Two teams looking to bounce back from Pac-12 opening losses meet Saturday as Oregon faces visiting California, which has played well under new coach Justin Wilcox, a former Ducks player. Cal was tied with USC entering the fourth quarter last Saturday before losing 30-20, while Oregon was 1-for-11 on third-down conversions in a 37-35 loss at Arizona State.
Senior linebacker Devante Downs has recorded 14 tackles in back-to-back games to lead a rejuvenated Cal defense, which has forced 11 turnovers, including six interceptions. “Very impressed,” USC coach Clay Helton told reporters after last week’s game. “The thing that just jumps off the page is their effort and the way they play. They are really becoming a physical football team. You can see that team is developing an identity.” The Bears opened the season with an impressive road win at North Carolina and will be tested again at Oregon, where the Ducks have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the teams. The Bears will need to slow down an Oregon team that ranks first in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (50.8) behind star Royce Freeman’s 10 rushing touchdowns.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Oregon -13.5
ABOUT CAL (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12): After three sharp performances against North Carolina, Weber State and Ole Miss, sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers took a step back against USC, going 22-for-50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles. Running back Tre Watson is out for the season with a knee injury, but junior Patrick Laird has been a capable replacement with three consecutive games of 78 or more yards rushing. Downs ranks fifth nationally with 11.5 tackles per game to lead a defense that is allowing 24 points per game after giving up an average of 42.6 points last season.
ABOUT OREGON (3-1, 0-1): The Ducks combined for more penalties (14) and punts (7) than first downs (20) against Arizona State, resulting in the first loss at Oregon for new coach Willie Taggart. Jalen Jelks had nine tackles, three sacks and five tackles for loss against the Sun Devils, but the Ducks’ secondary struggled to contain wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who caught seven passes for 170 yards and a score. Quarterback Justin Herbert engineered last week’s comeback effort by throwing for 281 yards and three scores despite missing one of his favorite targets in wide receiver Charles Nelson, who remains questionable with a sprained ankle.
1. Oregon’s seven-game winning streak over Cal was snapped with last season’s 52-49 loss.
2. The Bears are 10-of-13 on 4th-down conversions.
3. Oregon is averaging 10.5 penalties, which ranks 126th out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
PREDICTION: Oregon 45, Cal 38