Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oregon Statesman Journal: Best, Cal next up for Ducks

Gary Horowitz

You can say this about Oregon's schedule: The Ducks are battle-tested entering Pac-10 conference play.

With games against then-No. 14 Boise State and then-No. 18 Utah under their belts, the Ducks likely face their most difficult opponent to date Saturday when No. 6 California comes to Autzen Stadium.

The Golden Bears are second in the nation in scoring (48.7 points per game), feature Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best at running back, and showed their road mettle Saturday with a 35-21 victory at Minnesota after the Gophers tied the game entering the fourth quarter.

Oregon's defense will be tested by Best (412 yards, nine touchdowns), who is third in the nation in rushing and first in scoring.  “I couldn't ask for any better preseason games than we've had so far," defensive tackle Brandon Bair said after Monday's practice. "It gets us prepared for the Pac-10 conference and I'm excited for what's coming up."   Cal does not figure to be intimidated by playing at Autzen Stadium. In the Bears' last appearance in Eugene in 2007, Cal prevailed 31-24 after Ducks wide receiver Cameron Colvin fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the final minute while reaching for the goal line.

The Ducks rose to No. 2 in the polls in 2007 before quarterback Dennis Dixon's season-ending knee injury ended their national championship aspirations.  Cal could be positioned for a title run of its own this season, and Oregon represents a major hurdle. The Bears have won four of the past five games in the series.  "They've got the best of this rivalry since I've been here," tight end Ed Dickson said. "I think we won once in '05, in overtime."   Dickson's memory is correct. The Ducks won 27-20 in overtime at Autzen Stadium during the 2005 campaign.

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