There’s no denying the massive mismatch that approaches the California Golden Bears as the Oregon Ducks prepare to descend upon Berkeley on Saturday night.
Questions about the availability of starting quarterback Zach Maynard’s availability for the game has been a hot topic this week. Maynard injured his knee in Friday’s loss to Washington and hasn’t practiced since.
That’s rough news for a 3-7 Golden Bears team that has struggled mightily at times this season.
While wins have been few and far between, they’ve played some pretty close games this season against some top competition. Early on they had the Ohio State Buckeyes and dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller on the ropes before a last-minute bomb from Miller gave the Buckeyes a one-score win.
Still, the teams the Bears have played pale in comparison to the high-powered, 56-point-per-game offensive machine of the Ducks.
They’re supposed to lose this game, and the Ducks are supposed to go on to the national title game. That’s what appears to be on everyone’s mind.
But they still have to travel down to Berkeley Saturday night and do it on the field.
Could Chip Kelly’s Ducks overlook the underperforming Golden Bears while planning ahead for the rest of their schedule?
Oregon has one of the toughest remaining schedules with games against Oregon State and Stanford during the team’s final two games and then a potential Pac-12 Championship matchup with UCLA or rematch with USC.
If ever there was a shot for an unexpected upset, the Golden Bears would be it. They’ve played Oregon closely each time they’ve traveled south to their Northern California campus.
In fact, the last two visits by the Ducks have yielded just 15 and 16 points, respectively, to the more defensively focused California team.
Most importantly, two years ago the Ducks were averaging 54.7 points per game before their Bay Area visit and ended up escaping with a narrow 15-13 victory.
Impossible, they say?
If Cal can contain the electric Oregon offense again this year by slowing down their explosive running game, they may have a chance. They’ll need to play ball control, minimize turnovers and force Oregon into passing situations by stopping them on early downs.
The Ducks rank just 31st in the nation in passing-down efficiency in comparison to their dominance in every other situation.
So then, why can’t the Golden Bears spoil the national title aspirations of the Ducks in what would be the biggest shocker of the year in college football?
Crazier things have happened in college football.
Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer and NFL featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: