Ducks face opening hurdle

Statistically, Oregon's Pac-12 opener against Cal is a mismatch; but the No. 2 Ducks aren't taking any chances
Senior receiver Josh Huff (1) and the Oregon offense face off against California's 119th-ranked defense on Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.AP

No. 2 Oregon returned to practice on Monday at the Moshofsky Center after enjoying three days away from the coaches, the film room and the cold tub.

Statistically, it appears the Ducks offense might have received a stronger challenge during the bye week than it will face on Saturday night against California at Autzen Stadium.

The Bears (1-2) rank 119th nationally in scoring defense (42.0 ppg) and 121st in total defense (556.3 ypg) out of 123 FBS teams.

On the other side of the mismatch, Oregon is second in scoring offense (61.3 ppg) and total offense (672.0 ypg) behind only Baylor (69.7 ppg, 751.3 ypg) entering Pac-12 play.

The Ducks say they will still be very sore on Sunday.

"Every time I've played them it has been a very physical game," said center Hroniss Grasu, a three-year starter. "Defensively, I know they've changed the coaching staff, so the scheme is going to be a little bit different. But I watched the whole Ohio State game and Ohio State has a very physical offense, and (Cal) held up against them. It's going to be another good test for the offensive line."

Tennessee's defense, which had a size advantage up front, was gasping for air before halftime during the Ducks' 59-14 victory. Oregon finished with 687 yards of offense in 76 plays (9.0 yards per).

In last season's meeting in Berkeley, the Bears were within 24-17 of undefeated Oregon midway through the third quarter before Marcus Mariota threw five of his six touchdown passes in crunch time to deliver a 59-17 victory.

"I feel like we have to take every game as a championship game," running back De'Anthony Thomas said. "Go out there and just play Oregon football."

The Ducks (3-0) are favored by 36 1/2 points in Las Vegas. The website oddsshark.com puts the over/under for total points at 83, which is the third-highest in college football since 2000.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich says the Bears, who have lost to two ranked Big Ten opponents (44-30 to No. 22 Northwestern and 52-34 to No. 4 Ohio State), are capable of turning things around on defense.

"They've always been a very talented group just athletically. We know a lot of those guys from trying to recruit a lot of them," Helfrich said.

"We know the athleticism and the capability of those teams, and our guys will prepare with that in mind."

Bye week bounce

Helfrich was pleased with how the Ducks practiced after a rare September weekend off.

"Everybody had a little spring in our step," Helfrich said. "Hopefully that's an indication of being fresh and back to a game week routine. I thought in all three phases we had tremendous effort."

Not only did Helfrich get a chance to watch other teams from around the country play, the football junkie even watched a CFL game between Edmonton and Winnipeg.

"I was sitting there with a notepad, and it's just amazing the stuff that can go wrong," said Helfrich, who took some notes on everything from clock management to targeting issues.

"The couch is a good place to make decisions from."

CU kickoff time

Oregon's game at Colorado on Oct. 5 will kickoff at 3 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

The Buffs (2-0) had their Sept. 14 home game against Fresno State canceled because of flooding in Boulder and the surrounding areas. CU plays Oregon State this Saturday in Corvallis.

"Hopefully, we'll have fresh legs," first-year CU coach Mike MacIntyre told the Denver Post. "We're still getting in that game mode, that game thing where you click in and don't get as tired sometimes. We've been trying to practice hard. We've been trying to run to the football. We've been trying to go high tempo, to keep that energy going. But there's nothing like simulating a game."

Notable

Cal linebacker Nick Forbes, who has been out for about a month with a back injury, told the Oakland Tribune he could return to the lineup this Saturday. "Ľ Jared Goff, the Bears freshman quarterback, leads the nation in total offense (429.7 ypg) and passing (435.3 ypg) in Sonny Dykes' high-tempo spread attack. "Ľ However, Cal ranks 97th in rushing offense (117.3 ypg).


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