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Game Scout: California at Oregon

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

GAME DATE: 9/28/13

SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.

TV: Pac-12 Network

SERIES: Cal leads the series with Oregon 39-34-2, but the Ducks have won the last four meetings, including a 59-17 Oregon victory at Cal last year. The Bears' last victory over Oregon came in 2008, and Cal has not won in Eugene since 2007.

AP RANKINGS: Oregon, No. 2

KEYS TO THE GAME

Mark Helfrich insists he doesn't look at statistics, but if he did, Oregon's first-year head coach would be impressed.

The second-ranked Ducks are 3-0 and rank second in the country with an average of 61.3 points per game. If Oregon scores 50 or more points at home against California on Saturday, it would mark the first time in school history that the Ducks hit that milestone in four straight games.

Oregon is second in the country with 672 yards of offense per game, including 355.3 per game on the ground, which also ranks second in the nation.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has emerged as a Heisman Trophy favorite by ranking fifth in the country with 383.7 yards per game in total offense.

"I don't think I could tell you literally any stat we have, that's not something we do," Helfrich said. "I could not tell you one thing we have done this many times or for this many yards. It is not a situation where we say we have to get this number, we just do our deal. The lucky part is that we have great players who believe in what we are doing and that makes everyone look smart."

The Ducks open Pac-12 play on Saturday against the Bears and it looks like a mismatch according to statistics. Cal ranks near the bottom of the nation by allowing 42 points and 556.3 yards per game.

"I think they are as good of an offense as I've seen," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "They are playing at a high level, they have a lot of weapons, and have not turned the ball over this year. They have got a really good offensive football team."

One statistic that Helfrich admitted to knowing, but did not want to acknowledge for fear of a jinx, is that Oregon ranks among the nation's best in turnover margin. The Ducks have forced seven turnovers and have yet to commit a turnover.

"That is the No. 1 contributing factor to winning and losing," Helfrich said. "The No. 1 thing is turnovers and how you respond when you get it. We can get better in that category, obviously you want to score whenever you get a free possession. I can't talk about the other part, it is like a no-hitter, but we talk about ball security, decision-making, and those things that contribute to that type of number."

Winning the turnover battle is no coincidence for Oregon, which led the nation in turnover margin last year at plus-21. Oregon forced 40 turnovers, more than any team in the country, and committed 19.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bears

--QB Jared Goff, a true freshman, leads the nation in total offense (429.7 yards per game) and passing yardage (435.3) and is second in passes attempted per game (56.0). He has thrown four interceptions, but two of them were tipped. He has shown poise that's uncommon for a true freshman, but he played his first three games at home. Goff has shown an ability to play catch-up.

--WRs Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs are sophomores who combined for 49 receptions in three games. Cal is one of three FBS teams with two receivers averaging better than 100 receiving yards per game. Treggs has 28 catches and is averaging 105.7 yards per game, and Harper has caught 21 passes and is averaging 108.0 yards per game. They need to catch virtually every ball thrown their way against Oregon so the Cal offense can stay on the field for long stretches.

--LB Khairi Fortt leads the Bears in tackles with 25 and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 2.5. Fortt needs to rack up a lot of tackles and take care of his responsibilities against Oregon, which will try to run right over the Bears. If Fortt can get penetration and break up Oregon's running game in the backfield, it may slow down the Ducks. He is a key factor in handling Oregon's read option.

Ducks

--QB Marcus Mariota ranks fifth in the nation with 383.7 yards of total offense per game. Mariota has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 889 yards and seven touchdowns while running for 262 yards and four scores. The sophomore has no turnovers.

--RB De'Anthony Thomas is Oregon's feature back for the first time as a junior and leads the Ducks with 42 carries, but he may need to run for more than his average of 14 carries per game if the Ducks get into a close contest. He has run for 338 yards, an average of eight yards per carry and 112.7 yards per game. He also has three catches for 58 yards and four kick returns for 89 yards.

--WR Josh Huff equaled his career high with 125 receiving yards against Tennessee. The senior has topped 100 yards in two games this season and leads the Ducks with 14 catches for 298 yards and one touchdown.

--LB Derrick Malone has become Oregon's top tackler in his first season as a starter. He has 27 tackles, including 11 solos, in three games. The junior had a career-high 12 tackles against Virginia after getting 11 in the opener against Nicholls.
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