As we continue our first look at the 2012 season for the Ducks, today Duck Sports Authority brings you a first look at the California Golden Bears.
Coaching Upheaval. The Golden Bears were hauling in one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the history of their football program before the defection of key coaches left the team scrambling to hold on to their high profile recruits. The Golden Bears should be adapted to their new coaches by this poi8nt of the season, but it will be a key story line to see how the units which have new coaches are developing.
Returning Starters: 6
Key returners: Keenan Allen, 6-3, 205, WR; Isi Sofele, 5-8, 190, RB; Zach Maynard, 6-2, 190, QB
Key Losses: Marvin Jones, WR; Mitchell Schwartz, LT; Anthony Miller, TE
Key Arrivals: Zach Kline, 6-2, 210 QB; Bryce Treggs, 5-11, 171, WR
|Keenan Allen led Cal in receiving in 2011|
Spencer Hagan is a capable receiver out of the tight end spot, but at 6-5, 227 he is not going to provide the same presence as a run blocker that Miller provided last season. The other key area to focus on will be the offensive line which lost two starters including Schwartz protecting the quarterback from his left tackle position.
Sofele proved to be a very good running back last season carrying the ball 252 times for 1322 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was not asked to do much out of the backfield with just 6 receptions for 33 yards. With the loss of so many quality receivers from last years squad, the Bears may look to get Sofele more involved in the passing game in 2012.
Early Offense Prediction: Expect the Bears to play offense much the same as they always have under Tedford. It is difficult to predict everything for a game this late into the season as there are quite a few people that believe Kline may have passed Maynard by this point of the season. In some ways, that would benefit the Ducks to a degree as Kline does not have the mobility of Maynard. The Bears will look to quick outs early to try and get the defensive backs cheating up and then attempt to go over the top to take advantage of Allen's speed. They will use Sofele just as they did this past season, but expect him to get more involved in the passing game with swing passes and screens to help loosen up the middle of the field.
The Ducks defense has grown and should be better in 2012 than last season. The defensive backs will play well against the Bears. The defensive line, which should be one of the best in the North division of the Pac-12, will likely get a lot of pressure on Cal's QB. Do not expect the Bears to march up and down the field on the Ducks. They will have some sporadic successes and some good drives to go along with a couple of explosion plays. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have averaged just 14.5 points per game against the Ducks. Their offense will be better than those two games, but not significantly better. Look for Cal to score in the 14-20 point range.
Returning Starters: 5
Key returners: Aaropn Tipoti, 6-2, 295, NG; Steve Williams, 5-10, 185, Cornerback; Marc Anthony, 6-2, 200, Cornerback
Key Losses: Mychal Kendricks, LB; Trevor Guyton, DE; D.J. Holt, LB; Sean Cattouse, Safety; D.J. Campbell, Safety
Key Arrivals: None
Statistically, the California Golden Bears were the best defense in the Pac-12 last season giving up just 332.9 yards per game. Despite that impressive statistic, the Ducks rolled for 563 total yards against the Bears including 365 yards rushing. The team loses their top four tacklers from that squad. The Bears also lose their top 4 leaders in tackles for loss from the 2011 season. There are some talented players waiting in the wings, but this defense is sure to take a step back in 2012 with the losses at linebacker and safety.
Tipoti will be important tot heir defense in 2012. Chris McCain, in a back-up role played well with 29 tackles including 6 tackles for loss. Also returning are the top two cover corners with Anthony and Williams who had 12 and 11 passes broken up respectively. The Bears will be breaking in two new safeties, though, which could be a problem early in the season.
Early Defense Prediction: California did not have a lot of success in 2011 against the Ducks. Oregon simply had too much depth and speed on the field for California to keep up with. California, though, plays a lot better at home than on the road. Expect the Bears to use a different strategy in 2012. The Bears will likely try to use an athlete like McCain to spy whoever is the running back and let their defensive ends control the quarterback. The danger, though, with this strategy will once again be their ability, or lack thereof, to employ a cover "0" scheme against the Ducks offense. If the Duck receivers are able to make some plays, that will loosen up the Bear defense much like 2011.
Also expect the Ducks to try and take advantage of De'Anthony Thomas' speed against the Bears. They had no answer for him in 2011 and will not likely have any better answers in 2012.
|Mychal Kendricks is a big loss for the Cal defnse|
OREGON WILL WIN IF: If Oregon can use their receivers to loosen up the running game, the Ducks should be able to score at will against a California team that lost a lot of talented defenders. The Duck defense will need to create pressure and make Cal one dimensional on offense. If they can do that, the Ducks should win comfortably.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: If, however, the Ducks cannot get the ball to the wide receivers and are stuck trying to employ the ground and pound game that others have tried to force, the Ducks could be in for a long night. The pressure of a low scoring game could cause some lapses in the secondary allowing Allen to use his blazing speed to beat the Ducks deep. If Cal is able to get Allen the ball in open space, while controlling the Ducks offense, there could be a repeat of 2010 with the Bears coming out on top this time. The Ducks will also need to be focused after the big game against USC the previous week. If the Ducks beat USC, they need to not be focused on the "national championship" talk. If they lose, they need to be able to put it behind them. If they cannot, the let-down could also be very costly.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: While the Bears defense has been very good the last two seasons, they will take a big step back in 2012. The Ducks offense, despite the loss of their own talented players in LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, have considerably better replacements and should be able to still move the ball well against the Bears and score well into the 30 point range and maybe more. Expect a lot of emotion by Cal early to keep the game close for a time, but Oregon, with their superior speed and depth should be able to control the game and pull away in the second half. Oregon should win this game comfortably.