Here is the link.
By Jon Wilner
Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 at 8:54 pm in Cal, Oregon. Trying to get a handle on the little tussle in Eugene, so I made two clicks with the mouse Tuesday afternoon. The first was to weather.com: 69 and partly cloudy on Saturday. The second was to vegasinsider.com: the over/under is 72. Hmmmm. Oregon is averaging 49 points per game, seventh in the country. Cal is averaging 42 ppg, 15th in the country. Neither defense has been granite this season, or anything approaching granite. Given those numbers, 72 isn’t much.
(Note: I’m not advocating taking the over/under in any form; I’m just using the number to make a point.)
But anyone expecting a shootout might want to re-think. I’m not saying the final will be 14-10, but I wouldn’t count on it being 48-45, either. It never is when these teams meet in Eugene. Oregon and Cal have squared off four times since Jeff Tedford left Oregon to rebuild the Bears, with each team winning twice at home. Granted, four games isn’t a huge sample, but it’s good enough for my purpose: The games in Eugene have been closer and lower-scoring than the games in Berkeley.
2003: Oregon 21, Cal 17
2005: Oregon 27, Cal 20 (OT)
total points: 85
2004: Cal 28, Oregon 27
2006: Cal 45, Oregon 24
total points: 124
Is the weather the difference, or is there something about Autzen Stadium, or is it pure coincidence? I asked Jeff Tedford and Mike Bellotti about the relatively low-scoring games in Eugene, and neither had an answer. Tedford suggested that the rainy weather two years ago had an impact, and that’s indisputable. But there has to be more to it, to why the other game in Eugene was a 38-pointer and why the games in berkeley are so much more high-scoring. Or maybe there’s less to it — maybe it really is a coincidence. One possibility: In both ‘03 and ‘05, Tedford went to Autzen with inexperienced quarterbacks. Maybe the playcalling was a bit more conservative. Or maybe Bellotti thought he was outmanned in the Berkeley games and felt the Ducks had to open things up to keep pace with Cal. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to those theories or if there’s something else at play. But it seems to me that this might not be quite the shootout I expected a few weeks ago.
Oregon’s run defense is vulnerable, so you’d figure Tedford would lean heavily on the ground game to control the tempo, keep the pass rush off Nate Longshore and keep the Ducks’ offense off the field. (Of Justin Forsett, Bellotti said: ‘He’s the guy that makes that offense go.”) Bellotti might want to do the same — keep Cal’s offense off the field — and he might want to pressure Cal’s inexperienced, banged-up defensive line with a combination of Jonathan Stewart and Dennis Dixon on the ground. So 14-10? No way. But if the running games dominate, it won’t be a shootout.