, Tyson Coleman (6-1, 222) has notched 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks this season.
Returning from an apparent wrist injury against the Trojans, "Mike" linebacker Kiko Alonso (6-4, 242) is the teams leading tackler. Alonso has been a monster in the middle so far this season and has 52 tackles with a team leading 10 tackles for loss and one sack in seven appearances. Showing off his athleticism against the Troajans with another great interception, Alonso now has 3 interceptions this season. The reserve middle linebacker will be Rahim Cassell. Cassell (6-0, 215) has appeared in all nine games for the Ducks this season and has 14 total tackles.
The Bears use what was referred to as a "hybrid" 3-4 mainly because Scarlett will often line up like a defensive end and become more of the pass rush defensive end many 4-3 defenses employ. Nonetheless, there are some depth concerns along the linebacker corps, especially at the inside spot where there is limited depth.
Oregon is close to full strength at the linebacker position with Alonso's return and stellar performance against the Trojans. Though the total numbers for the Bears look better, that is related to their using four linebackers rather than three. The Duck linebackers, though, have outperformed Cal's linebackers when comparing them as a unit. When comparing the average tackles per game by the Cal unit, the total is 64.75 whereas Oregon's group is at 66.7 tackles per game.
With the depth and overall better production, the edge here goes to Oregon.
Cal: The Bers start Marc Anthony (6-0, 200) at one cornerback position. The senior has 8 starts this season and 44 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended and 2 interceptions. Behind Anthony is Kameron Jackson (5-9, 185) a true sophomore who has three starts in ten appearances this season. Jackson has notched 27 tackles, 3 passes defended and is tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions.
At the other cornerback position will be Steve Williams (5-10, 185) a fourth year junior who has started all ten games for the Golden Bears this season. Williams has been a standout for the Bears recording 65 total tackles (third on the team) as well as leading the team with 9 passes defended while intercepting three passes of his own.
At one safety position will be Josh Hill (5-10, 203) a fifth year senior. Hill is second on the team with 70 total tackles and 6 passes defended.
At the other safety position, Michael Lowe (5-11, 210) gets the start. Lowe is the fourth leading tackler on the team with 54 total tackles. In pass coverage he has 3 interceptions as well. The only other safety listed on the Cal depth chart is Avery Sebastian (5-10, 190) a sophomore who is fifth on the team with 47 total tackles.
Oregon: Terrance Mitchell (6-0, 189) has not seen many opportunities this season had the unenviable position of defending Robert Woods last weekend and held his own. Even though he has not had a lot of opportunities this season, Mitchell has played well recording 22 tackles and 6 passes defended. Behind Mitchell is sophomore Dior Mathis (5-9, 182) one of the fastest players on the team. Mathis has 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 4 passes defended and 2 interceptions in a reserve role through eight appearances.
At the other corner will be Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 190) who appeared in all 14 games and started 2 as a true freshman in 2011. Ekpre-Olomu had played well early in 2012, but had a breakout performance against Arizona recording 2 interceptions one of which he returned for a touchdown. He has followed that up with continued stellar performances. Though he had the toughest assignment in the nation covering Marquise Lee last weekend, Ekpre-Olomu has still had a stellar season thus far having recorded 40 total tackles, 3 interceptions, 16 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles. His 16 passes defended rank first in the Pac-12 conference. Behind Ekpre-Olomu will be Troy Hill (5-11, 180) a sophomore who played extensively last season including 6 starts as a freshman. Hill also recorded a "pick six" earlier this season returning an interception 29 yards for a touchdown. Through seven appearances this season, Hill has notched 21 tackles with one tackle for loss, 2 passes defended and the interception.
At safety, Oregon suffered the loss of John Boyett (5-10, 205) earlier this season. Replacing Boyett has been Avery Patterson (5-10, 185) a junior who saw extensive action last season recording 55 total tackles. Patterson had a breakout performance against the Cougars returning an interception for a score in Seattle and then followed that up with another "pick six" against the Huskies. For the year Patterson is up to 41 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss with 6 passes defended and 3 interceptions.
Next to Patterson will be Brian Jackson (5-10, 205), a junior who was a special teams standout last season. Jackson has played well in 2012 having recorded 40 total tackles, 5 passes defended and one sack. The primary reserve for both safety positions will be Erick Dargan (5-11, 205) a sophomore who is a big hitter. Though he is a reserve, Dargan currently is eighth on the team with 33 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended, one interception and one fumble recovery through the first eight games of the season.
Oregon has two all-conference caliber cornerbacks with Ekpre-Olomu and Mitchell. While the loss of Boyett hurt the Ducks depth, Patterson has played exceptional in his spot and the Duck safeties are very active in both pass defense and run support. It is not usually a good sign when five of your top seven tacklers are defensive backs. Though the Bears do not give up significantly more yardage than Oregon through the air, the difference is that most teams have had to throw the ball against Oregon to attempt comebacks. Cal gives up a 61.3 percent completion rate and has allowed the second most passing touchdowns (20) in the conference.
The production and depth of the Ducks defensive backfield give them the edge.
Cal: The Bears have not played well this season, as indicated by their record. While much of the problem has been scoring points, the defense has not helped much allowing over 165 yards per game on the ground. Cal gives up a 43.9 percent conversion rate on third downs this season.
The defense is the second best in the Pac-12 in the red-zone allowing a 74.4 percent conversion rate.
The pass defense has not been much better for the Bears this season as they are allowing over 250 yards through the air. Against an anemic Utah offense, Cal allowed 49 points.
One bright spot for the Golden Bears has been their ability to get to the quarterback as they have recorded 26 sacks this season.
Oregon: Oregon, meanwhile, had been playing exceptional defense most of the season prior to the USC game. You may not be able to tell by looking at final scores, but it has to be understood that a lot of the yards and points that finish the totals occur against players far down the depth chart.
After a defensive masterpiece shutting out a high flying Arizona offense and holding them to almost half of their average yards per game, the Ducks held Washington State to just 137 yards at the half and 214 total yards through three quarters last weekend. For the season, the Ducks are giving up just 19.4 points per game. Though they are allowing 380.9 total yards per game, many of those yards happen in the fourth quarter as teams sling the ball all over the field trying to overcome big deficits on the scoreboard. The run defense for the Ducks has been solid as the Ducks are giving up just 3.8 yards per carry and 137.1 yards per game, again with much of those numbers coming with the game decided and fourth strong players on the field.
The Ducks, having increased their quarterback pressure as the season moves on now have 24 sacks this season.
The Ducks are also third best in the conference allowing just 31.4 percent of third down conversions while they are also second in the conference in fourth down conversion rate allowing just 36.4 percent to be converted. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in red zone defense allowing just 59.5 percent for scores and 43.2 percent touchdown rate in the red-zone.
The Ducks are big on the defensive line and have exceptional depth at cornerback position. The safeties have been active for the Ducks early this season while Clay and Alonso are two of the best linebackers in the conference.
Despite the Ducks giving up over 600 yards last weekend, when the game is close, the Ducks have still been one of the 10 best defenses in the nation. This week their depth developed over the course of the season will pay off as the Ducks look to fill in for some injured players/
Cal will likely look to take advantage of the depleted defensive line and run the ball almost exclusively. Bridgford has very little experience let alone experience against a team with the caliber of athletes as Oregon possesses. The Bears have struggled in maintaining time of possession this season actually having less time of possession than the quick scoring Ducks.
The Bears will be able to gain some rushing yards early, but mostly between the 20's as their passing attack will not have much success and they will not be able to score inside the red-zone.
Cal has some very big defensive ends who are more like defensive tackles. Oregon will likely look to use the read option to get the defensive ends flowing out while running inside. The Ducks will look to take advantage of this with some pulling linemen getting Barner to the edge. Cal has not been great in pass coverage this season. Marcus Mariota will look to make some early plays to the wideouts to keep the safeties and cornerbacks honest in their coverage.
Cal is known to favor a cover one keeping as many people in the box as possible. But the Bears have not seen a quarterback like Mariota and an offensive line as talented as this one for the Ducks. Oregon will do what they do and run all over the Bears early. They will use the running game and single coverage to exploit the Bears secondary. This might be a game where Colt Lyerla gets a few plays over the middle and De'Anthony Thomas gets some passes down the seam that could go for big plays.
Barner will likely get plenty of early touches and will gain plenty of yards.
Final: 51-21 Oregon
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