Friday, September 27, 2013

Oregon Football Game Four: Point-a-palooza?

Oregon receiver Josh Huff and the Ducks leapfrogged Tennessee, as they will Cal
I heard today that the over/under for the Oregon's Pac-12 opener against Cal (Saturday, 7:30 PT on Pac-12 Network) is as high as 85, and the suggestion is to take the over. 85 points! This means that the official gamblers think that the Ducks and Bears combined will score more than 85 points. They point to Oregon's ability to score lots of points (3 games: 66, 59, and 59) and Cal's “Bear Raid” fling-it-and-wing-it offense.

The official gamblers seem to think that Cal will be able to put up points against the Ducks, and I don't think that. I think Oregon DC Nick Aliotti will, like I said they would against Tennessee, play against the pass and dare the Bears to run. The Vols wound up with 138 passing yards and 178 rushing yards. Now, Jared Goff is a much better QB then Tennessee's Justin Worley, but I see the same thing happening here.

Oregon has given up a total of 27 points in their first three games (3, 10, and 14), and Cal true freshman QB Jared Goff has shown a tendency to get rattled, even if the “worst” day he's had so far he threw for 371 yards. In his first game, against Northwestern, he threw two pick sixes. And 450 yards.

Every week I have thought that Oregon would put up a pick-six against their opponent. I don't see how it can't happen this week: Cal throws the ball a lot no matter what the defense shows them (it's the Vince Lombardi theory: even if you know what we're doing, we'll do it so well that you can't stop it), Oregon is opportunistic, Goff will make bad throws, Oregon will take one to the house.

The expectation is for both teams to score a lot of points, the issue with Cal is, if they throw the ball a lot, they will just extend the game from the get-go and Oregon will score even more points than usual. As I have mentioned here before, the Oregon modern-day record for total points in a game is 72. If Cal does not try to keep the clock moving, Oregon will have even more time. That's not a good strategy against Oregon, even if you are a fling-it-and-wing-it sort of team.

Stats are fun: Jared Goff leads the nation with 429.7 yards of offense per game. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is 5th, with 383.7 yards. Goff is 4th in the country with 1304 passing yards, and Mariota is 29th with 889. But get this: Goff is 103/168 with 4 picks and 7 TD's, and Mariota is 49/82 with 0 picks and 7 TD's. Mariota has attempted/completed fewer than half the amount of passes that Goff has, yet he has as many TD passes and is about 400 yards behind him in yardage. This tells you how much the Cal offense leans on Goff and how much the Oregon running game opens the passing game.

Another curious thing is that no one if even remotely giving Cal a chance to win. More people were expecting Tennessee to have a real shot last week and Oregon scored 59 straight on them. This is one of those “well, maybe the Bears will at least make it fun to watch” sort of games. And those are the games that tend to sneak up on teams. You would think that Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich will be on the fellows to not let up or whatever, but you would think that they do that every week. And with this being the conference opener, you would think the players would be even more determined to not have a letdown.

But 20 year olds have funny attention spans. In theory this should be a walk for Oregon. But there are a lot of things that should be easy for 20 year olds to do, and sometimes they just don't do them. So by that rationale, Cal should sort of have a chance. But then you look at the team's total defense: Oregon's 30th in the country, Cal's 121st. There are 123 D-1 teams.  Oregon's worst day on defense would have to be pretty bad to be worse than Cal's average defense.

And that brings us back to that 85 point over/under. The Ducks have scored 66, 59, and 59 points in their first three games, as mentioned above. But because of their defense, the over/under has yet to break 85. If Oregon scores 60 this week, then Cal would need to break 25 to get the over. It's a weird thing, but I believe in the Oregon defense. So if it were me, I'd take the under.

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