Cal coach Jeff Tedford says his team needs to keep Saturday's game against No. 1 Oregon low-scoring to have a chance to win.
That prompted the question: What exactly constitutes a low-scoring game against the high-octane Ducks?
"Low enough where we can win," Tedford said.
Therein is the most relevant question. How much can the Bears slow down an Oregon offense that leads the nation in scoring (54.7 points per game) and total offense (567.2 yards per game)?
"I'm not sure you really slow them down," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "You see a lot of teams are able to hang with them early, and then they just wear them down. Guys get tired and make mental mistakes. It's going to be a challenge this week."
It's a challenge no Oregon opponent has successfully conquered this season. The Ducks (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) have destroyed opposing defenses with machinelike effectiveness, using Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James to spark a lethal running game while mixing in dynamic quarterback Darron Thomas and a vast array of other weapons.
The lowest point total Oregon's offense has been held to this season is 42. The Ducks have reached the 70-point mark once, 60 points twice and 50 points three times.
"We just have to execute, that's really what it comes down to," Cal linebacker D.J. Holt said. "We have to play hard. Any play that we take off, they have the potential to take it to the house. "
Oregon's potency on offense isn't just because of talent and athleticism. The Ducks run a unique spread option, using a fast no-huddle offense that can get three plays off per minute.
In an attempt to counteract Oregon's pace, Cal has made its scout team work overtime this week. To simulate James, the Bears have used freshman wide receiver Kaelin Clay, arguably Cal's fastest player. Wide receiver Coleman Edmond, another speedster, has played the part of Thomas. Wide receiver Tevin Carter has simulated Oregon's leading receiver Jeff Maehl.
"The scout team has been doing as good a job as possibly could be expected with tempo and going fast," Tedford said. "We've coached them up all week long on tempo and plays and that kind of thing. We're trying to come as close as we can to what we're going to see."
The Ducks had a potent offense last season. With quarterback Jeremiah Masoli leading the attack, Oregon finished eighth nationally in scoring offense (36.08 points per game). But Masoli was dismissed from the team during the spring, and many thought the Ducks offense would take a hit.
The opposite has happened. Thomas has made a seamless transition into the starting role, and nine returning starters have helped take the offense to an even higher stratosphere.
"They're experienced at what they do," Tedford said. "You can tell they have a good grasp of it. They run it very quickly and very efficiently. While I have great respect for Masoli, Thomas even brings more to that offense because he's so elusive and so fast in the open field. He's very accurate throwing the football."
Cal's defense hasn't just focused on keeping up with Oregon's tempo this week but also on improving its conditioning in general. The Bears want to make sure they still have a bounce in their collective step in the fourth quarter.
"Conditioning is probably the biggest thing, just make sure we're in top shape and our legs are fresh," Cal safety Sean Cattouse said. "That's all I'm thinking about."
Oregon (9-0) at Cal (5-4), 4:30 p.m. Versus