The Pac-10 has been one of college football’s strongest conferences this year, thanks in part to the undefeated starts of No. 6 California and 11th-ranked Oregon.
One of those teams will suffer its first loss when the Golden Bears visit the Ducks on Saturday in a matchup of two of the country’s highest-scoring offenses.
California (4-0, 1-0) has scored at least 34 points in each of its four wins, totaling 166 - 13th-most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Among Pac-10 teams, only Oregon (4-0, 1-0) has more points, as the Ducks are tied for seventh in the nation with 194.
Cal and Oregon join No. 1 Southern California in the Top 25, making the Pac-10 the only conference with three teams in the top 11 of the AP poll. Before this season, the Pac-10 hadn’t had three teams ranked that high since Nov. 27, 2005.
The Golden Bears, who won a share of the conference crown for the first time since 1975 with a 7-2 league record last year, got their title defense off to a good start with a 45-27 win over Arizona on Saturday.
Justin Forsett overcame a bruised thigh to run for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and Nate Longshore passed for 235 yards and a score. Forsett has seven rushing TDs this season, tied for fourth among players in the FBS.
“We came in with a good game plan, and they gave us what we wanted early, so we were able to get off to that lead,” said Longshore, who threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins during Cal’s 28-point first quarter. “Justin always brings an edge to our offense. He knows just how to hit the holes.”
While the offense is clicking, Cal coach Jeff Tedford wants to see more consistency in Saturday’s game, which has significant Bowl Championship Series implications.
“I feel pretty sure what our potential can be, but no, we haven’t reached that yet,” said Tedford, Oregon’s offensive coordinator from 1998-2001. “We’ve shown flashes at times, but we’re not there yet.”
This will be the second game against a ranked opponent for Cal, which beat then-No. 15 Tennessee 45-31 in the season opener Sept. 1.
“The win over Tennessee was big, but conference games are always bigger, and Oregon is one of our biggest rivals,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. “They’re a great team, and that game means a lot.”
Oregon, meanwhile, will be facing its first real test after winning each of its first four games by at least three touchdowns. The Ducks trailed by as many as 10 points Saturday against Stanford but scored the last 34 to pull away for a 55-31 victory - matching their highest point total since Nov. 19, 2005.
“We had to get a gut check at halftime,” coach Mike Bellotti said. “We turned the ball over and Stanford took advantage. They moved the ball. In the second half we played inspired. I’m pleased with the way we came back and maintained our poise.”
Jonathan Stewart - the only Pac-10 player with more rushing yards than Cal’s Forsett - had his third straight 100-yard game with 160 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Dennis Dixon threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns - both career highs - and has 11 passing touchdowns without an interception this season.
Last year against Cal, however, was a different story. Forsett outgained Stewart 163-25, and Dixon threw three interceptions in the Ducks’ 45-24 loss. It was the first of five regular season defeats for Oregon, which had won its first four games before visiting the Bears.
The Ducks have lost two of the last three games in the series, but have won seven straight home games against the Bears since a 20-6 defeat in 1987. Cal leads Oregon 37-30-2 all-time.